Chapter 2: What is Agile M&A?

Agile M&A: an Outline

M&A is an information-driven industry, with intense and complex management needs. From the marketing phase through due diligence and post-close integration, maintaining team alignment, facilitating collaboration, and ensuring that the team remains focused on the larger goals presents a considerable challenge. Addressing these long-standing challenges requires an effective and consistent project management methodology. The methodology pursued can have a dramatic impact on how quickly and smoothly a deal progresses.

M&A is in crucial need of such a methodology. Currently, important deal processes are managed with a variety of disconnected tools, which leads to the development of irreconcilable issues with efficiency, organization, and collaboration. Although it may be hard for industry veterans to admit, this system is broken and needs to be amended.

During due diligence, important deal documents are requested in batches through Excel and then dumped into a staging environment. Later, these documents are moved into virtual data rooms where potential buyers can view them. If buyers need additional information that has not yet been answered, they are requested through email or Excel.

This complex and convoluted process isn’t only time-consuming but it also creates an opportunity for miscommunication, version-control issues, and breaches in security essential to deal success.

Similarly, post-close integration is often conducted using the same set of tools, relying heavily on Excel and email. Typically, integration teams develop playbooks, which are created using Excel and then distributed to all parties involved in execution for task and goal management. Much like during diligence, this hinders cross-functional communication and collaboration around shared and big-picture goals.

Because Excel does not allow for real-time, centralized engagement, integration teams will often take these playbooks and work through them in their respective functions. This siloed process keeps functional leaders from working together to identify possible roadblocks and execute shared plans to maximize deal value and uncover synergies.

So, no matter which side of the table you are on, it is clear that this workflow has some obvious — and potentially costly — problems. Overall the process is slow, malaligned, and poorly connected, with insufficient communication between functional groups. Lack of version control between spreadsheets leads to duplicate work and time lost trying to hunt down information. Limited collaboration and batching on Excel slows down the overall process immensely, and poor information capture makes it difficult to collect useful data for analytics.

We created the concept of Agile M&A to address such problems. Built on the principles of Agile thinking, Agile M&A provides foundational improvements to how corporations plan and execute complex projects like M&A deals, by building a mindset of collaboration, continuous improvement, and adaptation. The Agile M&A system incorporates lessons from the successful implementation of Agile in other industries to create a model tailored to the specific needs of the M&A industry.

Whether considered from the buy-side or sell-side, the Agile approach is especially well-suited to highly dynamic processes like M&A. In M&A, every deal presents a unique set of needs and challenges. Adopting a traditional, programmatic project management style likely leads to duplicate work, lost information, procedural bottlenecks, and limited cross-functional visibility.

The “game plan” at the heart of the Agile M&A methodology introduces an operating framework to optimize team alignment and collaboration in a way that is modular and flexible, avoiding the issues that arise from a more conventional static “playbook.” Approaching M&A with an Agile strategy allows team members to react quickly to emergent deal conditions and for the team to remain cohesive and aligned.