“It’s not you it’s me.” There’s no good way to end your relationship with your current software provider, especially if you’ve been together for years and they believe that everything is ticking along nicely. You know in your heart of hearts that it’s just not working out, but you’re too scared to deliver the bad news for fear of what comes next.

There’s no doubt that migrating from one piece of software to another has its risks, but is it better to stay with a piece of software that you know isn’t right for your business or to take the plunge and look for an app that will reap benefits in the long-term?

What are the challenges?

According to Adarsh Thampy, CEO of content marketing software LeadFerry, moving apps can be very challenging, especially, if you value historical data. “Most apps do not have any incentive to let you migrate out of them,” says Thampy. “In fact, they have every incentive to retain you inside their app. Hence most do not have any in-built mechanism to port data.”

How difficult this process is depends on whether you’re moving from an on-premise legacy platform or a cloud-based app. Nick Burbridge, director of Elive, a specialist online store for computer products, explains: “If the software you are using is a legacy product then often the underlying platforms will need to be overhauled, requiring costly and time-intensive upgrades to ensure the new application will run hassle-free. The way around this is to create a test environment within your system to ensure compatibility, and to double check that everything runs the way you want it to.”

Managing change

To add to this headache, it’s not just the technical environment that you need to take into consideration, but also how comfortable your staff will be with your new system, how much training they will need, and how long it will take them to get up to speed.

“An issue a lot of people don’t consider is that of what your staff are familiar with,” says Burbridge. “The majority of your staff base will be aware of how your current application runs, the shortcuts, and what they need to do to get the job done. Understandably when confronted by a new application staff can lose productivity while figuring out the most efficient ways to get their respective tasks complete.”

Software migration is not a predictable process, and can cost more time and money than you expect. “It’s very rare that everything goes entirely according to plan when performing any form of migration,” says Burbridge.

Proper change management processes are needed to ensure that everyone across your business is fully prepared for the shift, and feels fully supported when they are expected to start using the new software. “There are a lot of other issues that you can face when performing any form of migration – there’s always unforeseen obstacles and conflicts – the important thing is to make sure that you’ve planned adequately to cover as many of these as possible, and that you give yourself enough time to see things through with minimal stress,” explains Burbridge.

How can I make the process easier?

Aside from implementing change management processes, before starting any migration project, it’s important to have a realistic idea of how much changing software will impact each different team and your business as a whole. Will you have a lot of downtime? Will your employees get annoyed at having to learn a new system? Will some of them never quite take to it? When changing your CRM, you may think that only the sales team will be affected, but what about your accounting department, which relies upon the contacts in the system to send out bills?

“Frustration arises when teams working downstream from an application’s main users have their entire workflow disrupted and changed without much notice or consideration,” says John Bonini, growth director at Litmus, an email testing and analytics software. “A company has to identify how disruptive any new application will be. A new CRM or billing software? Extremely disruptive. A new advertising tool? Not so much. Identify if what you’re looking to add/change is a discontinuous technology, and if it is, how extreme it is in regards to disruption. This will help direct the timeline and communication for the entire transition.”

Another potential disruptor is data migration and how easy it is to get your all important information from one system to the other. Before starting the migration process, it’s a good idea to clean up data, especially if you’ve been using the system for a while, because you’ll get better results at the other end.

Andrea Randle, HR and payroll administrator at Rugby School in the UK, explains how cleaning data before moving to HR software CIPHR helped achieve better results once the migration was complete:Spend time ensuring your data for migration is accurate and comprehensive as this will save time later. Good data in equals good data out!”

Data migration tools

One way to ensure an easier migration progress is to look for apps that have specific services to help smooth the process. “Now, when I plan to purchase a software, I look at how easy it is to migrate away from them in case I need to,” says Adarsh Thampy.

Xero, for example, has a tool called Move My Books, which aims to make the process of moving data from your old system to your new cloud-based accounting app a lot easier. The process is straightforward: fill out an online form with your company details and attach the data in the format of your choice. Xero then converts this into a format that you can access in its system, sends it to you, and once you’re happy with the result it transfers the data to your company.

Chris Hooper, director at Hooper Financial / group finance director at ITS Technology Group, explains: “I have recently migrated 4x group companies from Sage to Xero and the benefits are already paying dividends. Xero is so much more than an accounting system – it helps us solve lots of other business challenges too.”

He states a major pro of Xero as: “Easy migration from Sage through ‘Move My Books’.”

More and more apps are adding functionality that allows you to export data to their system more easily, with CRM systems leading the way. Both Pipedrive and Close.io have CRM migration tools to help move your data to your new cloud app.

Dustin Overbeck, president of Town Web Design, explains: “I had been using Salesforce.com for several years, but run business with just myself as a salesperson. I had heard good things about Pipedrive, so I decided to give it a go using the free trial. The big differentiator to get me to switch over was the ability to migrate my data from Salesforce to Pipedrive quite easily.”

When software migration goes wrong

There are times when, despite having done your research and planned for the changeover, things still go wrong. This could be something you’ve overlooked, unforeseen circumstances, or a problem with the app you’re trying to migrate to.

One reviewer on GetApp had a plethora of issues when trying to migrate their banking company’s email to Gmail:My email migration experience was considerably less smooth than my end-user experience. I was left to parse Google’s documentation, which at the time consisted of a trove of outdated pages with contradicting information. The web-based email migration tool, which I dared only run for one user at a time, would often error out and worked at a snail’s pace. The response on their support forums was almost nonexistent, but essentially amounted to “this is broken, we don’t know when it will be fixed.” When you’ve just convinced your boss that Google Apps for Work is the way to go, this is somewhat frustrating (to say the least).”

Jay Wasack, president/CEO AlwaysConnected Solutions, says that Wave Accounting has: “No automatic migration from Quickbooks.”

Jack Anderson, COO at Venture Domain Hosting, was left frustrated at the data migration when changing helpdesk solutions from Kayako to LiveAgent. He says: “It’s a chore to export data from Kayako, let alone reimport it into LiveAgent.”

To migrate or not to migrate…

The bottom line is that moving from one piece of software to another is a complicated and time-consuming process that has no guarantees. Even if you’ve done your research, cleaned your data, chosen an app with good migration tools, and got your staff onboard, something can still go wrong.

“It’s very rare that everything goes entirely according to plan when performing any form of migration, so the best practice is to hope for the best but plan for the worst,” says Burbridge. “This will allow you to ensure that if the absolute worst does happen then you’re prepared for it and can comfortably continue on with your schedule.”

If you’re ready to migrate to new software then take a look at our App Finder where you can search for apps according to your size of company, location, pricing model, and business need. Or if you want to get independent advice on which software is making the grade in your industry, take a look at our top 25 app rankings across categories such as CRM, LMS, customer service, accounting, and marketing automation.