Mergers and acquisitions are a common occurrence in the manufacturing industry. And although a lot of publicity is made around transactions, there is often a lot of silence post-acquisition around how the integration is going, or whether it is yielding the expected results.
This article is Part 1 of a multi-part series focused on how to integrate mergers, acquisitions and business units from a business strategy, process and systems point of view, as well as from the company culture point of view.
If you’re more the YouTube type, you can watch this conversation, which covers the rest of the items discussed in this blog post.
Let’s start with a comparison between successful and unsuccessful M&A integrations.
On the plus side, companies that deliver integration well achieve 6% to 12% more growth than companies who miss the mark. If you are in a high growth sector, these numbers may seem small, but don’t forget that acquirers tend to be much larger than the acquired, and mature companies often target 2% to 3% organic growth.
The downside is that successful integrations only account for, at best, half of all M&As, since 50% to 80% of all M&A deals fail to live up to expectations.
In this context, M&A remains a high stakes / high reward endeavor that is challenging for any organization.
So, how can the integration process be de-risked? How can it maximize the chances of achieving the objectives of the M&A?
Companies, rightly so, spend a lot of time and resources performing due diligence before making their acquisitions.
At this stage of the process, the strategy behind the intent of the acquisition is aligned with the criteria used for due diligence.
For example, if the strategy revolves around acquiring new skill sets from a smaller but more high-tech company, the profits or margins of the target may not be a priority. If the strategy aims at being able to play a bigger role with large customers, the due diligence might focus on complementary products or solutions that enable the acquirer to position itself as a complete solution provider to key accounts that prefer giving more business to larger OEMs. If the strategy is to sell existing products through new channels, the due diligence will put a special emphasis on that part of the equation.
Sometime after the due diligence and the acquisition, the process of integrating the target will begin. Often, this is where a disconnect between the original intent, and what will be accomplished operationally, starts to take shape.
Therefore, the first priority for the integration is to ensure that steps taken and results stay focused on the objective of the strategy.
The knee-jerk reaction to an acquisition is to plan the integration of everything. Akin to a waterfall approach, this would result in a huge multi-year project, set in stone from the get go, where all systems and teams are placed in a Gantt chart waiting for integration.
But that’s integration for the sake of it. It loses sight of the strategic goal right from the get go. Within this disconnected framework, the scope and order of priorities may be all wrong. The project is too big. The timeline is too long. The infrastructure is a huge spaghetti. The integration is too complex. Everything looks like a huge unclimbable mountain. What are we trying to achieve again?
How can we shrink the mountain?
The two main strategies to make integration more focused and digestible are to:
This M&A Use Case as an Example
As we cover these topics, let’s use the following M&A scenario as the main thread / analogy / example that will anchor our discussion to a real-life situation.
The mountain feeds off the following assumption: migrating systems, or integrating them completely, is the only way forward.
The alternative is much more concise, yet in some sense more powerful, and can enable every other step in the process.
If the goal is to cross-sell products via the other company’s channels, then the first step is to integrate all KPI data related to sales, including by product family and by channel. This data would typically reside in the CRM of the acquired company, to be shared in the CRM of the acquiring company.
This doesn’t imply a migration of systems, or a full integration. It simply requires a very narrow amount of data sharing, via API connection, or via existing point-and-click connectors.
It can be done without disrupting the work of anyone. Frictionless.
With the sales data shared and visible in real-time in the head office CRM, the decision makers of both companies get a clearer picture of the situation, enabling them to:
Get more familiar with the reality of both companies.
Salesforce / CRM Tip: Salesforce uses open APIs, and hundreds of other software integrate to Salesforce via connectors. This enables businesses to execute the KPI Visibility first step within a small mini-project that precedes broader process migrations or larger system integrations.
Now that your decision makers are equipped with real-time data directly related to your acquisitions strategic goal, you are better equipped to prioritize the rest of your M&A integration backlog.
The next steps should focus on all integrations and collaborations that will directly generate value aligned with the strategic goal.
If we use our cross-sell use case, let’s say that one of the value next steps is the sharing of accounts. Once again you could ask yourself if you must do everything at once, or if this step should be accomplished more incrementally. Let’s compare a few options:
That is the real beauty of data sharing as a first incremental step. By sharing data, you enable stakeholders to get familiar with each other’s reality, without forcing them to change their ways. It is a much softer approach. It can also be a speedier approach…
Salesforce / CRM Tip: access to information with read or write permissions can be given at the profile, user, object, record layout and field levels so you can control (A) information shared as an FYI / read-only (B) actionable information that can be edited (C) information that should be hidden / confidential.
The previous KPI and Agile/incremental examples are part of the same thread that builds on itself as follows:
Give your employees, and acquired employees, more than they had before, without changing the way they work.
