Come Out On Top of M&A Integration

Three CIOs share their best advice for flourishing in the M&A aftermath

Fri, November 19, 2010

CIO Executive Council

Go Beyond Due Diligence

Bryan Ackermann, CIO, Adecco Group North America

When we acquired MPS Group (MPS) last January, an effective IT integration was essential to the success of the acquisition. Even before the deal was complete, I took several steps beyond the regular due diligence.

The acquisition didn’t affect every part of our business, and the rest was growing fast. We needed to establish on a granular level which projects and growth initiatives had to continue outside of the integration—what we couldn’t afford to put on hold while resources were otherwise occupied. We also accelerated a critical assessment of the organization. With the improvement in the economy, Adecco is facing two years of pent-up demand for our services, and I needed to evaluate whether we had the people and skills to handle that increased volume.

The acquisition gives us a significant amount of new work and staff, and it is even more important to understand which competencies we want to keep and build in-house, and which we can turn to partners to fill both during the integration and in the future.

To coordinate the activity, we established an integration office separate from but closely aligned with our IT program management office. As we move forward, this gives us dedicated people to oversee the portfolio-management balancing act between ongoing business needs and the integration efforts, while daily IT work continues normally.

Be Quick to Modify Methods

Lon Anderson, VP of IT, ICF International

I’ve found that oftentimes during an acquisition, change management becomes the core component of success. If there is disruption, you need to respond quickly and make adjustments.

My team has to remain nimble and able to adapt to different scenarios during the actual integration work. They need to know when it’s time to think beyond structured templates to achieve M&A success. During one of ICF’s larger acquisitions, we used our internally developed tools to integrate portfolios. Our process had proven successful in the past. However, three months into the acquisition, feedback collected from both organizations indicated that the process was moving too quickly and negatively affecting our ability to support the business. My team responded by slowing down our typical integration schedule, putting new checkpoints in place, and increasing communications.

During our next M&A, we approached portfolio management more methodically over a longer time period. That brought feedback that we were taking too long, so again we made course corrections, this time by restructuring the project time line and adding resources to increase speed. Every acquisition is a unique experience and an opportunity to challenge the status quo in our environment.

Study Your Mistakes

Dave Watt, CIO, AltaGas

We conduct an extensive after-action review every time we close out an acquisition. The review process evaluates how we did, our mistakes and any best practices that can be used to manage the portfolios more efficiently in the future. The first step I take with each new acquisition is to read the after-action review analyses from the last several integrations.

The review is a highly visible initiative internally. Business stakeholders play an important role and are often formal champions of the process. This executive leadership support and positive tone from the top means a lot to employees and shows our commitment to continuous improvement.

For example, in one acquisition, existing employees who joined the integration team continued to perform their regular jobs. In the review, we learned that this workload was not sustainable, and we needed to do a better job of ensuring that employees were not setting themselves up for workload imbalance. Identifying external staff resources, back-filling the positions or redeploying personnel would have been better options.

Successful portfolio integration is partly about how you do it, and partly about what you learn from it.

Ackermann, Anderson and Watt are all members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO’s publisher. To learn more, visit

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