A totally normal disruption: Post-merger IT projects

Dr. Eric Schott draws conclusions from numerous integration projects. Companies without such change projects can also profit from this.

Campana & Schott has assisted with integration projects triggered by the merger of two companies for many years. Such post-merger integration projects are a considerable challenge, even for companies that have adopted a very project-oriented approach and that offer considerable competence at the respective management level. Why? For one, these are normally one-time projects, plus they tend to have a considerable change effect - also on the company's "normal business". Therefore it is worth looking at such projects, even if one is not affected by an integration project at the moment - which is probably true for the majority of readers ...

In summary: Integration projects lead to changes that are often thought to be impossible beforehand. A look at the 25 last projects CS was involved in (usually with a focus on IT integration) shows the type of competences and skills that are established as a result of these projects:

  • One special feature of these projects is the speed at which they are implemented. Usually they are triggered by external regulatory or organisational requirements. But the fact that changes can be made in such a short time period sends an important signal to the entire company.
  • Old and existing systems are subjected to a radical review, such as current IT applications, for example. The reorganisation process is generally dominated by business aspects (something that generally happens on its own) - that is, the reorganisation and prioritisation of IT applications is strictly governed by the priorities and plans of the divisions or departments. In that case, the IT-Business alignment happens quite by itself.
  • The costs for new or consolidated applications (or a new IT infrastructure, such as Cloud-based systems) are systematically compared to the expected benefit. Of course that is not new. But in the case of IT integration projects, this process is much quicker, more systematic and more radical, using the maxim "Benefits first".
  • The project tasks that are carried out in line with a merger often lead to a welcome rotation: Employees leave their habitual environments and often display new and hitherto unknown skills and abilities. This is the time when many "hidden champions" are discovered. And on the whole, this generates a previously unknown level of transparency regarding the skills of the employees.
  • And finally: a large project such as the integration of a company can only be organised and implemented as a program. From the viewpoint of CS, skills related to program management increase drastically during integration projects.

Based on this experience, the following approaches have proven themselves:

 "Best of Breed"

Many of the absorbing companies plan for a "Take-over approach", which means that the company that is absorbed will receive the exactly same IT. Interestingly, over time the companies usually change over to a "Best of Breed" approach, which aims to combine the best of both IT worlds. Therefore it is best to take the second route from the beginning!

No transition solutions

Do not plan for transition solutions when it comes to IT, as these are generally not worth the time or effort. Invest in a new long-term solution from the start.

"Greenfield approach"

Instead, why not use this opportunity for a "Greenfield approach" - rarely are the opportunities for introducing fundamental changes and innovations in IT better than in the context of a merger.

Cloud-based solutions

The introduction of Cloud-based solutions in particular is a strategic option in these cas-es. And even just the partial use of the Cloud can already lead to considerable benefits. e.g. when the two merging companies communicate on-line using Skype for Business, or when the new comprehensive address book (Active Directory) is added to the Cloud.

"Benefits first"

We have installed separate benefit tracking systems at several of our customers - by using a Cloud-based solution, all participants (from both companies, and from all locations) can now track the results that have already been implemented. It allows managers up to the level of the Management Board to see in real time which synergy effects or savings have already been realised, and where.