While it may not be the first thing that springs to mind, smooth IT integration is vital to the success of your merger or acquisition. If you sideline IT integration and leave it until too late, you can find it becoming a giant distraction and expense.
The IT experts of the acquiring company should ask for a list of: the most critical applications used in the target company; details of reporting structure for personnel in the IT department; and details about company culture, vendors, budgets and current projects.
It may be tempting to prioritise cost reductions to IT, but it is important not to become locked into short-term thinking. Long-term business direction should always be first and foremost in your mind, even if this doesn't allow for initial IT cost reduction.
When you're making an acquisition, decide if you're going to integrate the two systems or keep them separate. It is usually advisable to choose one system over another, but if you are making several acquisitions you may find it to be less disruptive and more cost-effective to keep systems separate. Think like a customer if you're trying to decide between two similar systems - which one will be of the most customer benefit?
There are two major considerations when you're implementing your IT system: prioritising and planning. Work out which are the most urgent IT projects, such as billing, VAT or compliance issues and take care of those first, and so on. It may be necessary to shelve some projects altogether, or at least until things have settled down. When you have a list of what needs doing, and an idea of what is urgent and what can wait, you will need a detailed migration plan and routines for data transfer.
You need to decide between manual and automatic migration. Manual migration takes time and human resources and carries the risk of human error. Automated integration is faster and more accurate but requires IT staff to construct complex routines and mapping. Because of the risk of customer confusion, however, any migration must be broken into manageable pieces.
As with any other aspect of merger integration, strong leadership is essential. The CIO and CEO will be relying on IT workers to complete the integration process. These key staff need to be given reasons to remain with the company during the difficult transition period and not to jump ship and join another company, which will likely be all-too-happy to snap up good IT people. If the IT department are resistant to change, the CIO must listen to their concerns, but ultimately make the decisions that are best for the company, and move the integration forward at a healthy pace. The objectives and benefits of the merger must be clearly communicated to the IT staff. It is important the CEO and CIO are accessible to IT staff and that they keep information current.
No IT department exists in isolation. Have weekly meetings between representatives from each IT application development team and key representatives from the other business units throughout the integration process. Make sure that IT representatives are present at integration strategy meetings from an early stage.
Successful IT integration can be achieved with a healthy mix of planning, strategy and leadership.
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