A merger or acquisition marks one of the most exciting moments imaginable for an organization.
It bears the promise of “bigger and better” – bringing people and cultures together, creating opportunities for product or service synergies, and ultimately leading to more exciting experiences for existing and new customers. Sounds almost too good (and too easy) to be true, and, as expected, there’s a flip side. Decades of research on the success rates of M&As paints a far less optimistic picture: roughly 50 percent of them fail.
Need a sobering analogy? Those are the same odds you get when flipping a coin; or placing your bet on either red or black on the roulette table.
Given the enormous consequences an M&A deal has on both people (employees, customers, investors) and business equity (brand value, share price), organizations need to dramatically increase the odds for a deal to succeed: 50 percent simply won’t cut it.
The question is, then, what is the formula for increasing the odds?
Integration is one key ingredient with three crucial components that form what I like to call “The Magic Trifactor.” Here’s what they are – and the reasons that they are so powerful:
Without the right people in the right places, a deal is very unlikely to succeed. You have to identify leaders and influencers across different business units, as well as the roles they play—from establishing the CEO as the ambassador of change to making the portfolio manager a driver of product integration, and the sales lead the person who defines how to explain the deal’s benefits to potentially skeptical customers. You might call this the “M&A Steering Committee,” or give it any other name, but integrating these key point-people is mission-critical: They all need to be in a room, understand their respective commonalities and differences, and work as a singular body that bridges gaps, capitalizes on synergies, and inspires others to follow suit.
Every integrated team needs direction and a shared sense of priorities to affect change collectively. An M&A deal generally moves fast, stirs up a lot of uncertainty, and involves many moving pieces. Identifying which ones to prioritize—and why—is crucial to staying focused and allocating resources to places that will have the highest positive impact on the new organization. For example, which experiences across the customer journey do you need to adapt first? Is it the re-branding of retail locations? The integration of IT systems?
The answer is, “Well, it depends”—on what matters most to customers,as well as the level of effort it takes to change versus the benefits you create by doing so. A clear roadmap is key in this context, one that tells you which priorities to address at which stages of the process. And making that roadmap transparently available to the entire organization gives everyone a sense of direction and the confidence that the deal is managed proactively by design, not reactively by chance.
Making “The Magic Trifactor” work efficiently requires one final ingredient: the right organizational processes. Don’t get me wrong, processes always matter, even in “non-M&A” times. But they matter even more when you’re trying to combine two potentially different organizations with different ways of doing things. This means making sure that everyone’s “swim lanes” are clearly articulated and that the right governance tools are in place to manage the organizational integration. It also means establishing specific KPIs—realized cost synergies, level of portfolio integration, degree of consistency across customer experience, etc.— and prioritizing certain success metrics such as employee satisfaction, NPS, or customer retention. Establishing parameters ensures the necessary degree of compliance in times of change, smoothing the journey and making the M&A much more effective.
If you get these three “P’s” right, your chances of sustained success increase exponentially. And having that confidence in your odds when you step up to the table will get people on all sides—from dealmakers and employees to customers and market watchers—rallying behind your bet.