How to Merge Data in Dynamics 365

How to Merge Data in Dynamics 365 

It's no surprise that we live in a world where data is considered the lifeblood or “new oil” of a successful business. Data allows you to make informed decisions regarding the direction of your business, and it ensures that you maintain healthy relationships with your customers. Data can even monitor the health of your systems, so it's vital we ensure the data in our systems remains high in quality. 

Poor quality data can have a massive negative impact on your business and in turn, your bottom line. In fact, a recent survey by Experian (The global data experts) found that "85% of organizations indicate that poor-quality contact data negatively impacts their operational processes and efficiency and, in turn, hinders the chances of being flexible and agile. Poor-quality data has a ripple effect as do operational issues".

An important drawback of having duplicate data in Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the lack of a Single Customer View (SCV). Having data spread across multiple records, lowers users' ability to properly support customers and it makes navigating Dynamics 365 very cumbersome and time-consuming.

Achieving a Single Customer View (SCV) in Dynamics 365 involves integrating, merging and thereby consolidating customer data from various sources to create a unified and comprehensive profile of each customer. This helps organizations provide personalized and seamless customer experiences.

Let's discuss how to merge duplicate data in Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE, to create a Single Customer View and improve overall CRM data quality.

Merging Data in Dynamics 365

Merging Data in Dynamics 365

There are built-in tools in Dynamics 365 to identify and remove duplicates, both in bulk and single records. The bulk merge tool is for the CRM Administrator or power users, so we will not be discussing it in this article.

Establish Duplicate Detection Rules

Before users can merge records, it is necessary to set up Dynamics 365’s duplicate detection rules. Here are some helpful fields to consider matching on while setting up these rules:

  • Accounts with same name and city or address
  • Contacts with same name and email
  • Contacts with same name and account name
  • Contacts with matching phone numbers
  • Matching Identification numbers (i.e. Student ID, membership ID, etc.)

Maintaining and tweaking Dynamics 365’s duplicate detection rules can continue to help identify duplicates while keeping the detection process from becoming white noise to users.

Configure Dynamics 365 Merging Permissions

Be sure to review the necessary privileges needed to merge, which can be reviewed here. Essentially, users should have Append, Appendto, Read, Share and Write access to the necessary entities. 

Additionally, they should have Merge privileges in the Business Management organization settings.

Merging Dynamics 365 Records – Accounts, Contacts, Leads and Cases

The ability to merge records when found in MS Dynamics 365 can be a useful tool, making each user part of the solution to the issue of duplicate data. These users know the data better than the data stewards or CRM admins and so they are most qualified to decide which records are duplicates or not.

When a user searches Dynamics 365 for an existing Account, Contact, Lead or Case, they may discover there are duplicates, as seen below for an Account.

Dynamics 365 CE allows users with merge privileges to merge these records on the spot, so the data stewards or CRM admins do not have to, keeping the users, who know the data best, involved in the ongoing maintenance of duplicate free data.

Here is an example of a user who finds a duplicate contact and decides to merge it in Dynamics 365.

The contact is identified as duplicate. Each record is selected and once selected, clicking Merge on the toolbar will launch Dynamics 365 merge tool.

The Merge dialog appears.

Users can decide which data from the various fields they want to keep by selecting the appropriate radio button. Once decided, just click Merge to begin the process. The duplicate will be deactivated, and any child records will be reassigned to the surviving record.

Merging While Adding New Records

The duplicate detection rules will also find potential duplicates when users are adding records.

When adding records, if duplicate detection is enabled, potential duplicates will be shown to the user to determine if the record they are adding is already in the system. The user can decide to abandon adding the record or update the existing record with the information entered when adding the new record. This can come in handy when the phone number is newer on the newly added record or there is simply more information known on the new record.

Alternatively, you can also note the possible duplicate records and open the view, My Active Contacts to merge as previously described.

Note:  Be sure to  enable auditing on master and secondary records to know which data was merged.

