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The secret to a successful merger? Culture and collaboration

By Catherine Knowles
Thu 10 Dec 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Mergers and acquisitions are on the rise as organisations see this is as a strong strategic move in an increasingly competitive world.

However, before undertaking such an activity, organisations need to consider how they will integrate the two companies to ensure a smooth integration.

Andrew Devitt, UXC Eclipse senior executive - customer and partner engagement, says, “Acquisitions can be chaotic, with very few processes, procedures or formal hierarchy in place. When acquiring a business, it’s important to consider the right approach.”

He says the success of his own company is based on its culture and customer service philosophy, so it looks for businesses with a similar approach.

“Once a cultural fit has been established, a smooth cultural integration can be facilitated by collaboration tools such as enterprise social and SharePoint bringing disparate teams together and making them feel part of an integrated company from the outset,” he says.

According to Devitt, there are five steps to a successful integration:

1. Communication – make it quick and make it personal

The aim and central task of acquisition is integration, which is necessary to realise the added value when two organisations are combined, Devitt says.

“It is important to be as transparent as possible with all the individuals who are impacted by the merger and to act quickly with all communications to stop the ‘grapevine’ and to keep the right information flowing,” he says.

According to Devitt, acquiring companies can ‘de-humanise’ the integration process by focusing on the financial and process aspects, and neglecting to provide personal attention.

Successful integration requires a sharp focus on human capital and culture - it’s essential to make the communication personal, articulating what the change means for the business as well as the individuals concerned, he says.

2. Culture – tap in to the positive

Culture can enable sustainable organisational change if the cultures are positively aligned and if the company can successfully tap into the positive energy and commitment of its culture, according to Devitt.

Companies should start by assessing the cultural climate of both the original organisation and the acquired organisation with a focus on commonality.

Then the management team should develop a vision of the ideal company culture moving forward.

Next, the team should review the company’s mission, vision and values and make sure the envisioned company culture supports them.

Last, company culture should be aligned with the organisation’s strategic goals, he says.

3. Compatibility – get the process and systems together

A major aspect of integration is bringing together processes and systems that will let the organisations function effectively and efficiently, Devitt says.

Although integrating existing technologies and rolling out new applications across organisations can be challenging, it is important to achieve this step as quickly as possible so that managers can concentrate their efforts on the business and not on the systems, he says.

4. Win support – harness the power of change agents

As companies seek to transform themselves, one major challenge is getting people to go along with the shift. It’s important to recognise that it is not possible to convert everyone at once, according to Devitt.

Working with a due diligence team can ease the burden by finding out who the key influencers are and involving them early in the process.

Using these key ambassadors to work as change managers can help influence the integration and strengthen key messages.

The new structure should include groups with a tailored mix of talents. A successful approach is to create task forces for specific projects, pulling together employees from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels: younger employees may provide energy and optimism; veterans may provide insight from past experience.

5. Keep on course – check in and change direction

Above all, the acquiring company must be clear about the value behind the acquisition, and it must ensure that this thinking extends throughout the entire process, says Devitt.

An experienced task force should host regular meetings with the integration team to continually ‘check in’ and monitor the course of integration.

This also lets members acknowledge where things aren’t working, change course if need be, and correct them early on. If something isn’t working, it should be adjusted as quickly as possible, he says.

“Companies also must not neglect the cultural aspects of an integration. Bringing disparate teams together can be made easier with the right systems in place, such as enterprise social and collaboration tools,” says Devitt.

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