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M&A: Are you ready?

M&A: Are you ready?

Start by identifying change management as a key part of your merger or acquisition, says Fi Slaven

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are a key component of many firm’s strategies as they open an avenue to increasing capabilities, improving competitive advantage or increasing market share in a relatively short period of time.

With every M&A activity, there is always a large change component and yet this is often the most undervalued or resourced. But if you can treat an M&A like a project, and complete your preparations on time, you can effectively manage change while also leveraging the opportunity to demonstrate strong and collaborative leadership.

The two largest components of any change management plan are people and communications. Involving people in the preparation activities and ensuring there is consistent, open and accurate information from the start will help demonstrate the approach to be used throughout.

It’s also important to acknowledge people within and outside of your department are where you will spend a majority of your time. Commencing any process with openness and transparency will assist you in demonstrating people’s value, identifying opportunities for development and change while also managing expectations along the way.

Having a communications plan does not mean a large, convoluted document. It does, however, mean a clear blueprint that identifies who in the firm is communicating what, how often, to whom and in what formats.

This is vital because as the M&A activity continues, communication will be vital. It’s also essential in ensuring the messages are focused, consistent and directed at addressing that subjective question: ‘What’s in it for me”.

To guarantee you have a firm and wide view of M&A decisions, you need to have a seat at the table. As a leader, this will ensure you have access to the strategy being undertaken, which you can then transform into activities for your department.

A great way of demonstrating the value of participation to your executive peers is by preparing a due diligence plan and checklist. You can build this with your team, which gains their involvement, socialises the concept of M&A and also allows you to manage expectations from the very start.

Once the draft plan and checklist has been assembled, engage other key stakeholders in the organisation for their input. This ensures their involvement, prevents items being missed, and highlights that your department is collaborative, ready and keen to be involved. Being involved from conception is a sure-fire way to success.

Another component of your change plan is to start reviewing your internal documentation, because you will need up-to-date information if you proceed to the due diligence stage. This can be daunting, because documentation always seems to be an issue.

Remember it does not have to be ‘pretty’, just accurate. Again, this is a way of involving and providing opportunities for your team, collaborating with other departments, identifying risks and normalising the concept of M&A.

While doing this, remember due diligence information is part of the total plan and will not provide all the answers you are seeking. Surprises and risks are going to be identified, though good preparation tends to lessen the impact.

So at the start of your M&A project, identify change management as a key component, collaborate to develop clear plans for people and communication and work to get a seat at the table. By doing this you are demonstrating strong leadership and identifying opportunities for the future, no matter what the outcome. So how ready are you?

Fi Slaven is a business strategist and service-oriented transformational executive, CIO and management consultant. Fi was Grant Thornton Australia's first CIO, held IT leadership roles with Mayne, Affinity and Symbion Health, and has extensive experience covering all aspects of the IT spectrum. Fi is a board member and secretary for the Victorian ICT for Women Network and a co-director of Go Girl Go for IT. She has also published a whitepaper on Change Management during M&A activity and presents on the topic at business forums.

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