M&A, Business Models and Ecosystems in the Software Industry

Karl´s blog

Posts tagged acquisition
M&A thought leadership: Frontloading makes sense in M&A processes

Failing early is cheap

We know from software engineering and design thinking that failing early in the process is cheaper than failing in later stages. We adapt this thinking to the M&A process and care for ensuring merger integration success during due diligence. I call this frontloading.

Successful integration and synergies as an objective in all phases of the M&A process.

So, why are we doing frontloading? Frontloading is driven by the objective to prepare and run a successful merger integration project. All detectable risks, efforts and obstacles are identified and taken care of during due diligence already. These risks, efforts and obstacles relate to the target and the acquirer, too.

Mitigations or eliminations for risks are planned or executed during due diligence. Merger integration efforts are being estimated and planned. Any obstacles we could run into during merger integration are being identified and elimination or mitigations are planned. Examples for obstacles are missing resources or missing budgets for merger integration. While missing resources could be mitigated by leveraging additional resources or adaptation of the merger integration plan, missing budgets could be planned for already during due diligence.

Effects of frontloading

There are several positive effects of frontloading for the operations of mergers and acquisitions business:

  • A more realistic evaluation if the merger makes sense at all. Clarity on adverse topics like risk and obstacles completes the managerial view to take an informed decision about a merger. Frontloading increases the ability to get a complete and holistic view of the planned merger and merger integration.

  • A more appropriate expectation setting with executives monitoring the merger integration. When the executives approve the merger, they know about the potential risks, issues and obstacles that were or were not mitigated.

  • More realistic integration plans and integration speeds. When you know what to do in merger integration and you have enough capacity and ability to integrate quickly, all is fine. If this is not the case, you risk failing during merger integration or creating bad integration decisions and results. Frontloading helps to avoid some of these adverse events.

  • Less bumping into obstacles. Let us be clear. Nobody likes to run into a roadblock like missing budgets and losing momentum of integration efforts. This is why we care for identifying and eliminating obstacles. Are we able to eliminate all roadblocks in merger integration? Definitely not. But we reduce the sheer number of obstacles and we can dedicate more of our time and attention to the remaining obstacles.

As a consequence, all companies should adopt frontloading in due diligence, no matter if the deal is an asset deal or a share deal, if the target is a public company or not.

How well does that resonate with you? Please let me know your thoughts.

Merger integration success based on best practices

Merger integration success based on best practices

With all the mergers and acquisitions activity going on in the markets, it is paramount to perfectly manage the planned integration of targets into the acquiring company.

The integration strategy and the integration approach is different for each merger and each merger has different synergy objectives.

This page is meant to shed light on recent state of the art knowledge and business practices for post merger integration. It tries to structure the problem and thus to provide a way to find the best approach for post merger integration.

When to start with merger integration related tasks

We introduce merger integration due diligence as a new type of due diligence that arises from the objective “Maximize likelihood of integration success”. See the separate page for this topic.

The task of post merger integration

An important ingredient in acquisition strategy is how you integrate the acquired company. Let us describe the task of post merger integration with goals and objectives. You have to think well about goals and objectives, since these will define what is being done through merger integration.

The goal of post merger integration is to plan and execute the integration of two businesses. WIthin each business, there is an organization and there are many processes, which are to be aligned and/or integrated.

Objectives of the merger integration task are:

  • Maximize likelihood of integration success: each merger integration tries to reach successful completion meaning that there is no failure of the integration.

  • Continue target operations: in most cases, it is important to not interrupt the target operations with merger integration activities.

  • Fit integration type: there are different ways to integrate two companies, which are determined in the integration strategy. more information about merger integration types can be found here: Merger Integration Types

  • Fulfill synergy objectives: every merger has synergy expectations and objectives. Merger integration is targeted at creating such synergies.

Decomposition of the merger integration task

There are three subtasks: designing the new entity, planning merger integration (project) and executing merger integration project.
The first two should be started during due diligence to ensure merger integration success.


