Migrating Your “Old” CRM to Zoho CRM

Abstract: This article outlines the steps and considerations you should undergo to successfully move your current CRM data into Zoho CRM. We’re writing this article because we get asked this question often!

The migration process has two major steps. Each step has a few minor steps. An outline might look like:

  1. Extract your data from current CRM system.
    • Could be one or many sources (Act!, Salesforce, Outlook, Excel, etc.)
    • Delete old, incomplete, unwanted records.
    • Translation – Standardize values, i,e, “Lawyer”, “Attorney”, “Counsel”, etc.
    • Determine what modules you want to migrate.
    • Consider not moving every field.
    • De-duplicate the source data.
  2. Import the data into Zoho.
    • Create any custom modules & fields first.
    • Verify within 30 days. Zoho has a very nice undo feature where an import can be reversed when mistakes are encountered. You cannot undo imports that are more than 30 days old.

Zoho CRM has a very robust data migration tool that makes it fairly easy to bring in a set of text files (*.csv, *.txt, etc.) and populate multiple modules at the same time, with all modules properly linked.

The trick is to create these text files in a Zoho friendly format. Resolutions to some common pitfalls are:

  1. Contact names should be split into First Name & Last Name
  2. Any field in Zoho defined as required must be populated in your import file. A common example is email address. If you define email as required then any incoming records with a missing email will not import.
  3. Similarly, if you define a field as unique, then there can only be one record with that value. Additional records with the same value will not import. 
  4. Make sure your pick list (drop-down) fields have the same values as your incoming data. An example is a Deal with a stage of “Sold” but the Zoho pick says “Closed – Won”.
  5. User mapping – your old CRM system may have records or activities entered by ex-employees who will not be users of the old system. You can import the old user names into Zoho as inactive users or you can map all old users to a current user account. The choice depends mostly on the amount of “old” user data you are importing.
  6. Dates need to be in a Zoho friendly format. Zoho can handle almost any format but it helps greatly if all of your date fields are in a similar format, i.e. “10/15/2019”.

 An example – Migrating from Act! to Zoho CRM

We’ll choose Act! as your source data for exemplary purposes. Most CRM systems have similar module structures but each is a little different.

 This tables lists the most commonly used Act! Modules, with some special considerations about importing these modules into Zoho.




migrate to Zoho Contacts module. Zoho also has a Leads module which Act! does not have. You may want to separate your Act! Contacts into Contact and Leads.

Contact Notes

will migrate to Contact Notes in Zoho. Act! stores these notes as rtf (Rich Text Format). These notes should be converted to plain text before import.


Zoho has an Activities modules and there are three kinds of Activities in Zoho; Calls, Events and Tasks. We usually map Act! call to Zoho Calls, Act! Meetings to Events and Tasks to Tasks. We generally ignore Act! history types of “Access Changed”, “Field Changed”, etc.


migrate to Zoho (Deals, Potentials, Opportunities – this module can have many names). It is important to use the same Opportunity Stages in both systems. We often only import Open Opportunities, not Closed ones. 


Act! instituted a Companies module about 12 years ago and not all customers use it. Zoho’s equivalent is the Accounts module. It is a good idea to create an Accounts import, either from the Act! Companies module or by extracting Company information from the Act! Contact records. 


The Groups feature in Act! is unique to Act! and there is no direct equivalent in Zoho. We approximate the feature in Zoho with the use of pick lists or Zoho’s Tag feature. There are limits; 500 drop downs or 50 Tags. If you have thousands of Act! groups, we’ll need to devise a custom solution.

Pending Activities

Act! has a calendar where scheduled activities are kept. When the user completes an activity, the record moves from pending to the history file. We often find that this file is full of old calls and meetings that were never completed. Depending on need, we often do not import this data. 


Act! has a feature where an email from Outlook or Google could be copied into Act!. Zoho does not do this. Zoho has a peculiar system where it goes to your mail server and displays any contact related emails.

So there is no email table in Zoho for us to import old emails into. If absolutely necessary, we’ll create a custom table and import them there. This table is static and future emails will not be copied into Zoho. They are displayed in their own section. 

We show clients how emails automatically displayed and most are happy with that. If those real old emails are necessary, we can import them. 

Attached Documents & Files

This is a lot of work but often necessary. Every module in Act! can have files associated with it, contracts, quotes, images, videos, etc. Zoho allows you to attach files to their records and Zoho has generous storage limits. 

The problem with these files is that they often no longer exist. Act! may have a record saying there is a file on the K: drive, but that is the old location or the file no longer exists or the system doesn’t have sufficient rights to that drive.

Zoho file import requires you to zip all of the documents into a single file. The zip file cannot exceed 4 GB. Anything more than that must be done in batches. You then need to create a text file that links the file name to the Zoho record.

Custom Modules

For most of Act!’s history, custom modules were not support. There are some third party add-ons that would allow Act! to create a custom module. Examples are Cars (year, make, model, warranty, history) or Houses (# Bedrooms, Baths, Year Built) or Legal Cases (Court, Plaintiff, Defense, Docket, history) or Financial Accounts (Owner, Account number, shares, cost basis, date).

Zoho allows you to have 50 or more custom fields. Because Act! did not support this feature natively, many Act! users created dozens of fields in the Contact Records (Account1, Account2, Account3…). 

This “flat file” data should be imported into a custom module in Zoho.

Summary: Don’t view data migration as a chore. It is an opportunity to architect a better CRM system. This is your chance to clean your data, make it more searchable and improve reporting capabilities.

This example highlights that there is a lot to consider when migrating data. Zoho support and some other companies may offer a low cost service where all of your data, fields, and pick lists are simply duplicated. 

Act! is a SQL based database. We have written a full library of SQL queries that extracts Act!’s data in Zoho friendly format. Every migration comes with a lot of questions.

We modify our standard queries to select only the fields you want, translate unwanted values, etc.

Zoho’s import wizard allows us to undo an import if it is not correct. We recommend a trial import. Often a client will realize that some additional data is needed or can be omitted.

Final Data Conversion – Once the import is approved. We plan a final migration. We make a final copy of the source data. Anything added to the old CRM system after that point will miss the move. Since we have all of the queries unique to your system pre-written, the process is fairly fast and already proven. User training should commence immediately.

Act! v18 Download Links

These are the official download links for Act! v18.  Editions Pro, Premium, & Premium for Web servers. Last updated 12/1/2016.  Please call us 716-837-5727 for any installation questions & assistance. To learn more about Act! v18, click here. Act! Pro v18 Download https://www.act.com/download/download-act!-pro-v18   Act! Premium v18 Download https://www.act.com/download/download-act!-premium-v18