By Adrian Jones, Group Head of IT, Innovation, and Architecture, SYNLAB International
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are a powerful way for businesses to scale and fuel continued growth momentum—but pulling them off requires astute planning if leaders don’t want to become one of the 70-90% of acquisitions that ultimately fail. To state the obvious, integrating organizations is a major undertaking, with business leaders needing to consider every variable within the move, from the individual companies’ people and projects to their data and business capabilities, to ensure the objectives sought through M&A actualize.
As though assessing the entire business wasn’t imposing enough, business leaders and decision makers are also working against the clock. Organizations that pause operations for too long to navigate integration risk sabotaging their core businesses in the meantime. So how can leaders make quicker decisions while still evaluating the full business context needed to bring M&A to fruition?
My organization is adopting an Enterprise Architecture (EA) approach so that our integration decisions are as fast and accurate as possible. Here’s how other organizations can, too.
Understand the starting point
Capturing a baseline understanding of each involved organization’s business and IT architectures is a crucial first step to ensure integration strategies are contextualized, which mitigates risk. When we were involved in a large acquisition, we initially assessed the organization for risk profiles and business and technology application profiles so that we understood areas to both consolidate and reinforce. Decision makers need to consider how the organizations can work together across all areas of business; otherwise, they risk establishing one company in name and two separate ecosystems in practice that will likely clash—or waste resources with duplication—upon integration.
That said, with so many variables to account for, it would be incredibly time consuming (if not impossible) to manually map out each business through spreadsheets and reports, which would only slow the time to decision and risk human error. For instance, our acquisition would likely be considerably more assumption based than quantitatively assessed and risk managed. Instead, digital-forward EA platforms can speed up the data-collection process by automatically importing and modeling relevant data in a centralized system for users to analyze. Plus, with a cloud-native solution that allows democratic access, both organizations can input any pertinent information regardless of where they are physically located, empowering teams to easily collaborate.
Organizing this information in one location speeds up the decision-making process by giving clarity on the business an organization is acquiring or merging with, so that they can identify where the opportunity for successful integration lies. We used Ardoq, and because the platform stays synced with our systems, we could trust that we were always using the most up-to-date and therefore accurate information to guide our plans.
Identify and execute the integration strategy
After capturing the starting states of the organizations involved in our acquisition, we needed to understand the impact that move would have on our entire business—not just on what we hoped to achieve from M&A, but how it will influence our existing people, projects, and capabilities. EA tools helped assess the impact of change before it took effect by modeling proposed plans on that baseline data. This way, we could better foresee roadblocks to execution before resources were directed towards it. As we reviewed our roadmaps for factors like cost-benefit and time to execution, questions we ask ourselves included:
- How do workflows differ across the involved organizations? How will they need to be restructured to enable teams to work cohesively?
- Which technologies support the M&A process? What capabilities are currently available to us, and where is there opportunity to add?
- Where can we consolidate to drive the most cost savings?
- How will these consolidations influence other areas of the business?
A centralized EA platform positions decision makers to perform this analysis work with an understanding of which systems and projects would be involved in each change, and who within the company would be responsible for driving and managing those changes. This affords users an extra layer of confidence in their planning that they aren’t leaving themselves vulnerable to surprise setbacks, and they know who to consult to manage change throughout the entire journey.
More than being challenging to manage, static and unruly spreadsheets don’t lend themselves to collaboration—something that’s mission-critical for M&A success. There are a lot of people involved in M&A activities, from members of the C-suite to stakeholders and beyond, and so organizations need the means to get everyone aligned quickly so that they can move forward cohesively. Again, user-friendly EA tools like the one we used proved to be invaluable.
EA software keeps teams aligned and confident throughout the integration itself, as well as beyond to monitor how the unified business progresses. With a platform capable of generating easy-to-read visuals that address every decision maker’s M&A priorities (e.g., does the CFO want to see a cost-benefit analysis, while the CISO is more concerned with what measures are being taken to ensure the organization’s data is secure?), those driving the EA approach can inspire confidence across the project. For example, Ardoq’s Surveys and Broadcasts features enables me to share data-backed insights with the decision makers best suited to offer their expertise on a given facet of the integration process to ensure that every step is being handled as thoughtfully as possible.
No two M&A strategies will be exactly the same, and that’s because no two organizations are either. Decision makers need to listen to the data in front of them to pinpoint the unique opportunities for integration, as well as any risks they may be leaving themselves vulnerable to if they move forward with certain plans. Our EA approach gave our team the framework to make smarter M&A decisions, and our choice of a data-driven EA tool empowered us to act quickly while remaining measured so that we could be one of the M&A moves that ultimately thrives.