The four Merger Integration Types

In the high level model below, you end up with four generic types of post merger integration:

  1. Preservation: The target company is preserved meaning that you leave the target company autonomous. Nevertheless, integration of financial reporting and financial processes might make sense.

  2. Holding: The acquiring company just keeps the ownership of the target company, but does not integrate the target company.

  3. Symbiosis: In this merger type, you decide where integration is needed to reach the objectives of the merger integration.

  4. Absorption: the acquiring company fully absorbs the target company. All organizations and processes of the target company are to be fully integrated into the acquiring company.


Stay tuned, listen in on twitter @karl_popp and connect with me on Linkedin for more best practices.

Events, papers and books in M&A and software business ahead of us

Dear readers,

thank you for your interest in my blog. I wish you a merry christmas and a happy New Year!

What will 2019 bring? More robots in our homes ? We already have two. One vaccum and one mopping robot. More robotic process automation at work combined with Machine Learning ? Sure. More electric cars (Maybe one for me?)? Sending an avatar to work instead of me ? Probably not. We don´t know and that makes life interesting.

Here are some things i will be working on in 2019:

Papers and books

I have the honor to co-edit an issue of IEEE Software:

Michael Cusumano, Slinger Jansen, Karl Michael Popp (eds.), IEEE Software special issue on Managing Software Platforms and Ecosystems, to be published 2019.

I will work on completing the book:

Karl Michael Popp, Successful Post Merger Integration:  State of the art and Innovations in M&A processes, Books on demand, to be published 2019.

We had a great European workshop on software ecosystems at the Platform Economy SUmmit in Berlin and will publish the proceedings asap:

Peter Buxmann, Thomas Aidan Curran, Gerald Eichler, Slinger Jansen, Thomas Kude, Karl Michael Popp (eds.): European workshop on software ecosystems 2018, Books on demand.

With the help of machine learning based translation robots, i might publish another German book, too.


Besides the usual European workshop on software ecosystems and Denkfabrik Wirtschaft, a new workshop will come up, which is a discussion battle between researchers and practitioners in the topic of mergers and acquisitions in London. Xperience Connect will host several thought leadership events on Digitization of M&A and more.

All the best for you and your families in 2019

Always look to the future


M&A Digitalization: where should data reside?

In past years, there always was a dichotomy: either companies were only on premise, storing their crown jewel data on site, or companies ran certain applications in the cloud. Now, hybrid clouds are on the rise.  This means there are three options now.  

In M&A, data rooms are typically private cloud based storage of highly confidential data during due diligence. Data from other phases are usually stored on site. With all these changes happening and the clear need to manage M&A processes,  where should company store their data about  all phases of the M&A process ?

On premise?

The safest way to store mission critical data is to store them on premise.  locked up.  This is perfect for a the early phases. As soon as more people get involved from inside and outside the company, during due diligence and post merger integration, this approach is not perfect. 

in the cloud? 

Cloud storage makes perfect sense for trustfully giving restricted access to people from different companies. For most companies, this is needed during due diligence and following phases. But many companies also interact with third party companies even before due diligence. 

Requirements for M&A process tools

Customers rule. An end-to-end process tool must respect that. No matter if  customers choose on site, private cloud or public cloud, vendors of end-to-end process tools should give customers a choice. The customer should decide where to store data. 

Digitalization of M&A: how the job to be done forces a new generation of tools

What is the job to be done? The job to be done is a concept invented by Clayton Christensen in his book "Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice". It is a new way to look at the needs of customers and why they are "hiring" a product to fulfill their needs. The key concept is to focus on the customer and to avoid the viewpoint of the product. By doing so, you get a wider view what the needs of the customers are, what the customer should hire to help him and who your real competitors are.

How does it influence tool design? As soon as you know the job to be done and the context of the customer, you are able to design a product or service that has maximum value for the customer. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the context of an M&A professional is his office, the work environment on his desk, his smartphone, desk phone and computer. An M&A process platform must respect and enhance this work environment, not add another tool. So let us use this approach to define two requirements for M&A process tools.

