When going through a merger or acquisition, capturing the critical processes of both parties is a key to success. Including everyone in the planning helps ease the impacts of change and develop ideas for the future. Here are five steps to assist with process management and create a new organization that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Partnerships that fail to deliver on planned benefits or generate the anticipated financial returns are all too common, as are stories about mergers and acquisitions that have run badly off the rails.
Such failures have ramifications for staff of the merging organizations. Poorly communicated changes can lead to internal frustrations and a perceived lack of direction, and mishandling the integration of different teams can cause stress and create a culture of fear.
Customers lose out in these situations, too. A mismanaged merger can cause disruptions to basic processes and a decline in service levels, which can lead to users flocking to competitors.
There’s no question that conducting a merger or acquisition successfully is complex. However, there are a number of areas that, if handled effectively, can significantly improve your chances. One of these is process management.
Effectively capturing and commanding the critical process know-how of both parties is a key step toward ensuring the end result of a merger is a new organization that is stronger, more nimble, and better placed to perform and grow.
Here are five steps that can help organizations capture, retain, and leverage corporate know-how through a merger or acquisition.
1. Start before the merger
Early planning and preparation can have a significant impact on the long-term success of a merger, so work should begin as soon as the deal has been confirmed.
Teams should be tasked with examining the existing processes within both organizations and identifying ways they might be brought together. At this point the teams should select a suitable process management tool to help the transition. Gathering the new post-merger processes into a central place sets a solid platform for teams to understand the new processes and contribute to changes as they are bedded in.
The teams involved in the process review should be composed of staff from both organizations. Not only does this encourage positive collaboration and teamwork, it also assists in securing early buy-in from key staff members who, in turn, may influence others around them.
The teams should aim to find common ground on how process management should be approached. It will be up to them to determine whether existing approaches need to be reworked or whether a fresh approach is required.
2. Get everyone involved
Like any major business change, a merger can be extremely disruptive. Staff are often understandably anxious about how the new organization will operate and about their places within it. Enabling as many employees as possible to contribute to the process mapping, review, and recommendations for improvement can change this into a positive thing, giving them a greater feeling of ownership over the transition.
It shouldn’t just be senior management making unilateral decisions; team members should be encouraged to express their ideas for improvement as a way of helping to build the new organization. Online process management tools can be used as the feedback mechanism and the control point to work through opportunities identified from across the company.
3. Aim for minimal disruption for customers
With lots of great ideas and suggestions coming in, it's also important to recognize that everything doesn't need to happen overnight. It might make more sense and be less disruptive for staff and customers to retain two separate systems while decisions are finalized over future platforms, then transition these changes over a longer period.
An early step should at least be the creation of a full catalogue of existing processes and how they are interlinked. Once this clear picture has been developed, the impact of planned changes can be better understood.
4. Prioritize process changes
When two organizations become one, there will naturally be a large number of changes required to existing processes, as well as entirely new processes to be created. You’ll need to determine which processes are most effective, which will be combined, and which should be replaced. Here, cross-organizational and project teams should contribute to prioritizing changes.
Business process management tools can ensure that agreed-upon processes add real value to the new organization—and that they’re actually used, rather than simply becoming merger documents that are consigned to a filing cabinet. Staff will need instant access to new process know-how and a simple means to provide feedback in order to resolve issues. There will be many process tweaks and updates needed for months after the transition to successfully integrate new processes.
5. Make ongoing process management business as usual
Once the initial changes have been implemented and the new organization is operating as a single structure, focus must then shift to sustaining the new processes and incorporating a best-practices process management culture.
At this point, process owners should be appointed to monitor procedures and encourage ongoing collaboration, teamwork, re-evaluation, and re-creation where needed. This can be a significant positive spin-off that comes from the transition: a platform of process knowledge and disciplines that set in place a culture of innovation and ongoing improvement.
The Bottom Line
Effective process management plays a critical role before, during, and after a merger or acquisition. It supports collaboration by providing the language teams need to manage the impacts of change and express their ideas for the future.
Through careful planning and consistent implementation, mergers and acquisitions can deliver more than just the benefits of scale. They can leave the new organization better positioned to thrive in a constantly changing landscape.