The day real change comes, the level of fear, cynicism and apprehension will be much lower because you’ve started the integration process by giving things, instead of changing things.
Do you see where we are going here?
There is a reason why 70% of value erosion for deals that fail occurs at the post integration phase. It’s because most company integrations take away things, instead of giving away things. Companies take away the familiar and the comfort zone, and impose change.
Start by giving value, and see what happens to your employees’ mindset.
Salesforce / CRM Tip: multiple Salesforce orgs / instances can be integrated together via point-and-click using Mulesoft Composer.
Taking this approach one step further, let’s go back to our initial low hanging fruit of giving decision makers access to real-time KPIs from the acquired business.
Why only share this with managers? What about employees? What about transparency? What about having everybody on the same page?
First, here is the typical mindset of most teams when they hear about an acquisition:
Now picture the sharing of data and incremental steps that we’ve described:
Now picture conversations that employees and managers can have after the seed of transparency and data sharing has been planted… without forcing them to change anything.
There are ways to tease, entice and influence employees to be curious about change, and even request an acceleration of change… Even if under any other circumstances they would’ve begged for the status quo.
Salesforce / CRM Tip: specific reports and dashboards can be shown to specific teams or employees based on their roles and profiles. This enables businesses to increase trust, engagement and motivation amongst employees, while ensuring confidential data stays confidential.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (00:03):
Often, you’ve went through the whole strategy, you’ve done the research, you’ve done the due diligence. You have clear objectives, clear targets that you expect you’ll be able to reach. And those targets will allow you to generate value. You actually shrink the mountain by making things visible
David Lamarche (00:25):
Today. We’re gonna talk about some of the best practices when it comes to integrating acquisitions, more specifically in the manufacturing sector. It’s actually quite common for manufacturers to acquire other manufacturers. What are the, let’s say, big pillars, or what companies should focus on when they approach the integration phase, and not to get distracted too early by the technical aspects of it.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (00:50):
Any acquisition is a strategic move for any organization. The whole purpose of an acquisition is to create value. Companies that are acquiring other business, they do so to create value by often getting new product lines that they expect to be able to sell to their customer. Having access to a distribution network, that they don’t have access to. Have access to specific customers. That they believe can be specific grow vectors for their business. So acquisitions are very, very strategic and obviously a lot of time effort, energy and money is being put on doing a proper due diligence. Having a very solid strategy to see and have a good understanding on what needs to be done for the acquisition to actually generate value. So after the acquisition is completed, we usually have a very strong plan on paper. The objectives, the strategy is very clear on why they’ve done the acquisition. Where the pitfall starts and where the complications start is… How do you integrate the business into the new one? That becomes very complicated and often companies actually see that as a huge mountain to climb.
David Lamarche (02:06):
Yeah. And I like your analogy of the mountain here because it’s quite frequent that definitely the integration timelines are always busted and we even see some companies giving up. And I would say leaving the acquired company as a separate business unit that runs alone for many, many years. So what are the ways that manufacturers can go from a mountain to something that’s, uh, more feasible and in the much shorter term, what are the tips, tricks, best practices, new tools.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (02:40):
You actually shrink the mountain by making things visible. First thing, um, often, right? You you’ve went through the whole strategy. You’ve done the research, you’ve done the due diligence. You have clear objectives, clear targets that you expect you’ll be able to reach. And those targets will allow you to generate value. What we often see is just the fact that executives, they don’t have the visibility they need to be properly focused to be properly tracking “is the value being generated?” Are they on track to actually deliver on the strategy that they’ve put forward when doing the acquisition? So that’s really the first pitfall that we see. If you don’t know, you don’t have the information, how can you make a proper decision? How can you actually make it on time so that you have the proper impact?
David Lamarche (03:33):
So, and you mentioned visibility… So how do you give decision makers visibility on something that they’ve just acquired without going through the whole integration process.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (03:42):
Yeah, it’s actually a very good question because often the paradigm is that to be able to have the complete visibility, you need to go through a full integration of the systems. And as we know those things take a lot more time, a lot more effort, they’re way too painful. And they’re really, you know, injuring the business, they’ll impact the business for sure.
