The Challenges of Company Mergers and Acquisitions – A Technology Perspective
Company acquisitions and mergers happen all the time. Have you ever wondered how much business and technical work takes place before calling the new company a single entity?
This blog discusses the high-level, common, technical tasks associated with most mergers and acquisitions. Since every industry and business environment is different, the technology and tasks may vary based on requirements and situations. Also, these tasks are not listed in any particular order.
IP address/subnet conflicts
This is a really good starting point and a very common and complicated issue in any environment. Most companies use a Private IP address scheme in their internal network. If there is a conflict, it needs to be addressed before any type of merger activities can be performed. This can be time consuming so make sure to allocate enough time for this task.
Directory and authentication platform
You would be lucky if you came across a single authentication platform or directory service in both organizations. But if the two companies are using different or multiple directory services like Active Directory, Oracle, SUN, etc., your integration task will be challenging. You may also need to consider a single sign-on solution to provide a seamless platform for your end users. If the organizations have different password requirements, you may need to agree on a single password policy before consolidating authentication mechanisms.
Applications are key in any organization. If both companies are using the same applications (maybe different versions), from both technical and business perspectives you will need to decide which version of the application to keep in the new, combined organization. Once determined, the technical team must come up with a migration strategy. Some applications support direct data migration options; some do not. The domain membership or Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) change can cause some issues with certain applications. I have seen that some poorly written applications are hard coded with domain names. If using different applications for the same functionality (Help Desk, HR, etc.), management should decide on one product. In this case, a transition or migration may not be possible. With any cloud solutions you may need to maintain the public domain names, UPN etc., during the co-existence period.
Email is a critical business application for any organization. There are many tools out there to help with actual business migration. However, before you can start the migration be sure to have a clear understanding of your co-existence strategy during the migration. Here are some key components I have come across in my projects – primary SMTP address change, Exchange Global Address List (GAL) synchronization, email retention, archiving, free/busy synchronization, conference room auto-booking, fax solution, Spam filtering, Blackberry, Mobile devices, third party application integration, etc.
Any application requires a license. This can be a challenge if you have users in international locations and using region/language specific applications. The end goal should be to bring all licenses into a single consolidated area and manage them from there. However, in the beginning you need to make sure you have enough licenses to support both organizations.
A new organization will need standardized Service Level Agreements (SLAs), User names, Computer/Server names, Client/Server operating systems, Password, etc. Some of these can be achieved during the migration process. For example, these days most of the migration tools provide a mechanism to rename the object during the migration process to match the new naming standard. However, renaming or changing the operating system can be a challenge for some client-and server-based applications. Make sure to spend enough time evaluating the Operating System deployment process, base image, etc.
Help Desk / Ticketing System
You should be able to keep different Help desk or Ticketing systems during the co-existence period. However, at the end of the migration, you need to come up with a cost effective, administration-less solution.
Virtualization and virtualization platforms are common these days. Sometimes it may not be possible to maintain only one platform (Microsoft Hyper-V, EMC VMWare, etc.). Also, keep in mind that there are some tools out there to migrate virtual servers from one platform to another.
Most organizations these days have guest, public, private, etc., networks. Make sure to integrate these solutions and maintain the security during the merger.
There is no doubt that security is critical for any organization. In Information Technology, we use different software and hardware to maintain security. For example, Firewall, Internet Proxy, IDS, Patch Management, Wi-Fi, Access token and DMZs. “Going to a single platform” may not be feasible in the beginning. However, it can be achieved through proper planning and execution.
Mobile Devices and Management
A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy is common these days. The management of devices can be challenging for any organization and a standard policy should be put in place for the merged enterprise.
During the transition period make sure short names (NetBIOS) and Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDN) are available between both organizations. Some legacy applications still require NetBIOS names.
This can be applicable for software and hardware. Make sure that the hardware devices, Operating System, Application, etc., are currently supported by the manufacturer.
I have experienced many delays in projects due to server or hardware delivery. If shipping to an international location, make sure to check the local Customs policy and allow enough time to complete these processes. Keep in mind that some vendors don’t deliver items to all countries so you may need to identify a local reseller or vendor.
Pay close attention to different monitoring and management software in your organizations (Microsoft SCOM, SolarWinds etc). Make sure that monitoring and management capabilities are in place during the co-existence period. Like any other software, a smooth transition from one platform to another may not be feasible.
Integrating telephone systems can be challenging especially if you have IP phones or a unified commutation solution in place. “Extension Dialing” is one of the most requested features when merging different companies together. Also, different companies have different cell phone policies – email can be received only on company issued devices, smart phones have to be managed using XX application, etc.
It is important to streamline your change control process (perhaps create a new one) for the new, combined organization. This is not purely a technical task. Business processes have to be integrated. If you have a workflow, make sure to update the workflow with these changes.
Legal and Compliance
Always pay special attention to your legal and compliance requirements and standards. Typical SOX, HIPPA, etc. compliance may not be affected by your integration or migration tasks. I have come across many “legal hold” scenarios during mailbox migrations. Also, if you are moving an entity to a different server located in a different country, make sure to follow that country’s legal requirement procedures.
To meet your new organization’s SLA, evaluate your current business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
Each of these components can be one project based on the complexity of your environment. I always tell my clients that proper planning and design are two key elements in any successful project. Still (I know) some clients will argue on spending time on these tasks! Also, all design decisions need to be evaluated and aligned against your IT and business goals. As you may be aware, an organization can easily fall under an “IT alignment trap” when the wrong people make the wrong decisions!