Introduction to Importing

Once you’ve made the decision to implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Sugar, a large hurdle is often the migration of your customer data.  The SugarCRM Import Wizard will accept many file formats but the most common is comma delimited CSV. While you can import data into most of the modules in Sugar, this checklist covers the most commonly used modules: Accounts and Contacts.
The Import Wizard will take your uploaded file and will allow you to map each column to a matching field in its database.  You can download an import template for each module that will automatically map the fields.  You may use this file as your starting point or simply name your columns in the same manner so Sugar will recognize them.

Successfully importing your data will mostly likely take multiple attempts and a little trial and error.  Here is a checklist of things to think about while you’re preparing your import files.

Review and Clean Your Data

It’s important that you review the quality of your data.  Your records may be of varying quality and in separate locations.  Now is the time to ask the following questions:

  • What information do I want to move into Sugar?
  • Are there any records too old to be of use in the new system?
  • Are there duplicates in my data?

The Import Wizard will report errors when it thinks it’s found a duplicate record or when it finds an email address that is malformed.

Screenshot of SugarCRM Mapping Data Import

Header Rows

The CSV file that you use to import your data must have a header row at the top.  The Sugar Import Wizard will use the header values to match your columns to data fields in the module you’ve chosen.  By default, Sugar will automatically match up fields with columns that have the same title but you’ll have the option later to manually map columns in Step 4: Confirm Field Mappings.


A common problem with comma delimited files is that if you have commas in your data — in a comments or description field, for example — this will register as a separate column in the import wizard.  You can avoid this problem in one of three ways:

  1. Remove all commas from your data with a global search and replace;
  2. Ensure that your file wraps your data in a field qualifier such as double quotes (Excel will often do this automatically when it detects a comma in a cell);
  3. Use a tab delimited file format.  Tabs are much less common than commas but you will still have to ensure no tab characters exist in your data.

Preserving Account Relationships

Sugar will try to assign Contacts to Accounts using the Account Name field.  It’s important that the Account Names match up exactly in each file.  If it’s even a character off (or a character is lowercase when it should be uppercase) Sugar will fail to detect the relationship and you will have an orphan Contact with no parent Account floating in your database.

Chances are your current companies and contacts are combined into one file.  You can import your Accounts and your Contacts with this same file.  This will simplify the association.  You can control which columns are imported into each module by selecting “Do not map this field” in the dropdown list

Assigned User Relationships

Assigned Users are the licensed Sugar users such as sales staff and managers.  By default, Sugar will assign all imported records to the user that imported them.  This is usually the admin account that was created with your Sugar instance.  If you would like accounts to be assigned to any other User, you must set these users up in Sugar before you import.

Once you have created the users, you have two options for assigning them to records:

  1. Indicate the username of the user in an Assigned Username field in your import file;
  2. Use the Add a Field feature at the bottom of Step 4: Confirm Field Mappings of the import wizard.  This will allow you to assign an Assigned Username to every record in your import file.  Keep in mind that this will assign all records to the same user, so if you have more than one user you will have to separate your records into a separate import file for each user.


Any dropdown fields in Sugar will need special attention in your import file.  Two things you should check before you import:

  1. Create a blank value in Sugar: You need this to ensure that blank values in your import file insert correctly.  If the import wizard encounters a blank field in your file with no matching value in the mapped dropdown, it will insert the value at the top of the dropdown list.
  2. Matching field values: Make sure that for each value in your import file, there is a corresponding value in the Sugar dropdown field.  The spelling and capitalization has to be exact otherwise the import wizard will give you an error when it encounters a missing value and the record will not import.


CRM can provide many benefits for your business but they can only begin once you have successfully imported all of your current data into your new CRM system.  This can quite often be perceived as a daunting task, complicated and time consuming, but not if you are aware of the correct steps to follow.  There are careful considerations to make on how you approach the implementation so here we have put together a detailed guide showing you the correct step-by-step approach, enabling you to import easily and swiftly into your new SugarCRM system.


Share This