Up until the last 20 years or so, it was typically fine to think of IT as a post-acquisition activity. While technology problems could certainly crop up when bringing companies together, there were far fewer complexities, fewer systems to choose from, fewer security issues, and fewer concerns about minimizing IT acquisition risks.
Today, however, technology is intertwined with every aspect of an organization’s operations. IT is the underlying connection among all departments, and is critical not just to daily functions, but to competitive edge and growth. Technology no longer only supports an organization’s initiatives. Now, it underpins them.
Technology and Acquisition: Balancing Multiple Priorities
The omnipresence of technology in business means that organizations can no longer wait to address IT post-acquisition. IT planning must be part of the M&A strategy from the beginning in order to ensure speedy integration, encourage synergies, and deliver maximum value.
Successful technology integration, both during the merger and in the long term, requires balancing multiple priorities.
First, the IT team must keep all day-to-day functions running smoothly; essentially, allowing business as usual. While it’s important under any circumstances for employees to be able to work productively and effectively, it’s particularly vital during an acquisition, when people are stressed, risks are high, and morale may be low.
Second, the IT team must bring together the two IT departments on either side of the deal, and usually with the added requirement of reducing costs. This involves a full understanding of the systems and procedures of each company, a plan for migration, and a big-picture IT strategy that supports the merger’s objectives.
And third, the IT team is tasked with designing and building an end-state infrastructure that facilitates the long-term growth of the newly merged company. Again, this requires a strategic bird’s-eye-view and alignment between IT and business.
Clearly, IT integration is about a lot more that pressing a few buttons and plugging a few things in. Maybe in 1999, but not today.
Fundamentals for Successful Technology Integration
Organizations embarking on acquisition – especially those doing so for the first time – should keep these three IT fundamentals in mind:
Understand requirements. Gaining clarity on the scope of technical requirements created by the acquisition starts in the due diligence phase, well ahead of the deal itself. IT leaders have to know what resources exist on both sides of the deal in order to plan for the merger, minimize risks, identify and address gaps in capabilities, and find cost savings.
This means assessing all departments of both companies through a digital framework, or an IT lens. Alongside business teams, IT will need to consider software, hardware, network systems, ERP and CRM platforms, and any company-specific platforms – and of course, how to bring them all together. On top of that, IT must also try to predict any new technology needs that might arise during and after the merger.
And finally, they need to understand the work processes of each department in order to suggest and implement the best technology to support and streamline them.
Deploy resources systematically. With multiple new responsibilities, added pressure, and time crunches, IT resources are stretched thin during acquisition. However, when IT is involved in planning early, and has an opportunity to work closely with business teams, it’s easier to identify priorities and apply resources strategically.
Three areas in particular are crucial to effectively prioritizing initiatives: expected business benefit, ease or complexity of implementation, and overall business impact.
Create an implementation roadmap. After the IT team has identified requirements and priorities, they can build this understanding into a turn-by-turn roadmap for integration. Studies show that organizations with 100-day integration plans are more likely to meet deal objectives than those with integration plans that drag on for months. So, speed is a key factor, but of course must be balanced with thoroughness and care.
In addition, IT must be flexible in allowing for updates to the roadmap based on unexpected issues, shifting big-picture priorities, and the progress of the rest of the merger. Many initiatives across the organization will be interdependent, and when one changes, the rest change as well.
With this in mind, an effective roadmap includes contingency plans, a detailed list of projects and sub-projects, and the timelines required for each one. This will make it easier and less stressful to reorganize priorities and address new ones – all while keeping the business smoothly running day-to-day.
Develop A Rinse-and-Repeat Approach to IT within M&A
Because technology continues to be more and more integral to every part of every business, IT integration stands out as a make-or-break factor to the success or failure of an acquisition.
And because acquisition continues to be a more and more profitable strategy for growth, organizations are well-advised to put a clear and repeatable IT acquisition strategy in place – one that can be used for every new merger going forward.
This includes procedures for assessing the target company’s IT, re-assessing the acquiring company’s IT, putting a robust security policy in place, bolstering the combined infrastructure, and designing an end-state architecture that supports the organization long-term.
Today’s IT and business leaders understand that consolidation is just one of numerous responsibilities that must be considered within a larger IT integration strategy. By focusing on the key elements outlined above, organizations can create a consistent framework that ensures the lowest possible risk and the highest possible gains from their M&A plans.