M&A for Project Teams: How to Manage Project Data and Processes Effectively?

    The process of mergers and acquisitions is complicated and requires much more effort than most business owners might expect. Generally, most workload is put on project managers who shoulder the bulk of responsibility for keeping both the existing and new projects on track. They have to not only understand the purpose of the planned M&A, but also consider all the operations that can go wrong. Then, businesses are more likely to end up with success, and not a failure.

    One of the worst M&A deals ever

    An excellent example of a poorly planned merger is the Sprint and Nextel case. These two telecom service providers decided to join their forces and become even more robust and profitable. However, they took a number of missteps. First of all, their networks were not compatible. Then, after the two companies had merged, nothing really changed in the structure of their business.

    The boards of both brands had roughly equal powers, and the staff was dispersed between two head offices. The companies continued operating like two separate brands. Even the names were not uniform. Sprint had a “Sprint together with Nextel” logo, and Nextel’s logo said “Nextel from Sprint”. It wasn’t just confusing for customers. Such branding clearly showed the audience that there was no hierarchy in the business. What was at the root of the problem?

    Upon acquiring Nextel, Sprint didn’t extend their authority and take over management. When there is no clear structure in the company, it is hard to maintain the workflow. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the provider lost plenty of customers rather quickly. While many people point out outdated devices making them the reason for failure, it is clear that the actual issue was the lack of wise management.

    What are the key challenges of M&A for project teams and how to overcome them?

    Let’s look at the Sprint and Nextel merger case again and learn the lessons. Below, we will talk about the pain points of every M&A and find the solutions.

    Changes in the management hierarchy and chain of command

    The main issue arises when it’s not clear who is in charge, and what the management will look like after the merger. This is where top executives should work in close cooperation with project managers to streamline operating activities and adjust the roles of team members. Here is the list of things the leadership has to do:

    • Review the current management structure. Who is in charge of key operations? What does a decision-making process look like? Who has the most authority?
    • Decide who will be in charge after the merger. It is critical to establish a clear hierarchy that will satisfy the new board of directors. Then, it will be much easier to manage the workflow and define the goals of the company.
    • Talk about goals. It is crucial to decide what will be the ultimate purpose and the related goals of the company. The leadership should follow the same direction. Otherwise, it’s impossible to avoid issues.
    • Corporate culture is another important point. Each brand has its corporate values. So, it is vital to decide on the values of the company after the merger.
    • Build a structure of the teams. You have to decide whether you will mix the teams from both companies or they will work separately. In the latter scenario, it’s crucial to establish efficient interaction between teams.

    The main issue the leadership faces trying to work on these is the lack of communication and poor understanding of the current management structure both companies have. The solution is business intelligence software that will make the interaction with big data effortless. It is used for data retrieval, visualization, and analysis.

    Here are some tools you might use:

    • SAP BusinessObjects;
    • IBM Cognos Analytics;
    • Oracle BI;
    • Tableau;
    • InsightSquared;
    • Domo;
    • GoodData.

    Merging and consolidating project data

    Most issues come from data management. Once the companies merge, all the corporate information and project data should be merged and studied as well. This process is rather complicated and requires a plan – which tools you will use, who will control the transition, what the new database will look like, etc. But issues don’t end here.

    Once the data is moved to a single repository and structured, it’s time to go through the current projects run by both companies, understand the status of processes, and reassign tasks since the teams are merged as well. Then, the team leader has to watch over the workflow and adjust it as needed.

    Here are some teamwork tools that might help you create a steady and efficient workflow:

    • Jira;
    • Trello;
    • Asana;
    • RedBooth;
    • Dapulse;
    • Confluence.

    Special mention should be made of WatchTower. Originally, it is an app for Jira that helps team leaders manage issues from different Jira instances. It acts as a single Agile board that consolidates all issues and makes it possible to not only track them but also update if necessary. However, WatchTower’s capabilities can be extended beyond the Jira ecosystem. It may well be integrated with other project management tools mentioned above. This solution comes in handy during mergers and acquisitions, because companies often use various tools to control their corporate processes. In this case, WatchTower serves as a connector between different project management systems.

    Maintaining employee engagement

    One of the most significant issues the merged companies face is that employees often get unsatisfied with the changes. Team members need to adjust to the new workflow, accept new leaders and values, learn how to work with their new colleagues, etc. It’s quite hard, and the only solution here is to improve communication between the leadership and employees, as well as among team members.
    Therefore, you have to work on the following:

    • Organize HR management processes. At this point, it might be useful to create new jobs, rearrange the existing teams and take a fresh look at the current roles of employees.
    • Retain and motivate key talents. Every company has its star employees that should stay no matter what. Thus, you should come up with some reinforcements that will motivate these team members to continue working efficiently. Maybe, it’s time to promote them or grant with more benefits.
    • Make sure the communication is on point. Often, employees get stressed during the merger. This is mostly because they don’t know what will come next. Will they stay or get fired? Will things change? That’s why you should keep the team updated and inform employees about future events.
    • Reinvent your corporate culture. The company should have clear values. And once two firms with different corporate cultures merge, the board needs to establish a new uniform culture.

    To improve communication in the company you should implement dedicated solutions in addition to collaboration ones. So, here are some tools you might use:

    • Slack;
    • Stride;
    • Microsoft Teams;
    • Workplace;
    • Ryver;
    • Zoho Cliq;
    • Fleep.

    Other challenges companies face during M&A

    Most businesses struggle during the merger because they have different approaches and use different tools. Therefore, leaders have to come up with a uniform set of instruments and goals that will satisfy everyone.

    But there is one more issue – clients’ reaction. You should remember that the merger affects customers as well. That’s why leaders should think of the appropriate branding after M&A. In the case of Sprint and Nextel, their customers had a hard time understanding which provider they were using and what to expect. So, you should enhance communication with clients and explain what happened, and where things will go in the future.

    M&A is a difficult process that requires business owners to be as attentive as possible and consider every nuance that impacts success. Thus, it is critical to plan M&A in the smallest detail, and both companies have to take part in this planning. It sounds hard to execute, but the tools mentioned in this article will facilitate the process significantly.

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