David Lamarche (04:03):
So you’re telling me that’s an assumption that’s no longer relevant or that can be circumvented.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (04:09):
So the best way to give executive that visibility, so they can actually track that the value is being generated, is to start sharing data between the various systems. Sharing data between the ERPs, the sales systems, the financial systems, the marketing systems, to make sure that there is one system that would actually hold all of the information. Allowing the executives to have a clear, real time view of what’s going on within that business. When you focus on sharing the information first, you don’t disturb the acquired business. You haven’t changed anything. You don’t migrate any systems. You have no impact on how they operate. Now that the executives actually have proper information on what’s going on. They have a solid plan, right? The strategy that they wanted to do, things, objectives and goals of that they wanted to pursue with that acquisition.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (05:02):
Now that they have the information, they can actually specifically decide what to do, which synergies they want to start executing first. And that’s where we can have interesting discussions. Let’s say, with the sales team, how to best approach the different markets, how should we structure the sales team? Should we start building sales teams that sell all of our products? Maybe, you know, keep the sales team as product-based or product-family based? Should it be regional? You can decide because now you have the data, you have the data on the channels that are more efficient, you have the data on products that are selling, and on the cross-selling of products as well, which you didn’t have before. You can have the exact same type of questions for the service department. What’s going on there? Who’s servicing which type of customers? How are they being serviced? What type of synergies can you actually generate a that level? How can you leverage everything that you have, the different teams that you have, to drive more value for your customers and drive more value for the organization?
David Lamarche (06:04):
So if I want to recap. If I understood correctly. We’re not changing how people work. No. We’re not changing their processes. Something much easier. Let’s say middle step is: you share data, so that decision makers see all businesses, all of their KPIs, and then they can pinpoint what their actual priority is. But based on market realities, based on what what’s happening and not, let’s say, a theoretical plan that was made two years ago.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (06:30):
What I would add to that is also, they can actually start moving. Because the data is shared, both systems have all the information. You can actually start moving departments one by one. So you’re no longer going through the process of having that week of integration that weekend big bang, where employees come back the Monday morning and all the systems are changed. The interface has changed. And obviously nothing works for a week or two or three because you’ve migrated the systems.
David Lamarche (06:57):
Regarding the data sharing. I have a question for you. Would you go further? You mentioned sharing data for executives. Yep. Would you also share data between teams before process integration? So let’s say I’m a sales rep in a company. We bought another company. They have their own sales reps. They have sales, channels and products. I have sales, channels and products. If I see the nice business they’re doing and they see the nice business that I’m doing in real time, because it’s real time data, doesn’t it become enticing? Is it not a good teaser for integration? “Hey, wait a minute. I’d like to be able to benefit from their channels. I’d like to be able to benefit from their accounts. I’d like to cross sell with their business.” So would you go as far or would you say “No. no, no, that step is for further down the road.” You wouldn’t go there.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (07:52):
It’s actually very good question. And I personally would go there. Because by providing visibility to different teams, you allow them to change, or evolve, or leverage the other teams, without doing anything. You’re not forcing anything. You’re just enabling the teams to collaborate and that will greatly impact… That will actually have a great impact on the whole change management process, on the culture shift, and on the integration as a whole for the employees. I would definitely do it. And you mentioned sales… But I would do it for all of the various teams. Just because by providing that level of transparency, it will probably allow them to extend a phone call to their new peers. Have a discussion on how they can improve and really build teamwork across both organizations.
David Lamarche (08:52):
I like that you mentioned the other departments. Because if you think about customer support, you can share “Hey look how many people they’re helping today. Look how many cases they resolved today. And the cases that we resolved today, same thing for marketing. Look how much engagement they’re getting and how much engagement we’re getting. And now we’re gonna be able to work together.” So there’s something interesting. You mentioned change management. I think that’s the right term. You prepare the change management with transparency. So there’s no hypocrisy. Everybody sees everything. Yeah. Or, you know, what’s showable. And later down the line, you have less friction when it comes to changing processes.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (09:28):
David Lamarche (09:30):
If we pivot to, let’s say, the bigger integration piece. So let’s say you shared data with executives, and they were able to prioritize the rollout of the integration based on real time data, across business units, across acquisitions. Maybe the staff, the employees themselves, department by department have been able to feel what the other teams are like. Seeing how much they’re selling, how much they’re helping, how much they’re engaging. What are the big questions, best practices, pillars of a good full process integration.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (10:04):
So the big pillar of the big integration is the fact that since you’re sharing data, you don’t necessarily have to do a big integration. You can actually really pick and choose, by department by process, by function, the integration that really creates value for their shareholders. You need to go back to the initial reason why you’ve acquired that company. You’ve acquired that company because you believe that together you’ll create more value than being separated. In that case, focus on, really, the micro things that will really support that strategy.
David Lamarche (10:41):
Right. So instead of forcing everybody to migrate and change their processes, which can create a lot of friction. Since you’re already sharing data, you have visibly on the KPIs of everybody. So the goal of the integration is not to see the KPIs. You already see them. The goal of the process integration or migration is to leverage, synergize and achieve objectives. So only what generates value gets migrated, gets changed. For the rest, people can keep operating as they were in the past.
Jean-Philippe Bernard (11:14):
No. Exactly. It makes the whole process a lot more natural, frictionless, seamless for everybody involved.
End of transcript
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