From tool to pain reliever: One pain i heard most from fellow M&A professionals is to fill the same data like target valuation data into several different Powerpoint presentations which have different formatting but basically should reflect the same data. So an M&A platform must store the financial data of a business case and generate data into different powerpoint templates. An end-to-end M&A process platform should have a data management component for the financial data of the transaction that can intelligently export parts of the financial model into presentation formats.

From tool to productivity boost: assistive technology helps you to perform better. The pain of the M&A professional is that he has to research market and company data, bring them together and evaluate the opportunities. How can an end-to-end M&A platform help here? Market data feeds are provided automatically for business case creation. The platform offers research as a service data feeds to accomplish that.


End-to-end platforms supporting M&A processes are the basis for the digital future of M&A processes. The job-to-be-done approach helps to define service of these platforms. These value creating services, which are built on top of this platform, help M&A professionals to get their job done. Stay tuned for more or meet me at Platform Economy Summit in Berlin in November.

How machine learning can help in digitalization of M&A processes!

Machine learning is everywhere - except in M&A processes. Let´s change that. Let us imagine the impact of machine learning in different steps of a typical M&A process. Let us start by sharing some of my ideas to trigger your imagination. I am convinced that the technologies needed to achieve this vision are in place today, they are just not being used in this context.

Early phases of the M&A process, shortlisting phases

Let´s say you have five companies in your shortlist. Machine learning can help finding and selecting potential targets e.g. by predicting which of the companies considered will be the unicorn, i.e. the most successful company in the list. Approaches for doing that exist, e.g. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3159123

Preparing the Letter of Intent

Based on past projects, machine learning can help to predict deal breakers, find missing or potentially wrong data in the financial valuation of the target and propose deal structure and clauses for the letter of intent based on the existing, available data about the target and the acquirer.

Due diligence

A vital part of the job to be done in due diligence is that you are looking for missing data, for deal breakers and risks in documents in the data room BUT you only have limited time and a huge data lake in the data room. So let us see how automation and machine learning could help us here.

Day one of due diligence: the data room is available. Day 2 of due diligence: Information about missing data, deal breakers and risks is already available.

How is that possible? Using automated document/contract analysis based on machine learning as well as data about deal breakers and historic projects, a machine learning application can provide this information. There is a huge value in this: you get more time in due diligence to work on missing data, for deal breakers and risks, so quality of due diligence results will massively increase.

No more reporting: During due diligence, digital assistants will automatically keep the lists of tasks, risks, issues and results, will create automatic reporting from that and propose next steps.

Merger integration

Results from the due diligence are automatically distributed digitally to all integration team members. Machine learning based digital assistants propose the integration plan, the integration timeline and which next steps should be taken. They analyze due diligence data and propose the set of data that should be doublechecked and validated. They validate that data by extracting information from the target´s ERP systems automatically and present deviations in digital dashboards and propose next steps.

Learning assistants analyze the learning needed by the involved integration managers based on their CV and proposes digital learning lessons based on PMI2GO.

No more reporting: During due diligence, digital assistants will automatically keep the lists of tasks, risks, issues and results, will create automatic reporting from that and propose next steps.

Let us imagine the impossible - and make it work

The opportunities are massive but are not yet leveraged. I think the M&A community has to provide guidance to vendors to achieve a vision i call the Digital M&A Manifesto. Stay tuned for more details. Like this article to get more inspiration!

Digitalization of M&A processes: let´s talk about the data

Digitalization of M&A is about data and data analytics, but also about confidentiality, authorizations and access rights.

  • Establishing a clearly defined, phased, end-to-end M&A process with clearly defined tasks and roles in the different phases (seems obvious, but is not yet implemented, esp. in small and medium countries);

  • establishing a higher degree of automation of tasks (like automated analysis of contracts which needs all contracts to machine-readable), an important prerequisite is to have digital data as much as possible;

  • have one large data set along the end-to-end M&A process (to leverage big data analytics) and clear rules which data are safe to be accessed from the following phase.

