Why an IT M&A Playbook Is Key to Faster, Better, Cheaper Integrations

There are two ways a company can grow their market: through sales and marketing, and through acquisitions. Companies are increasingly choosing acquisitions as a way to leapfrog their growth, market share and capabilities. Austin, Texas -based Homeaway exemplifies this trend, with 18 acquisitions under their belt.

Your IT M&A Playbook

In fact, tech companies spent more than $100 billion in acquisitions in 2010, according to this video from a 2012 South by Southwest Interactive panel.

But whereas the technology tools for sales and marketing efforts are fairly simple –the right CRM and marketing automation application will do the trick - the mergers and acquisitions process brings it’s own technology challenge: the need to integrate the technology infrastructure of the merged companies.

And these integrations can get expensive, especially if they’re an after-thought for corporate decision-makers as I mentioned in my previous article.

So how can you keep the IT mergers & acquisitions integration process from becoming a headache and financial sinkhole? What we’ve been advising companies to do is to create their IT M&A Playbook.

The Three Benefits of an IT M&A Playbook

If you’re going to make mergers and acquisitions part of your organization’s growth strategy, creating an IT M&A playbook is a must. Here are three reasons why:

1.    You avoid the Subject Matter Expert dependency syndrome

Every company has an M&A technology unicorn or two. These are the IT people who become post-acquisition integration experts. They know their company’s strategic business processes, the best way to interface with the most common APIs, databases and technologies, and they know what’s worked and what hasn’t.

But what if your expert(s) get reassigned to a different department or leave the company? All that knowledge goes with them. Subsequently, each new integration is like a brand new integration, with the associated high costs, errors and perpetual learning curves.

The IT M&A Playbook solves this problem by systematizing your integration processes. It’s designed to document the knowledge held in your subject matter expert’s head, so you aren’t dependent on one resource that might leave you high and dry at any given moment.

2.    You can declare independence from your vendors

This is the part of this blog post where you might be thinking, “Oscar, you’re cannibalizing your business!”

Well yes, if all I wanted to do is squeeze every last penny out of my clients by making them dependent on me, then I’d agree with you. But my goal is to help our customers become independent. And that’s the second benefit of an IT merger and acquisitions integration Playbook – it allows your organization to become self-sufficient in executing M&A integrations.

3.    You’ll always be up-to-date

The playbook is not a physical “book,” it’s a virtual, living, breathing document. You add what you learn from each project, and incrementally improve the processes you’ve already documented.

The Key Elements of an IT M&A Playbook

So we’ve covered the ‘whys’ of the playbook, now let’s briefly get into the nuts and bolts. What are the key ingredients for an effective one? How should you build one? What are mistakes to avoid?

Here are seven elements to consider for your playbook:

  1. Document your business processes. IT M&A is a business function as well as a technology function. Document your business processes to ensure you get to value quicker by prioritizing the value tasks first.
  2. Store templates, documents and code. Every time one of your developers or DBAs creates a great SOAP call, API interface or documents a process, upload it to your playbook for future use. You never know when you’ll need them again.
  3. Create a dashboard to track and compare integration progress. Create a visual dashboard to track and compare your integrations within your playbook interface. This will accelerate your path to ‘faster, better, cheaper.’
  4. Document processes for different acquisition scenarios. Each integration is different, and depends on whether you’ve executed a full acquisition, a joint venture, or a merge of equals.  
  5. Use an easy-to-use collaboration tool. There are many tools on the market you can use for your ‘playbook’ interface. One we frequently use on client engagements is SharePoint. It’s fairly ubiquitous across the corporate landscape and is very functional. By adding a web interface or GUI you make it easy to use for all parties involved. We’ve even built interfaces that allow you to move elements around or easily upload documents through visual drag-and-drop functionality.
  6. Make it intuitive. Make your interface as easy to use as possible so the ‘troops in the field’ can have easy access to the information they need at critical moments. After a few integrations you’ll quickly fill up your playbook with documents, processes and templates. That’s a lot of information to store, and if you’re not careful it’ll become difficult to find what you’re looking for.
  7. Make it mobile accessible. This is a no-brainer: with tablets and cell phones the key tool of choice for technology folks, make your playbook extremely easy to access via mobile. SharePoint is ideal for that.

Conclusion

Mergers and acquisitions have become a key market expansion strategy, along with sales and marketing. But the post-acquisition integration process often gets bogged down in complexity. The IT M&A Playbook is a key tool to avoid the mess. It’s designed to help you you reduce the time, cost and complexity of integration, and make every post-acquisition process as seamless as possible.

By documenting repeatable processes, templates, key documents and code, you create the institutional memory you need to successfully execute again and again without depending on unreliable or expensive resources.

These are some quick tips on how you can build your own playbook, but if want more information on getting help building your playbook, check out Softtek’s Mergers and Acquisitions IT Integration Services.