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December 29, 2022

Integration is one of the most critical aspects of an M&A to achieve the transaction's desired synergies and value-creation potential. Therefore, acquirers must focus on integration to do well in M&A. In this article, Cara Bibbiani, Senior Director, Corporate Development, M&A Integration at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, discusses how to perform better M&A Integration. 

"You have to have a culture of continuous improvement. Feedback is a gift, and you should always be seeking and sharing feedback." - Cara Bibbiani

Partnership with the Deal team

To execute better, the integration team must work closely with the deal team. Both teams must work side by side and learn from each other. During deals, the deal team must involve the integration team early in the process to understand the strategic rationale of each deal. 

Conversely, by working together, the deal team will learn all the integration learnings from past experiences and build on those as they look for future deals. Therefore, each company must be deliberate in aligning closely with both teams to ensure deal success.

Over at HP, they have a weekly meeting where both teams are present. The deal team talks about their prospects while the integration team discusses their current integration activities. 

Continuous improvement

The landscape of M&A is constantly changing, and what worked years ago might not work today. Therefore, the integration team must continuously improve their process and always be on top of their game. 

According to Cara, feedback is the best way to achieve this. Cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and always make time to review what happened in previous deals. During these meetings, they have ground rules to provide better feedback and a safe environment for everyone. 

  • Nothing is personal. Everything should be based on data and facts.
  • No identifying a particular individual. Everything should be high-level.
  • Share the problem and offer a solution.  

Partnership with business leaders

Another recipe for better integration is a strong partnership with the business leader. The integration team must ensure that the business unit leaders understand that they are accountable for its success. Here's a checklist that integration leaders must expect from business leaders:

  • They must be aligned with the integration plan
  • They must be engaged and actively participating in the deal
  • Willing to provide top talent within their unit to work on the deal. 
  • Accept accountability for the future state of the business
  • Ready to own cultural integration 

Despite popular belief, HR should not always be responsible for cultural integration. For example, in a large company, different businesses have their own culture, which is why the receiving business unit must own its integration. 

Handling incoming people

The people aspect is one of the integration's most essential and challenging aspects. The integration team must truly understand what it will take to retain the incoming people and avoid attrition. 

Cara and her team like to use Glassdoor and early surveys to understand what matters to the employees. Understanding the things that will make the people leave immediately is critical. Also, proactively communicate the plan as much as possible with the people. Typically, they are fearful for their job, and learning the integration plan will help calm them down. 

Lastly, be open to reverse integration in the spirit of continuous improvement. There are instances where the target company does things much better than the acquirers. Adapting the target's processes will improve the parent business and show the people that they matter and are a part of the process.

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