So what can you achieve if all these prerequisites are fulfilled, here is my vision:

  • combine structured and unstructured data for unimagined insights : you have financial data, but are they solid and trustable? do the revenue numbers projected reflect the existing contracts with customers? In due diligene, by combining structured information (revenue forecast) with unstructured information (text in contracts, information about pipelines in the data room) you can easily compare both to establish additional trust or to ask tough questions.

  • leverage data across phases of the M&A process: there are restrictions which data from due diligence can be used in later phases. But the data that you can use from target screening and due diligence can be combined and compared with data. Current data you are looking at could be augmented with historical data automatically.

  • actionable insights across M&A projects: the data from all phases and all M&A projects can be used to determine actions in a specific situation. Based on machine learning, an automated assistant could propose what to do, what has been done in other projects in similar situations, could propose who to talk to to leverage the lessons learned from other projects.

So the call to action is: Unite your data on and end-to-end platform to build the foundation to leverage the data for better insights, better execution and more success in M&A processes.

Digitalization of M&A processes: Advantages of an end-to-end, unified platform

An end-to-end, unified platform builds the foundation of M&A success. End-to-end means that the platform covers all phases of the M&A process from early strategizing to deal sourcing to due diligence, signing, closing and integration. All data are combined to one single source of truth, no data are lost between phases, better and well documented handovers are possible between phases.

Unified platform means no more jumping between different solutions and tools. t eases the pain of processing massive amounts of data, be it the data room or planning data for integration planning. For due diligence, this includes combining collaborative due diligence management with virtual data room capabilities.

While there are many advantages of such a platform, let´s just look at three key advantages.

Advantage 1: A unified data lake for all deals

The data lake covers all process phases and all deals allowing e.g. cross-deal analytics, large training sets for machine learning, proposals of next steps based on best practices from all deals. The data lake contains massive amounts of information, but all information used in the process, information about the process steps and decisions taken is stored in one place.

The load of information in M&A processes is already overwhelming? So how can i leverage this large amount of data? Modern information system technologies like predictive analytics, finding outliers within data, semantic analytics and forensic tool to analyse and navigate large data sets as well as providing the right information for your current work context will enable you to leverage the data collected.

Advantage 2: Better decision are being taken and documented

There are two aspects of this advantage: decision journey and augmentation. For each decision taken, you can always recall the decision journey. How was the decision prepared, who took it, what were the consequences, were the goals of the decision reached?

The second aspect is augmentation of decision tasks: if you are the decision maker, augmentation provides you with similar decision taken in other deals including their impact on results in the integration phase, so you can make the best decision. The augmentation in the deal sourcing phase e.g. includes market data, financial data about all targets and predictive analytics about the future success of the target companies.

Advantage 3: Less documentation and reporting: More productivity

Massively increased productivity and less errors due to robotic process automation. No more learning of process models, they will naturally be followed. No more thinking about what the next step is or what your project status is, all information is augmented in your usual workplace. Reporting annoys you? The platform will autmatically propose the content for the next status update, so you spend less hours on reporting, more on quality work and problem solving.

Outlook: where´s the platform?

So, now we know some of the advantages of the platform: one question remains: is the platform your work environment and do you have to learn a completely new work environment that does not naturally integrate with all the other productivity tools that you are using: email, teleconferencing etc.? The platform i envision will be invisible, you will work in your usual work environment, e.g. using a Windows tablet with Outlook and other tools you know. the platform will track your work and augment inforrmation as you work, no separate login, no missing integrations that get on your nerves.

If you liked this article, you will like my book about due diligence.


Welche Auswirkungen haben Länder auf die Integrationsaktivitäten von Unternehmensfusionen? Wenn Sie an einer transnationalen Merger-Integration arbeiten, sollten Sie über Kenntnisse dieser Faktoren verfügen.

