CIOs are well aware that many IT projects fail to meet their stated objectives, are over-budget, or are late. Ask any CIO, and they can quickly list many reasons why IT projects fail, from poor planning to lack of business engagement, and everything in between. Delivering the IT tools needed for the business is difficult in a normal year, but then an announcement is made: the company is buying another business.\nWhile the balloons and streamers fly, marking the beginning of the celebrations, the CIO and his or her team will quietly gather to ponder strategy.\u00a0 What is the transaction perimeter?\u00a0 What systems do they have?\u00a0 Why wasn\u2019t IT informed of the deal before it was announced?\u00a0 What happens to our current projects?\u00a0 Will we have help to get all of this done?\u00a0 What is the timeline?\u00a0 And then the tougher questions begin:\u00a0 What will happen to IT?\u00a0\u00a0 Will our jobs be impacted?\u00a0\u00a0\nAfter dust clears, and the team has time to understand more about the actual deal, a new reality will settle in.\u00a0 There are going to be completely new projects, and these new \u201cintegration\u201d projects are going to be wholly different from the types of projects IT has done in the past.\u00a0 Most importantly, these projects MUST be done on time.\u00a0 Why?\u00a0 Because the deal includes Transition Services Agreements (\u201cTSAs\u201d) that mandate specific dates where the acquired business will lose the IT support of its former parent company.\u00a0 In other words, if the new solution isn\u2019t in place by the end of the TSA, there will be no solution at all, and the business will be at risk.\u00a0\nThe stakes could hardly be higher.\u00a0 And given the complexities IT must navigate, success is not a given. It is not uncommon for some IT leaders to fear the overwhelming workload and the inevitable risks ahead.\nHowever, there is a bright side. Merger integration can actually create significant opportunity. And those who capitalize on this moment can transform the IT group into an integration powerhouse with a brand known for outstanding execution and communication. For example, Finance may depend on IT to deliver data and reports to build pro-forma financials for the new entity. Or Sales may need IT to deliver new customer data. With so many groups depending on IT support, and the eyes of the board and the new leadership team firmly fixed on you, IT will now have an elevated role with increased importance.\nHow to break the paradigm\nHere are some key ideas to help you team not just survive, but take IT to the next level of performance, and dramatically improve its reputation in the process:\n\nGet the right help.\u00a0 Find partners who have done work like this before, and those who have a proven track record of success.\u00a0 This is not a time for experimentation; you need to work with people who have the skills and experience for the project, in addition to tools, templates and methodologies.\u00a0 Ask them to show you detailed examples of this work, and move on if they are unwilling to oblige.\nRelentlessly prioritize.\u00a0 If a project does not support the removal of a TSA, delay it.\u00a0 Focus will bring a unique opportunity to get things done quickly.\u00a0 Don\u2019t allow unrelated projects to consume critical IT or business resources.\nRenew project and program methodologies.\u00a0 These methodologies should already be in place, but this is a chance to enhance your repository of tools.\u00a0 While you certainly should NOT try to build entirely new tools or templates during the project, where possible you should develop them so they can be used later, in other projects, to increase your odds of success after the TSA period ends.\u00a0\nConsistently drive communication.\u00a0 Do not let simple misunderstandings slow progress.\u00a0 Ensure team members are aligned to the goal and can complete the tasks necessary to get there.\u00a0 Communication is often overlooked, but is absolutely crucial to success.\u00a0\nPay close attention to your team and their morale.\u00a0 The stress and pressure of a transaction is far greater than normal.\u00a0 Be very wary of burnout and passive resistance on the team.\u00a0 Look for ways to show appreciation, and everyone is clear about the long term goals.\nGet early wins, and carefully communicate successes to build your brand.\u00a0 Both as a CIO as well as team, you will need to strike the right balance between communicating your successes while not overlooking issues.\u00a0\nMake decisions carefully but quickly.\u00a0 Decisiveness equals speed.\u00a0 It will be better to make a decision and move forward, rather than taking too much time to over-analyze a problem.\n\nSummary\nThough it presents massive risks, an M&A transaction presents IT with a golden opportunity to transform both the business and IT, and put the CIO in a much more prominent role at the executive table.\u00a0 Instead of being viewed as a technical leader, the CIO should develop a brand focused on business knowledge and leadership, dependable delivery, and decisiveness.\nThe best teams and CIOs love a challenge, and this could be one of the biggest projects you will face in your career.\u00a0 Embrace the challenge and use it to your advantage.\u00a0 In the end, the success of the transaction may well depend on how well IT can deliver, and the long-term reputation of your team will depend on the success of the integration.\u00a0 Ultimately, a successful delivery will enable you to broker far stronger outcomes for your team, yourself and your company.\u00a0\nThe views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Ernst\u00a0&\u00a0Young LLP.