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April 19, 2022

The importance of integration has never been more prevalent. And standing up a dedicated function to oversee integration is becoming more of a necessity as a company grows more prominent. Having an integration management office (IMO) might be a good idea for your company. But how do you stand up to such a function? Shedding light on this matter is Ian Burk, EVP of integration at Upland Software, as he talks about how to stand up an IMO.

"The IMO is a shepherd of the process to make sure there is an intersection between the strategy, project management, and the people in it." - Ian Burk

When to Stand Up an IMO

According to Ian, if M&A is a core part of your strategy, then you should have at least a small dedicated core team that's evergreen. The primary role is to govern the integration process and ensure that it is tied to the M&A strategy. This function is in charge of ensuring that everything is going according to plan and that every decision is geared towards achieving the value driver of the deal. 

If you have a project management office in your organization, start by borrowing some people from there and slowly transition them to integration. Having a dedicated person allows for better pattern recognition and retaining lessons learned.

Steps to Building an IMO

  1. Understand Previous Outcomes - When building an IMO, the first thing to do is to ask people and learn what happened with previous deals, what's the process and what were the outcomes. From there, work your way backwards to determine best practices and who is qualified for the function's role. 
  2. Identify the Core Team - Ideally, the core team should be small while having a pretty distributed function in the project management office. Find people excited about the details, who want to be a part of something transformative, and who have sponsorship to the senior level.

After establishing the core team, figure out how they will interface with the deal sponsor and ensure the relationship is healthy.

  1. Select the Extended Team - Apart from the core team, you need to identify the extended team. Avoid getting functional leads as they have day jobs, and you don't want to distract them from the main business. Find somebody within the department that understands what it takes to drive an outcome.
  2. Build the Operating Model - Once you have identified every person involved in the IMO, it’s time to establish the operating model. 

              • What project management tools are you going to use?

              • How will the teams share information?

              • How are they going to work together?

              • What will be the cadence of meetings?

              •How will they manage dependencies?

  1. Develop Playbooks - After going through the operating model and executing deals, you need to constantly iterate and improve the project plan. Not only for best practices, but this also makes onboarding new team members easier. Not everyone on the extended team will stay in their current position forever. 

Playbook Structure

"If your playbook is just a task list, you're probably doing it wrong." - Ian Burk

Inside Upland Software’s playbooks are what they call integration commandments,  items that the team should always do and things they should never do. Playbooks serve as guardrails and are frequently connected to financial outcomes. Playbooks are company-specific so you can't just copy one playbook to another. 

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