Multinationale Zielfirmen erstrecken sich über mehrere Länder mit Tochtergesellschaften in jedem der Länder. Es gibt viele Faktoren in einem bestimmten Land, welche die Integration von Fusionen beeinflussen, die auf überregionaler, nationaler und lokaler Ebene stattfinden. Hinzu kommen soziale und kulturelle Faktoren, die sich je nach Land oder Region unterscheiden, wie Arbeitstage innerhalb einer Woche, nationale Feiertagskalender, das politische Umfeld sowie die Präsenz und der Einfluss von Gewerkschaften.

Diese Faktoren sind:

  • Rechtlicher Rahmen

  • Soziologischer Rahmen

  • Kultureller Rahmen

  • Politisches Umfeld

  • Technologisches Umfeld

  • Ökologische Umwelt

  • Lokales Umfeld des Unternehmens

Hier ist mehr Hintergrund zu einigen der Faktoren:


Jedes Land hat eine spezifische Reihe von Gesetzen und Vorschriften, die für die Integration von Fusionen gelten. Diese betreffen z.B. die Übertragung von physischem und geistigem Eigentum, Compliance- und Berichtspflichten des Unternehmens, das Verhalten in Wettbewerbssituationen, Vorschriften und Verfahren zur Beschäftigung und Unternehmensübertragung sowie die Berechnung und Zahlung von Steuern.

Für die Verschmelzung setzt der Rechtsrahmen Grenzen und regelt Integrationsaktivitäten wie die Integration von Unternehmen in eine einzige juristische Person sowie die Umstrukturierung. Manager von Merger Integrationsmaßnahmen müssen über Kenntnisse dieser rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen verfügen, um die Auswirkungen zu ermitteln.


Nationale Kulturen können sich unterscheiden, wenn es um Religion, Ethnizität und Klassenstrukturen geht. Nationale Kulturen definieren laut Hofstede aber auch die Gleichheit/Ungleichheit in der Gesellschaft, die individuellen und kollektiven Aspekte, die Geschlechterrollen sowie die Vermeidung von Unsicherheit und Angst in einer Gesellschaft. Für die Integration von Fusionen müssen Sie sich dieser kulturellen Aspekte bewusst sein.


Wie wirkt sich das politische Umfeld auf die Integration von Fusionen aus? Aus aktiver Sicht treiben die Politiker Gesetze und Haushaltsentscheidungen voran. Sie werden mit dem Erwerber zusammenarbeiten, wenn die erwarteten positiven Auswirkungen der Fusionsintegration hoch sind und dem Politiker von Nutzen sind.

Aus passiver Sicht müssen Politiker auf mögliche negative Wahrnehmungen und Ergebnisse oder Nebenwirkungen von Fusionsintegrationsaktivitäten wie Streiks der Belegschaft im Falle von Umstrukturierungen reagieren. Für die Integration von Fusionen müssen Sie sich über das politische Umfeld in jedem Land im Klaren sein, das von der Integration betroffen ist.


Verschiedene Branchen haben unterschiedliche Anforderungen an das Vorhandensein oder die Verfügbarkeit von Technologie in einem bestimmten Land. Dies könnte sich auf die nationale technologische Infrastruktur wie Verfügbarkeit von Strom, Kühlung, Wärme, Transport sowie auf lokale Lieferanten mit der richtigen Technologie, Kompetenz und Versorgung beziehen, aber auch auf die Verfügbarkeit qualifizierter Mitarbeiter.


Ein Unternehmen ist immer in sein lokales ökologisches Umfeld eingebettet. Natürliche Ressourcen, Ökologie sowie Umweltschutzanforderungen sind Beispiele für die ökologische Umwelt. Die Ergebnisse der Due Diligence können zu Arbeitsaufgaben für die Fusionsintegration führen, wie z.B. Umweltsanierungsaktivitäten.


Neben den oben beschriebenen makroökonomischen Faktoren ist jedes lokale Unternehmen in einen mikroökonomischen Kontext mit lokalen Wettbewerbern und Lieferanten und Mitarbeitern eingebettet und muss sich mit den lokalen Finanzierungsbedingungen und den lokalen Gesetzen und Vorschriften auseinandersetzen.