Computers and computer-assisted communications systems are part of the lifeblood of most organisations today. They provide timely and accurate tracking of finances and other management information; they enable effective internal and external communications, and other key business processes.
In a merger or takeover, it is unlikely that both parties will be using the same systems and even where there is one dominant technology in place across both businesses, the integration challenge must not be underestimated.
As well as the purely technological aspect, there are a number of non-trivial staffing issues to consider, like what skills are currently available across the two organisations, compared with those needed, and contractual issues, both from an opportunities point of view (what savings can I make) and an obligation perspective (what contracts must be honoured or bought out of).
To understand the true cost of integration, it is essential that IT is considered as early as possible and that transition costs are factored into the decision making process sooner rather than later.
Although these are the issues that most organisations would tend to focus upon, the real opportunity comes from the forward-looking element; identifying how technology platforms and resources can best be positioned to support the new organisation. This means that the decisions should have clear, identifiable links to the business strategy.
Having such links also enables better decisions to be taken in terms of what the priorities are and where resources should be directed to deliver the best value and return.
Moving even a small number of users from one technology platform to another or enabling integration between two dissimilar systems requires rigorous planning and testing if costly mistakes are to be avoided. Finding out after the event that key systems are incompatible can rapidly erode the business value that might otherwise be achieved.
Although IT incompatibility in itself is not necessarily a good reason for abandoning the merger, understanding the full implications means that a decision to proceed is better informed.