Digital transformation across M&A has seen rapid acceleration over the past year, driving record-breaking global M&A activity with new innovation and investment. We’ve witnessed companies across sectors recast themselves as more tech-enabled, and using tools like AI, to unearth opportunities, grow their operational and commercial performance and unlock value. For companies looking to gain and maintain a competitive edge in today’s market, knowing when to evolve, adopt and integrate specialist technology will be critical.
M&A activity has been revolutionized by digitization and through our platform alone, the volume of new projects or deals at their inception, are up 40 percent through September this year, compared to last year. With the forecast for the remainder of the year remaining positive, dealmakers are already exploring how greater adoption of tech can improve performance and streamline the M&A process.
Dealmakers are now looking for technological solutions to help drive efficiency and deliver value throughout the entire M&A lifecycle. These include virtual data rooms (VDRs) that can streamline masses of documents and offer due diligence solutions to cloud computing which enables 24/7 access to crucial deal documents from anywhere in the world, thereby expediting the M&A process and enabling collaboration.
With AI and machine learning, M&A professionals can now rapidly digest and standardize large data sets, and have the processing power to evaluate multiple potential scenarios at speed. These digital tools enable teams to distinguish more sources of value from the transactions they execute, while predicting more accurately the final value to be achieved.
Yet, while there are several benefits that come with integrating technology into the M&A process, it’s important to get the balance right. The issue of technology replacing human interaction in the deal world has been heavily discussed ever since virtual data rooms came into existence. Although technology can enable companies to provide a fast, convenient service at scale, customers ultimately want human connections.
Datasite’s technology bridges this gap – allowing dealmakers and M&A professionals working across different organizations globally, to work on their areas of a deal, manage it and interact with each other in a more efficient and meaningful way. By utilizing technology to do all the heavy lifting, human interaction actually becomes more impactful. After all, a handshake, on-site meeting or putting ink to paper means more when the intricacies of a deal are taken care of virtually. By digitizing, lower-end tasks can be automated, allowing professionals more time to work on more deals and more high-value tasks. Not only does it provide greater efficiency and collaboration when meeting in person, but it allows professionals to prepare more thoroughly and work more succinctly with each other.
Therefore, technology is not a substitute for people, but rather a tool that can help get deals done quickly and efficiently. Dealmaking will always require important soft skills including people, connections, collaboration, sentiment and confidence to perform in areas of strategy, negotiation and deal preparation. The right balance between digital and human interaction, particularly when it comes to customer service, is arguably one of the most important areas to strike. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that meeting the evolving needs of customers is paramount to maintaining and building trust in the dealmaking process.
Firms must assess whether their customer service experience is human, personalized and relevant vs. vague and devoid of interest. In the same way no two deals are the same, nor are two dealmakers. With so many firms seeking out ways to have a distinct edge in the M&A process, dealmakers have grown to seek out a more bespoke, frictionless and seamless customer service. Relationship-building and anticipating needs from the get-go goes a long way in creating an environment of credibility, trust and reliability.
Whilst there is much discussion around technology replacing humans in M&A, the focus really needs to be on enhancing humans' role in the process. Each deal has diverse needs, and one policy or approach cannot be universally applied with success to all scenarios. Forward-thinking SaaS platforms will utilize data and automation, alongside intelligence across every interaction, which enables dealmakers to fine-tune processes to their individual requirements.
Tech solutions leading the way in the field will ensure that their onboarding process alongside their platform configuration is highly customizable. Dealmakers today, rightly so, deserve access to an adaptable interface that changes in accordance with their needs in real-time. When serving dealmakers across a variety of regions, needs will differ, particularly in terms of language and in-house staffing.
24/7 customer attention
In today’s day and age, dealmaking platforms promise vast improvements when it comes to delivering dealmakers 24/7 support from start to finish. In almost every instance, dealmakers seek out information and services via digital means. Recent data has shown that most customers opt for self-service outlets via a QR code, chatbot, or alternative methods. With the pandemic only accelerating this trend, the need to deliver service when and where dealmakers need it, is the right way forward.
The key to simplifying the M&A process for customers will be ensuring that there is as much personalization available to the dealmakers throughout the process as possible. By guiding dealmakers through the various stages using increased and constant support from customer service specialists, platforms like Datasite can adjust their services to benefit dealmakers at a moment’s notice, refining the digital M&A procedure.
Speed and expertise to achieve the M&A goal
When it comes to M&A, time is literally money and the vast demands of the dealmaking process make it especially critical for hyperresponsiveness whilst receiving support. Although certain aspects of the M&A process can be fast-tracked and made more efficient with the right tools, the human element in the deal-making process should not be overlooked. Personal interactions can provide benefits that technology cannot duplicate, for example in-person negotiations allow parties to develop trust and confidence in each other.
With hybrid working on the rise and varying restrictions set to continue to be a part of life for the foreseeable future, the need to level up customer support is even more important. Product support and service teams are being upgraded, with multilingual specialists now available across different time zones. For example, the cross-collaboration and 24/7/365 nature of customer service can support a banker based in New York who is working on a deal involving parties in London, Madrid, and Mexico City. Expertise is also available throughout the deal process to ensure it is driven successfully and seamlessly.
Hybrid customer service
No matter what side of the table you’re on, whether the deal is on the buy or sell side, superior customer service is paramount to successful outcomes. Technology can play a significant role in the delivery of customer support, particularly when it comes to delivering at speed. Yet, it cannot be understated just how much a dealmaker’s experience is elevated by human interaction throughout the M&A journey. Implementing an omnichannel, knowledge enriched, and personalized approach will enable dealmakers to gain far more value in the M&A process.
After all, dealmakers need to enjoy the journey just as much as the final deal destination.
Merlin Piscitelli, Chief Revenue Officer, EMEA, Datasite