M&A activity puts IT to task

Mergers and acquisitions traditionally involve intricate planning over several months or even years.

Mergers and acquisitions traditionally involve intricate planning over several months or even years. However, in recent weeks the economic climate has meant that this tradition has been dispensed with by many.

The M&A market is now very different. Companies are having to be swiftly rescued from collapse in order to preserve businesses and safeguard jobs. There are numerous examples, but the one that probably springs to most people's mind is HBOS and RBS.

It is not just the financial services sector that has been impacted though. Retailers are also suffering Woolworths has been the first major victim of being unable to find a buyer in time.

In a fluctuating climate, well established due diligence processes are being sidelined and the result is that internal process such as IT are left in a state of chaos as they scramble to integrate disparate systems in a matter of weeks where it would normally take months. This begs the question: are these companies setting themselves up for a fall?

Although speed is crucial, it is essential that businesses drive efficiencies from their M&A activity. Consumers are not concerned if you have only just merged, they expect a business as usual approach - if you cannot give them what they want, then they will go elsewhere.

Few will give your newly merged company a second chance. Investors too are extremely wary of the risk that M&A brings and will flee at the merest whiff of trouble.

So how can companies ensure their merger is a success in a climate that does not allow for an extended due diligence process?

IT is the absolute backbone of any organisation and as such it is vital to have complete transparency during M&A. Companies need to ensure that they have complete visibility and control of business processes.

This will help them to better understand what they have, how it all fits together and recognise gaps - if any exist. More importantly, it drastically increases the chances of the merger being a success. After all what is the point of acquiring a company, only for the new organisation to fall over in 18 months time?

A lot is being asked of IT. Not only does it have to rapidly bring together two infrastructures, it has to do it in a way that creates a platform for innovation and ongoing competitiveness. At the heart of this is instilling agile business processes that allow the companies to adapt to rapid change.

A dynamic and responsive organisation is more likely to drive return in investment and see real benefit from the merger of two companies, than one that is rigid and unable to respond to changing market conditions.

Let's not forget that it is not just about surviving today, it is also about making it through tomorrow.

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