Get Into the M&A Game

IT leaders need a playbook to make sure corporate mergers and acquisitions reap the intended benefits.

CIO Ken Piddington says business mergers and acquisitions are a bit like football games. Unfortunately, for years his company kept him on the bench for much of the action.

So Piddington set out to change that. He spent a few months last year developing a playbook that describes how the company's IT department can help M&A deals succeed. It covers everything from the pregame meetings through the post-game commentary.

The strategy worked. "I've gone from not being included to having [a role] fairly early in the deal," says Piddington, the IT leader at oil distributor Global Partners in Waltham, Mass.

Given that analysts are predicting an uptick in M&A activity this year, CIOs would be wise to be prepared. The age-old complaint is that IT is often sidelined during the early discussions and brought in only after the deal has been signed, in order to integrate the systems. That means companies don't find out about serious system incompatibilities until it's too late. Or they lose out on the cost-saving and revenue-generating benefits that motivated the deal in the first place.

While M&A deals don't usually begin with technology as the raison d'être, they can end badly because of poor IT planning.

"When you look at synergies -- why you do a deal and what drives a deal -- it's not IT-focused. It's savings, better market share, access to new markets. Yet IT seems to be cited as a key failure point to making any of those things work," says Jeff Shaffer, leader of the IT advisory practice at consulting firm Crowe Horwath in Chicago.

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