Merging Records During Import

If you are importing records, be sure to deselect the option “Allow Duplicates” when setting up the import to ensure the duplicate detection rules are used to prevent creating duplicates upon import.

Prevention to Maintain Data Quality

Once the data has been cleansed, it is important to keep it clean. Here are some helpful tips to keep your data healthy going forward.

User Training

Train your users to understand the importance of the Single Customer View (SCV) and how to use it effectively. Provide training on data entry standards and best practices will ensure the SCV remains accurate, and your system will remain clean and efficient.

Searching for records before attempting to add them will allow users to see any duplicates that may already exist in the system and discourage them from further adding duplicates. This will also save them the hassle of adding a record that is already there, and users will see the time-saving benefit immediately.

Users should be trained to identify and properly merge duplicate records they discover, keeping in mind any policies your organization has in place.

We understand that not all users may have the ability to merge due to your organization’s policies. In these cases, training on proper data entry polices will still help tremendously in maintaining a single customer view and overall data quality in Dynamics 365.

Unfortunately, a major drawback of the duplicate detection feature is it will only show potential duplicates after a user enters the data and tries saving the record. Many users will see the duplicate detection dialog and just click Ignore without reviewing the potential duplicates because it is faster and easier, essentially reducing the feature to nothing more than “white noise”. It is important to properly train users to ensure they follow procedures when presented with the duplicate detection dialog.

Limitations of Merging in Dynamics 365

There are some limitations with merging in Dynamics 365 to consider, including:

  • The identification capability of duplicates is somewhat limited, so many duplicates go undetected.
  • Merging is only available for the Account, Contact, Lead and Case entities.
  • Merging is not available for custom entities.
  • Merging more than two records at a time is not available within the user interface.
  • Once records are merged, you don’t know which data was merged between master and subordinate records, unless you have enabled auditing on the master, secondary and related entities.

Also, when using the Bulk Merge tool in Dynamics 365, it is limited to 5000 records, so you will have to silo the data, which for customers with large databases (over 500k records), will not be an easy task.

Using Third-party Solutions to Remove and Prevent Duplicates

The merge tools in Dynamics 365 are useful at what they do on the surface, but when faced with a lot of duplicates in a large database, their limitations quickly become apparent.

And while user training and Dynamics 365’s duplicate detection rules can help prevent duplicates, a great third-party solution like Paribus 365™ can address the limitations within Dynamics 365.

Paribus 365™ is a unique solution that improves the users’ workflow in several areas, making them more efficient and improving their experience within Dynamics 365 CE, but it also allows them to be part of the cleansing process, by giving them a powerful merge tool as part of the detection process.

What’s more, Paribus 365™ also provides the ability to search the entire Dynamics CRM system to identify large-scale duplication, which allows Data Stewards to merge and consolidate each set of duplicates, restoring the Single Customer View (SCV).

Here is an overview of the features of Paribus 365:

  • Identifies records with best of breed fuzzy matching to find all of the possible duplicates
  • Removes identified duplicates in bulk with no limitations on the number of records it can find or merge.
  • Merge results can be exported, for easy sharing or archiving.
  • Detects duplicates BEFORE a user enters the data, saving users time.
  • Provides a power fuzzy search engine to allow users to find all possible records.
  • Allows users to merge multiple records at a time (Coming 4Q2023)
  • Improves the workflow and efficiency of the users while better supporting customers.
  • Prevents the creation of duplicates in several areas in Dynamics 365, without burdening users.

For more information on Paribus 365™ or to schedule a demo, please contact us.

Paribus 365™ is revolutionizing the way Microsoft Dynamics 365 users manage their data – as the proven DQ for Dynamics solution, your data quality guardian for Microsoft Dynamics 365. Saving users precious time and empowering organizations to finally realize the true potential of their customer data.


See Paribus 365™, the Dynamics 365 data deduplication solution, in action by requesting a free 30-day  trial, or contact us for a demo.

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