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

Karl´s blog

Posts tagged integration
Ensuring merger integration success with innovative due diligence

Merger integration success based on innovative due diligence

We introduce merger integration due diligence as a new type of due diligence that arises from the objective “Maximize likelihood of integration success”.

Definition of merger integration due diligence

Merger integration due diligence has the goal to review the merger integration project and plans. 

All aspects of merger integration are being reviewed for viability and for likelihood of success. Viability relates to the work breakdown structure for the integration to be consistent and complete. It also relates to resources (employees and budgets) that have to be sufficient and available. The objective of the task is to maximize the likelihood of merger integration success.


Based on the decomposition of the merger integration task we can define the corresponding decomposition of the merger integration due diligence task.

Review of the design of the new entity

The design of the new entity has to be reviewed for consistency and completeness. We start with the business strategy and plan layer and review the defined business strategy for the new entity. Then we enter the second layer and ask questions like: will the business processes work? Are the business processes compliant with compliance rules? Is governance of the business ensured?
In parallel, we have a look at the business resources and at the questions: Are enough qualified resources planned and available? Are the assignments of resources to tasks sufficient? Are sufficient resources planned and available?

Review merger integration plans

Next we review merger integration plans. Keeping in mind the design of the new entity and the resource situation, we review the schedules and the steps of the merger integration plans. We ask questions like: Can the merger integration plan be executed the way it is defined? Will sufficient resources and budgets be available at the right time to execute the merger integration plan successfully? What happens if we run late or we have resource shortages?

Review merger integration project

This is the part of the review that is often neglected in practice. We review the structure and behavior of the merger integration project.
It is important to keep in mind that the word “project” implies that we have a professional management of the integration leveraging professional project managers, experienced with complex projects and equipped with skills of a certified project manager. We should also have a project steering committee in place that has wide competencies and can drive and take decisions quickly.
We also focus on getting answers to questions like: Do we have the right assignments of resources to merger integration tasks? Are the resources capable of executing their assigned tasks? Do the resources have appropriate social competences to lead people and convince them the integration is the right thing to do?

With the results of the merger integration due diligence, you are well prepared to have the right budget, business plan and integration approach.

Systematic identification of PMI risks in the due diligence process

[this blog is an excerpt from an interview with me]

 "My experience has shown that there are certain risks that can always be observed in any acquisition."

According to your experience, what merger integration risks are there?

Every takeover of a company    is associated with numerous risks. On the one hand, there may be unpleasant surprises lurking in the target company, but on the other hand, integration itself also holds many dangers. Finally, risks may also be present in the organization and strategy of the acquiring company.

There are many examples of what can happen in a merger. Particularly in the software industry, it is not uncommon for employees to leave the target. The following points are therefore crucial for the success of an integration process:

  • How can I motivate relevant employees to stay?

  • Are there opportunities to document their know-how and make it available to the company in a sustainable manner?

  • Is the target company really in possession of all intellectual property rights?

Project risks in the context of a merger and the resulting integration already arise during the definition of the project scope, the assessment of the necessary resource expenditure as well as during the coordination of its implementation.

How can the risks of merger integration be classified?

The most comprehensive classification is based on the findings of the merger integration expert Dr. Johannes Gerds. My recommendation is that every company should use this as a basis for identifying risks and identify the problems specific to the company. These can be summarized in a risk catalogue and subsequently supplemented by further project-specific risks during the concrete due diligence. This provides an extremely solid basis for the entire risk management process.

What is the best way to identify risks?

In any case, a structured approach is advisable. As a rule, this is based on a company-specific risk catalogue, which is used in every due diligence. But first and foremost, the project and its integration should be examined from a neutral perspective. In the course of a risk workshop, the entire project-specific risks can then be identified and assessed together with all experts and managers involved.

It is always important to adopt and maintain a neutral position. This not only serves the critical questioning of hypotheses regarding adoption and integration, but also a concretization of the entire planning to be carried out. As a rule, this can be done by the finance department and the central units of the organization that are assigned to support acquisitions.

What are the most common risks?

My experience has shown that there are certain risks that can be observed again and again in an acquisition. These are primarily personnel attrition, serious differences in the corporate culture as well as an underestimation of the actual integration effort and the project management requirements in the case of more complex integrations.

Which risks can have the most adverse effects?

This question must always be considered in connection with the size of the buying company and the company to be bought. In the case of smaller acquired companies, the departure of a few key employees can have a major impact on the success of a merger. However, integration often suffers from a lack of experience on the part of the project members involved as well as insufficient resources on the part of the acquired company.

Large companies, on the other hand, often underestimate the complexity and effort required for integration. In addition, the cultural differences between the company buying and the company to be bought also involve a recurring risk potential.

Medium-sized companies tend to show mixed forms of problems with mergers, such as those found in small or large companies. Although the resources are often better and often more experience is available than for smaller companies, there are the risks known from them. But even the acquiring company can create considerable distortions through wrong decisions and negatively influence the success of an integration. Examples of this can be found in surprising strategy changes or sudden changes in the receiving organization in the middle of the integration process.

Once risks have been identified, how should they be dealt with afterwards?

In my view, there are four very typical approaches to dealing with risks: Ignoring and observing or actively initiating countermeasures and sales. Of course, the first approach is the easiest, but also the most dangerous way. Therefore, it is not really recommended, even if the probability of these risks is minimal. Perhaps I should note at this point that we are not talking about probabilities in the statistical sense, but rather about assumptions, i.e. assumptions about the probabilities of occurrence. According to this, even a risk with a low probability of occurrence can occur at any time, precisely because one does not know its probability.

Observation appears to be the most sensible step for risks that are unlikely or can hardly have any consequences for the success of the project. They are identified and regularly checked to see whether their probability of occurrence and thus their influence on the success of the project have changed. Accordingly, active countermeasures can be taken in good time in the event of an expected hazard potential.

But one can already act in advance and take countermeasures if the occurrence of risks is to be avoided for very pragmatic or political reasons. An example of this is the impending departure of relevant employees, which can be prevented at least temporarily by contractual regulations. In this way, time can be gained which is actively used to transfer their relevant knowledge about products or workflows in the company to be purchased to other persons or to document them if necessary.y