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Unify information systems during a merger

The successful reconciliation of information systems is essential to the success of a merger. This ambitious but necessary project is an opportunity to compare the way each organization operates in order to become more competitive and to modernize processes at a time of digital transformation…

It is obvious that a company merger is always a human, organizational and technical challenge. However, unfortunately, it is often only after the merger has been signed that management teams realize the immensity of the task ahead of them to unify not only the business units, but even more so their cultures and processes.

Therefore, the success of a merger depends to a large extent on the integration of IT forces and resources because, in most sectors of activity, the synergy of operational forces will not materialize without the unification of information systems. Worse, it is often this unification that ultimately sets the pace for the concrete and effective roadmap of the merger.

The problem is that consolidating IT assets is probably one of the most complex challenges we face, even in smaller organizations. This is mainly due to the fact that, for an identical sector of activity, histories, visions, practices, processes and needs vary greatly, leading to very different IT choices.

Unify, applications, tools and information knowledge…

The challenge is not just to consolidate servers, storage and network, which is a difficult task in itself. It extends to the unification of applications and tools available to employees, which will undoubtedly involve very complex work on the integration and consolidation of the databases and information knowledge of the two companies and will have a major impact on existing processes.

Because the lack of integration and synchronization across the resulting IT infrastructure can significantly disrupt and slow down day-to-day operations. Without ERP integration or financial controls, duplication and errors continue to occur. Without integration of communication tools and CRM, the new entity cannot show a united and coherent face to its partners, suppliers and customers.

To help CIOs in such a merger, there are different methodologies (especially to ensure the proper deployment of the network infrastructure) and different strategies based on the potential of virtualization and “Software Defined Everything” for example.

But beyond the methodologies and strategies, the integration of IT systems is based, in essence, on well known pillars, if not well mastered…

Human impact, a key concern

Various studies show that the first reason why a merger does not achieve its expected objectives is none other than the cultural clash that it most often engenders. A company’s culture is the foundation on which the behavior of its employees, the shared values, and the strategies for dealing with problems are based. It is both the identity and the history of the company. This is why it can be a hindrance during a merger that disrupts both the identity and the history of the two entities. More or less unconscious reference, it dictates its dynamics to the personal investment and productivity of each employee.

Defining a common vision

In short, any merger requires prior reflection to define the culture that we are trying to build. This can be developed first at the level of the IT teams themselves.
The unification of information systems first requires the unification of CIOs and IT teams. The resulting ISD must start by defining a common vision that all teams can adhere to and comply with.

Take stock of the situation

Once a common vision has been established, a detailed inventory of the IT assets must be carried out in order to have an objective overview of the situation and the resources available. The lack of visibility is a major and recurring obstacle to any attempt to unify information systems.

A merger is an opportunity to rediscuss contracts

This inventory must obviously be hardware (in order to determine which servers can support which workloads, which hardware should be upgraded and which should be scrapped), but also software. Remember that licenses are not always transferable. A merger is therefore also an opportunity to rediscuss contracts downwards.

This hardware and software inventory allows us to identify which systems are critical and which are more accessory. Being able to focus on the critical elements at first tends to simplify and streamline the integration of systems.

Meticulous planning…

With these elements in hand, it becomes easier to make the necessary decisions and to decide what can be converged/combined and what cannot. Generally speaking, the reflections will follow three paths: extend one of the existing solutions to the entire new merged entity, keep two solutions for a while, especially when they are not critical to the business, or map out new paths and processes as part of the digital transition and a modernization of tools. The choices will be made in line with the business objectives and in the sense of the strategic vision defined at the beginning.

Identify risks upstream

It is also important to identify risks early on and to imagine worst-case scenarios in order to guide choices and decisions in a constructive manner.
All that remains is to plan each project according to its criticality and to focus on its rapid realization through iterative processes involving the business.

…but act quickly

It is a good practice that any integration process (of two elements, whatever they may be) should not be rushed, but should be completed very quickly once it has begun. Because any partial or pending integration tends to raise an increasing number of problems (especially synchronization) as the days go by, which only makes the integration even more complex.

Merging communication

Among the first unifications to be carried out quickly are those of email domains, service directories, customer, partner and supplier lists, etc. These first unifications are essential to offer a united face of the company to the outside world, but also to quickly bring the internal communication in line. In a merger, communication between entities, between teams, between employees is fundamental.

New generation tools such as Office 365 Teams or Slack allow to create a “Team Building” dynamic more easily by generating new discussions, by promoting the discovery of skills within the new merged entity, by making information sharing and exchange more fluid. etc. Adopting them can actively contribute to imposing a new common corporate culture and increase the chances of a successful merger.

Unify information

One of the most complex challenges to be solved lies in the unification of the two companies’ information assets. Unifying ERP, CRM and human resources tools is all the more critical as it requires a common vocabulary, controlled data mapping, and the necessary implementation of a common repository.
GDPR and other regulations are now inviting companies to implement a “2.0” governance of data, which is also a real asset for successfully unifying information systems in the event of a merger.

This governance is all the more useful as it will considerably help the inevitable and indispensable redefinition of security and compliance rules.
In addition, various Machine Learning techniques can now come to the rescue to analyze documents and information in order to speed up the filing process of office documents for example.

Leveraging the cloud

Because of their universal accessibility, elasticity, and on-demand billing, cloud technologies are becoming the facilitators of information system integration and process fusion. The Cloud provides flexibility and agility. Above all, it reduces the impact of risks, which gives you the right to make mistakes. It also tends to free energies from low-level hardware and application problems.

SaaS solutions – such as those mentioned earlier (Teams, Slack, …) – can be adopted and instantly deployed independently of existing ones. In addition, iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) solutions, such as Dell Boomi, Anypoint, Mulesoft, Informatica, Azure Logic Apps, originally designed to simplify the integration of the cloud with existing applications, are also proving to be very useful in a context of merging and unifying information systems. Non-coding automation solutions such as Microsoft Flow, IFTTT or Zapier are also facilitators in the automation and unification of processes.

The bottom line is that in any business merger, it is critical that management teams do not overlook or underestimate the time and cost associated with unifying applications, infrastructures and IT organizations. The challenge is great. It requires a common vision, clearly defined objectives, meticulous planning and an efficient, agile and practical IT department. But the successful unification of information systems is the key to the success of the merger, i.e. the performance of the resulting company and its ability to be more competitive