Taking Merger Integration All the Way to the Knowledge Bank

By Marc Solomon posted 07-27-2011 02:20


All is fair in love, football, and mergers and acquisitions. In fact if corporations were afforded the same rights of family law as free speech, the divorce rate among agrieved merger partners could easily surpass the current American divorce rate of 45-50%.

Author and organizational KM guru Kate Pugh had this assessment of the post merger honeymoon in the new issue of the Ivey Business Journal:
"It's the knowledge, stupid." 
Specifically, Pugh is pointing to the portable assets in people's heads, phones, and USB drives that get lost in the commotion of consolidated operations, payouts, musical account chairs, and offer letters. Rebranding collateral is a cinch. A coherent alignment with the new work and processes of the combined entity? Not a slam dunk, says Pugh. And if those assets slip out the back, here's the rationale for testing the potential grounds of no-fault corporate divorces:
"My IP is better than your IP. Too bad we can't agree on a yard stick (or even how to define what we're measuring)."
As Jack Welch likes to say, "There's never been a super bowl team that charged the field thinking: We'll figure this out as we go along and see what happens." But that's exactly the default setting for post merger knowledge integration. Counting revenue performance against operational costs often means counting out the talent equation. This appraisal is as blunt as it is crude (as it is a longstanding M&A tradition). That's the score when tallying the soft intangibles like know-how, project experience, and the artful inexactness of addressing project requirements, a.k.a. leveraging IP
On the face of it ECM systems offer no greater perspective on the synergistics of teams, the interplay of disciplines, or the assemblage of complementary skills and methodologies. But it would also be a mistake to dismiss these elements as less critical to the success of Newco because they are not discrete, modular, or repeatable from account to account. 
So why was Oldco an attractive target in the first place? Probably because those trials by fire were teachable, the larger lessons were adaptable, and the adaptions became unique assets to the firm. That's what happens when one-time client successes are transferable -- to other industries, business functions, and practitioners.
Process Specifics
Most system integration discussions address the obvious: where do our client lists overlap? The most amateur scorekeeper can rummage through an alien accounting system for these answers. But the more abstract, and strategic questions go begging:
"How do we cross-sell?" 
"How do we on-board our new hires?"
"How do we develop new hybrid solutions that complement our two traditions?  
Here's where ECM has a role to play in the integration story, regardless of the business process or the groups coming together to support it. An ECM is the centerpiece for staging:
  • the raw ingredients (tools and templates), 
  • the glue in the form of the skills signified in your people profiles / training modules; and 
  • the polished gems (success stories / qualifications)... 
... for selling more work under any banner. But it's more than that.
Storing and displaying documents can be copied by the most casual of imitators. It's the stuff flying in through the back door  that reveals the context around the problem-solving. Those are the dimensions lacking in any post merger IP assessment. Does Newco understand how Oldco solves problems? Perhaps not. But those process specifics that map IP to account success are essential for new revenue streams to materialize, let alone for the continued delivery of established offerings and core, brandable assets.
ECM Knowledge Mapping
Once the transaction goes through, it's time for IP to assume a seat at the planning table. Here's how that can play out from an ECM perspective. Here in five chunks are the seeds to a checklist for taking your next merger integration all the way to the knowledge bank:
  1. Knowledge Transfers -- How an overachieving Type A domain leader collaborates is the roadmap to the crown jewels. These exist on Exchange and SharePoint Servers as group lists and discussion boards.
  2. People Profiles -- These records are an amalgam of employee contact fields and the deeper details of schooling, expertise, watershed engagements, and of course portraits. On its face this is a self-serve application. But pre-populating those profiles presents a more welcoming, unified, and client-facing best-foot-forward on day one of Newco.
  3. Case Studies -- Narratives of past engagements are core IP assets because they're foundational to future projects -- not because they're fodder for marketing collateral. Score an extra integration credit if you connect the cases to the significant deliverables that set the stage for projects worthy of peer review and recognition as worthy training examples. 
  4. Tools and Templates -- Any prior attempts to break original content into manageable slices are now even more critical as new collaborators unpack Oldco's established methodologies and frameworks. These artifacts form the building blocks for channeling existing services into new disciplines and capabilities. That's the work talking -- not the share price!
  5. Activity Streams -- Recent converts to SharePoint 2010 will also appreciate the now tangible nature of largely passive and previously untracked user logs. But one's ECM experiences point towards a greater appreciation for the social connections, most popular downloads, publication histories, and tagging patterns. Each of these trails fill in the enterprise connection to successful post integration by showing what folks do with IP in actual practice.
Prized acquisitions can lose their luster. Prizes are no longer coveted once they've been awarded. But a colored M&A track record suggests that the integration team would do well to push its victory laps beyond the deal's approval date.
An ECM-assisted knowledge transition ensures that promises like "value preservation" and startup-like autonomy are enmeshed together around a single interface. That's the full court press of a beckoning market -- not the empty platitude of another courting process.

#SharePoint #ElectronicRecordsManagement #IPmanagement #MandA #ScanningandCapture #intangibleassets #mergerintegration #Intellectualproperty