Merger and acquisition success – the information dimension

On the same day that it was announced that 37000 Nokia employees were going to be Microsoft employees Computer Weekly published a summary of a Gartner report on the challenges and opportunities for IT departments in M&A situations. The summary was written by Dave Aron, a Gartner VP, so I will assume that it is an approved version. The advice given in the summary is all excellent, and there is nothing I take exception to.

But it is what is missing that concerns me. The ‘information’ word is totally absent, as is the ‘expertise’ word and the ‘security’ word. Intranets play a vital role in bridging the differences in process, policy, procedure and culture between the two organisations involved, and yet my experience suggests that intranet managers are rarely taken into the confidence of the merger team so that they can be prepared for different and quite challenging demands on the respective intranets. Search is also a very important bridge as people search for documents, people and expertise. Metadata management becomes very important indeed so that different names for the same concept can be accommodated. With intranets it is possible to ‘add’ a section to an existing intranet, though this may impact the overall integrity of the intranet of the acquired company, Decisions have to be made about the content that will have to be migrated from (say) Nokia to (say) Microsoft, and who is going to make the decisions and manage the process. Search is much more challenging.

Social media also needs to be considered. As people transfer will their blog archives go with them or left behind in an archive because the content may be of value for a period of time. It might not be the case for Microsoft/Nokia mobile but I know of at least one company where IT failed to understand the scale of use of cloud file sharing and the need to rethink access permissions.

Even where there has been a close working relationship a merger or acquisition (and which it is depends on which side of the deal you are!) the first 100 days or so are critical in building new policies, processes and cultures. It is not unknown in more hostile takeovers for staff of the acquired company to set up a skunkworks information environment so that staff can keep in touch with each other.

If you are managing an intranet, social media or search do you have a plan of action should you wake up one morning and find that your organisation has suddenly become much larger or much smaller?

Martin White