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

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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.