Reality Bytes: The CIO 'Strategery' Nightmare During M&As

Business Strategy 101 says IT's input on merging systems is crucial. CIO Reality says IT is ignored until the deal's done.

I just love to say the word strategery whenever I can. In fact, the aphorism—affectionately and satirically attributed to George W. Bush by Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell—seems apt when looking at a crucial role that CIOs need to play today.

First, some context: I think most of us would agree that there's an inherent schizophrenia when it comes to talking about business realities: There's the "CEO and Boardroom" reality, of course; the "Down on the Shop Floor" reality; "Business Consultant" reality; how about the "Freshly Minted MBA Superstar" reality; the "Blogger and Journalist" reality; and so on and so on.

Reality, then, is in the eye of the beholder, since we all have our own sense of what's real and what's not. Who's actually right? Who knows.

My point is that we can talk all about how things should operate inside 21st century businesses—by applying industry-leading practices for management and operations, for instance—but then there's the stubborn, ugly reality that uniquely applies to those individuals actually doing the work.

For CIOs, the day to day realities of the job must feel a lot different than, say, what they see and hear from CEOs and line-of-business VPs, or from software vendors and analysts—or from what they read on CIO.com, for that matter. "Just do this and everything will be A-OK." Yeah, right!

In one area of the business, in particular, CIOs probably feel like the nebulous, mocking concept of strategery is, in actuality, their woeful reality: Their role during mergers and acquisitions.

On the one hand, you've got a Gartner research report that offers a sensible blueprint for CIOs on how to ensure M&A integration success. The title of the report says it all: "CIOs Must Develop World-Class Merger and Acquisition Integration Capabilities."

In it, Gartner analysts break down an M&A project into five phases (such as: 1. The Due Diligence/Planning Phase; 2. The Welcome/Signaling Phase). Gartner outlines specific IT roles and responsibilities within each phase and offers explanations of the larger goings-on during a typical deal.

"M&A integrations are among the most challenging situations that CIOs and their IT organizations will ever face, and they are fraught with risks," notes Gartner VP Dave Aron in the report. "However, they also present a powerful opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities and business value of IT, and to stretch the performance of IT team members."

Therefore, CIOs, you need to become more M&A strategic so that the business deal-makers can...well, ignore you when it's time to start wheeling and dealing.

That's the reality, folks. The CIO's expertise is sorely needed in the early stages of an M&A deal—yet most CIOs are still playing the part of Cinderella at the M&A ball, relegated to mop-up duties. That's what CIOs told Forrester Research in a recent survey, when asked about their roles in M&As today. IT leaders interviewed by Forrester said that "the deal team, in any corporate restructuring, often omits significant IT involvement until the deal is closed."

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