Here are some rules to help your next acquisition and network integration.
First, there is no such guide. Every acquisition, every company is different. While you may learn some useful processes during any given project, don’t assume they will work for the next acquisition. If you find yourself saying “This is just like…” stop yourself, you will be trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Second, check your ego at the door. I don’t care how many times you have done this before, as i said previously this one is different and you will need help. Make sure your M&A team is bringing someone from the enterprise technology group early so you can identify members of the new IT team that you can dedicate to the integration project.
Third, have a plan for your new colleagues. Your VP or CxO should speak with all the new team members as soon as they can legally know about the acquisition. Learn about what they do today, what they are capable of and what they want to do tomorrow. Even if you can’t give them all their dream job, give them a job, a title in your group and an understanding of how they will contribute after all the migration work is done. If part of the acquisition is letting some/all of the team go, be upfront and honest with clear time lines.
Fourth, identify some easy wins early and rip the band-aid off. One such migration that I am a fan of doing (almost) immediately is moving the level 1 helpdesk. Eventually you will be supporting the new companies associates, what better way for your helpdesk to learn than by doing and gaining insights and best practices from the existing helpdesk team. If this is not a practical step (again every company is different) maybe something like intranets or public websites work better but pick something and move on it quickly. The best integration I worked on, an engineer showed up the day the deal was signed with a server under his arm, we brought up the VPN and had the domain trust in place within a day – that was an easy, necessary win that got the team working together immediately.
Fifth, have a plan, move quickly but don’t forget about testing. So you worked for months doing your due diligence – you know what they have for systems, how many users, how they use those systems so its time to get your migration on right? Wrong! Talking about how someone does something will never replace real testing.
Finally, understand the integration is about 1 thing and 1 thing only – the user experience. I don’t care if you move a petabyte of data from Sydney to Boston in 15 minutes (well I do so please blog about it), all the employees care about is how you affected their ability to do their job. All the technical acts of heroism don’t mean a thing if your users are not happy. We are all IT service providers so make sure your customers are happy.