Evolving Your M&A Integration Function

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed how most people do work. It has impacted everyone globally, and even up to this date, some companies are still struggling to find their footing. The M&A industry is no exception, and most practitioners are finding it challenging to execute deals remotely. Atlassian, however, is one of the most successful acquirers in the industry and is now doing deals fully remote. Sharing their process and tools is Christina Amiry, Head of M&A Strategic Operations, Integration at Atlassian.

"We've learned time and time again, don't dive directly into planning work. Get to know each other and help to understand each other's teams, processes, and the key people first." - Christina Amiry

Since the start of the pandemic, Atlassian has decided to switch to a remote-first company. This means everyone has the option to not come back to the office, even if circumstances have changed. So, how can they do this? It was only possible, because they were already a highly distributed company in the first place. Being remote only changes where they work, but not how they work. 


Tech Tools

The first and probably the most important part of going digital is the tools. Atlassian uses 4 tools to get the job done, especially in the diligence process:


  • Confluence - This is their corporate Wikipedia where all their documentation lives. This is where the deal team writes the business case, manages the diligence schedule, analysis, etc. They use this to help teams collaborate and share knowledge efficiently. 
  • Jira - They use this to manage their diligence process. This powerful work management tool allows them to work together as a team and help the next deal get smarter. 
  • Slack - Slack is their chat tool of choice. It helps them reach anyone globally and make sure that everyone feels like a part of the conversation. They also have different Slack channels for each area of diligence to drive team focus. 
  • Zoom - They use zoom for meetings and messaging. Everything they do is pre-recorded, well-documented, and always shared with everyone. This allows them to have artifacts that they can quickly go back to when needed.


All these tools are integrated so that everyone has easy access. 

Engagement with the Target

The most significant change to their M&A process was how they engage with the target company. At first, they thought using zoom was enough. But after three acquisitions, they found out that it's not the same. People still felt disengaged because they couldn't feel and see everyone.

To combat this, Atlassian opened up its tools to new employees. They included them in Slack channels, opened their Confluence page, and conducted more check-in calls. Their CEO also recorded videos that welcome newly acquired employees and share Atlassian's passion and mission. The key is to make sure they feel welcome and a part of the larger organization. 

Another thing that they have learned to do is give employees adequate space to digest the news that they have been acquired. They have separated their announcement day and closing day to allow employees to accept their new reality before sharing the integration plan with them a few days later. 


Managing Burnout 

Because they are so open and collaborative during this digital era, Atlassian comes across burnout. Whether it's real or not, sometimes people feel the need to always be online. 

One thing they have worked very hard on is Slack etiquette, managing calendars, and managing schedules effectively. This allows people to allocate their time and be prepared for any meetings to avoid stress and burnout. 

Integration

At the very heart of changing how and where they work, invoking changes in the workplace has required a lot of trust and time spent building relationships. They share the company strategy with acquired employees, as it strongly helps with engagement. As they become more comfortable, they are more welcoming to the changes and new tools introduced. No matter what tools you have, if people are not willing to adapt and use them, you will not achieve anything.

Conclusion

Transitioning to fully remote transactions is not easy but very doable. With the proper tools and techniques to manage your people across these technologies, your M&A process can run smoothly.