The pace continues to pick up on the mergers and acquisitions front, with a number of large technology deals hitting the press over the last 12 months.
Looking back at Getronics' own acquisition by Aurelius, I can point to six key tactics that enabled us to navigate this transition whilst keeping our focus on growing the business.
1. Move fast
Often during periods of great change, such as a merger or acquisition, businesses can stall as they work through the details and re-strategise. This often involves a drawn out integration process with teams of consultants advising on integration strategy and refreshing corporate goals.
This period can last for months and during this time the business is left with no clear roadmap so it's vital to ensure that you are able to quickly identify your strategy and move to execution.
Thirty years of M&A and business transformation has taught me you should listen to your heart more than your head. You can plan and write strategies to death, but nine times out of 10 your gut feeling will be right. So go with your gut, identify your goals and get to work. Quickly identify your game plan and make your business strategy as simple as possible. If the ends are clear, the means will take care of themselves.
2. Prioritise IT
According to a recent survey by Deloitte, fewer than 30 per cent of companies actively involve IT in pre-close planning during M&A activity. However, to help ensure the expected benefits of any deal are met, it's crucial that consideration is given to how IT integration aligns with business activities during the M&A process.
Failing to prioritise IT in this kind of commercial activity can lead to bottom line business impact. Investors set tight timescales for the separation or amalgamation of different organisations and divisions. Non-functioning or inefficient IT systems mean that deals cannot be completed, jobs cannot be invoiced and customer service may grind to a halt. It can also mean staff do not get paid on time and that jobs aren't reassigned quickly enough.
Prioritising IT integration leads to faster decision-making and IT solution development which in turns equates to fewer customer issues and quicker realisation of value. However, making strategic recommendations about the integration roadmap can be challenging for CIOs who have not been involved in merger and acquisition activity before.
As we've seen, this is leading to a growing demand for consultancy from IT outsourcers with solid experience in this space.
3. Share the vision
Mergers and acquisitions can leave staff unsettled and unclear on the next steps: where next from here? Where do I fit in the big picture? It's therefore critical to unite employees and bring them along on the journey.
Senior management often spend a lot of time writing mission statements and list of values post-acquisition. I prefer to go with the basics.
Share your vision with your team – let them know how you are going to make the company successful, and the part they have to play. And 'keep it simple, stupid!' – if you can't convince your own staff, how can you convince your customers?
Be honest with people too – significant changes to a company, such as acquisition, are never easy. But even in the tough times people understand and appreciate an honest approach and knowing where they stand.
4. Get the right people on board
This is easier said than done. Finding the right mix is crucial - bright, driven young staff complementing older voices of experience.
Finding skilled people working in niche or new areas of IT is a huge challenge - there's a real skills shortage out there. Any forward-thinking technology company knows that success lies in innovation. Technology continues to advance at an ever-faster pace, which requires ever-deeper technology expertise in new areas such as cloud computing and application management.
Companies can try forming an alliance with a recruitment company to try to tackle this skills shortage It's not just about skills either – it's no secret that you need to get the chemistry right. Creating an enthusiastic and forward-looking culture is never more important than after a period of business upheaval.
5. Communicate the changes to your customers and partners
One thing you cannot forget is to clearly communicate the upcoming changes to clients and partners so there are no surprises or ambiguity along the way. It's important they also come on the journey with you. I personally spoke with a large number of our clients myself on the day of the Getronics' acquisition announcement where I could answer any questions they had.
6. Create customer intimacy
Customer intimacy can provide a compelling competitive advantage. Customer care and a personal approach is the key to creating longstanding business relationships.
This is where investment spent getting to know your customers and learning about their business case and strategy, not just about the logistics of putting computers on desks, is key. It's crucial to demonstrate agility to meet a customer's needs, and to show that the entire team is invested in their business. It's about bringing forward a workforce that is committed to developing and nurturing client relationships from proposal to implementation and beyond.
7. Take the challenge on
The sale and acquisition phase can be one of the most challenging periods a company has to face. However, by retaining a focus on your goals, investing in the right people and being transparent with staff and customers you can turn this challenge into an opportunity – laying the foundation for great success.
Mark Cook is CEO of global ICT services provider Getronics.