The pessimist sees a sale; the optimist sees an opportunity
Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are a fact of life for CIOs. The Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances counted 38,886 transactions worldwide in 2013, rising to about 49,000 transactions in 2018. As a CIO, you should embrace these changes as opportunities to grow your career and organisation.
Typically, only one CIO remains when two organisations combine, so hone your core leadership skills to position them during and after career-changing events, regardless of the outcome. Capitalise on the exposure to the business you'll gain.
These skills are not unique to M&As, but they are differentiators that effective and respected leaders execute without pause. Honing these talents will position you for continued growth and enable you to assume leadership roles within your enterprise or elsewhere.
Showcase the opportunity of disruption
Established business models can quickly fall victim to innovative digital models that embrace the tools we have today. Whether self-initiated or through M&A activity, savvy CIOs know how to take advantage of disruption. Instead of viewing it as a disruption to business as usual or a challenge to conquer, they look for the opportunities they create.
Some businesses or units, for example, may not fit the vision for the combined entity and the enterprise will sell or divest them. The pessimist sees a sale; the optimist sees an opportunity. The CIO who doesn’t stay on with the enterprise may well become the CIO of the divested unit or a large subsidiary.
Finding personal and professional opportunities amid the disruption requires the ability to analyse business strategy. Sharpen your digital literacy to remain a trusted partner, especially in digital business when technology can transform the business.
Strengthen relationships outside IT
M&As create great opportunities to change your relationships with peers in business units. It may allow you to reshape your role and redefine perceptions of the IT organisation and its capabilities.
But don't wait for an M&A to engage. Advance a compelling vision where business units can better collaborate and improve processes. Ensure that you’re taking the right steps to evolve from a partnering relationship to that of an ally.
Become a thought leader. Present new technologies, such as robotic process automation and bots, to appropriate areas of the business.
Study the market. Pay attention to what competitors are doing and thinking about. Start conversations to discuss pre-emptive approaches and actions with members of the executive management team.
Typically, only one CIO remains when two organisations combine, so hone your core leadership skills to position them during and after career-changing events, regardless of the outcome
Understand individual motivators
It's easy to take people for granted. They are professionals. They know their jobs. For the most part, management can leave them alone to get on with their work.
This changes during periods of upheaval that alter the structure of the organisation. People feel threatened or uncertain. Their resistance can cause even a strategically sound deal to fail. Acknowledge the human impact. Give people what they need to remain committed during the transition.
After a merger is announced, lack of clarity fuels fear, uncertainty and doubt. In the absence of correct information, human nature unfortunately assumes the worst — that jobs, roles and status will suffer. Accept the emotional vulnerability of individuals and teams.
A cornerstone of effective change management is providing a fact-based reason. Any publicly traded company is technically always for sale. Those who understand the rationale are more likely to see it as a business transaction and not a personal attack. They’ll champion accurate communication and accept the change even if they’re the ones who suffer the most disruption.
Deliver effective communication
Major changes succeed only if employees buy into it. They need deeper, more persistent and personalised communication, particularly direction for their new roles and expected behaviours. They’ll want to know what the new organisation structure will look like, whether they’ve a role and what it is.
Champion the credibility of the merger. Always reference the facts that drive the decision so it’s seen as logic. That logic may appear obvious to executives, but it won't to many employees.
Address rumours and hearsay directly. Normally, CIOs rightly ignore them to avoid spreading further, but an M&A is different. Quash rumours with facts.
Address rumours and hearsay directly. Normally, CIOs rightly ignore them to avoid spreading further, but an M&A is different
Illustrate the vision
M&As become less disruptive if everyone works toward a common, compelling goal. Understanding the goal can convert the nervous energy that the announcement unleashes into a drive to realise the vision for the enterprise that executives paint.
Unfortunately, many think in the narrow terms of their own corporate function. You’ll have the job of integrating information and technology assets, so you may describe the deal to the IT organisation in terms of technology.
You’ll also feel pressure from the CEO to get the integration done quickly, so the enterprise can start reaping cost savings and other benefits. If the urgency of the work is conveyed without a larger vision, this could increase the anxiety of the IT staff about their future. This become a distraction and is counterproductive to the enterprise's goals.
Frame the work in terms of the business vision for the deal and the personal impact for those affected. Outline a future where the enterprise grows faster, offers better products, serves customers more effectively or achieves some other top-level goal. The compelling depiction will excite employees to do the work of integration without adding extra pressure.
Ivar M Berntz is a senior director analyst at Gartner. He advises CIOs and senior IT leaders on strategies, plans, approaches, technologies and processes. In particular, how to leverage information and technology assets to accelerate transformation and achieve sustainable digital business results.
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