The Evolution of M&A Functions

Acquiring companies can be extremely rewarding if done right. To be proficient in M&A, a dedicated function must be established for continuous improvement. As the M&A function evolves, it increases the chances of deal success and value creation. In this episode, David Hindley, VP of Corp Dev at Autodesk, shares his journey on how he evolved an M&A function from scratch.

The Evolution of M&A Functions

5 Jun
David Hindley
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The Evolution of M&A Functions

The Evolution of M&A Functions

“In the beginning, it’s all about doing the bare minimum and keeping the lights on. Then over time, you have to evolve it to do better. It’s easier to recognize the needs, but a lot harder to build the support, teams, and capacity.” – David Hindley

Acquiring companies can be extremely rewarding if done right. To be proficient in M&A, a dedicated function must be established for continuous improvement. As the M&A function evolves, it increases the chances of deal success and value creation. In this episode, David Hindley, VP of Corp Dev at Autodesk, shares his journey on how he evolved an M&A function from scratch.

special guests

David Hindley
VP of Corporate Development at Autodesk

Hosted by

Kison Patel

Episode Transcript

The evolution of M&A functions 

I joined autodesk when we were first building an official corporate development function. This was in 2003. We’re a 20-year-old company at that point and we have always been acquisitive. We’ve done lots of acquisitions, but they have been informal or done by various people. There wasn’t a formal function.

Right before I joined, they decided to make the investment and hired a VP of Corp Dev and started building a team around it. I was lucky enough to join then. 

The initial phase was very much around the internal investment banker type role. We weren’t deciding what deals to do. It was much more just the strategy, the product teams, the objectives. They want to do these deals, but are not going to hire bankers, just go and get them done.

We did a lot of that and I got a lot more deal experience from that standpoint than I had during my banking days. I did a handful of sell-sides in the banking days and a handful of buy-sides but there was a lot of downtime in the dot com bust.

There was a lot of pitching. I had very good Excel Powerpoint skills at the time. They’re pretty rusty now but I build them out and put them to use just doing a whole bunch of acquisitions. So, the first phase of my experience was just lots of deals: 

  • Learning how to get a deal done internally in a corporate environment versus a banking environment
  • Learning how the company works and how you push things to resolution and conclusion
  • Learning about the culture of Autodesk and how you lead through indirect authority and influence because I didn’t have anybody working for me, but I had to try and get all these people to do diligence, sign up on stuff, create slides, and get the deals done.
  • Learning how to partner really closely.
  • Learning what works and what doesn’t from an execution standpoint

That was phase one for a few years, more or less.

Deal experience as a Banker vs Corp Dev

The whole reason why I wanted to make the shift is I think what a lot of people do is that:

  • You want to be part of the decision making
  • You want to take the inherent conflict of interest of getting a commission on whether you do the deal or not.

I wanted to be in a company long enough to see if my suggestions or ideas panned out or were successful or not. I wanted to see if I could live or die by the deals that I recommended, and it hasn’t gone exactly that way but that’s the approach I’ve taken.

Like, if I’m advocating for the deals that we do and they all suck and destroy value, maybe I should go find a different career. So luckily, it hasn’t turned out that way, but that was really the different mindset going from just trying to get the deal done and move on to the next one. 

And I know not all bankers do that, but that’s the business model, and I wanted to be part of the long tail or the whole tail. We have the pre-tail where all the strategy stuff are, the evaluation, the scoring, different targets, the conversations and all those sorts of things. And then the long tail around the integration, actually achieving value, and all those sorts of things.

That was what drove me to the buy-side overall and that’s a large reason why Autodesk has been a good spot for me for the last 20 years.

Phase 1 - Learning to lead through indirect authority

You must learn how to influence people to help you out and do what you want to do, especially when it’s not necessarily part of their day job. It's a constant battle.

But more importantly, and this is an Autodesk specific thing, we’re not a super top-down driven company where the CEO, the chairman, or the private equity owner say ‘go do this deal’ and everybody just gets in line. It's an old school company. It's got lots of matrices and those sorts of things. 

  • try to figure out how you navigate the intricacies and get stuff done
  • convince people that it's in the best of everyone's interest
  • be empathetic to what their issues or concerns are and how you can help them get their job done to ultimately get the right outcome for the business.

That was that learning process.

Phase 2 - Building out the integration muscle

It was all about cleaning up all the mess that we bought. It was about building an integration practice to support all this stuff and figure out how we actually get value. The deal people buy value, the integration people create value. 

During that phase, I spent a little time running the group while someone was on an extended leave, and so I got pretty in depth exposure to what was going on. I was part of the initial building out of functional playbooks and building the team.

We did a larger acquisition on a company called Alias. We did a full integration on it. We defined playbooks, we got consultants to come in and write everything out, and make it an official process.

That was phase two: building out an integration function in connection with the execution side of the group. We had to rethink how to integrate companies pretty soon. It was definitely not a sequential process. There was a lot of overlap. Things were going on in parallel. It’s obvious, but it’s also ‘you don’t know what you don’t know when you get into it’.

So you kind of think of integration where you start with the IT people. Then you realize the finance stuff is pretty hard too, and you should probably get someone in finance, and the HR stuff is difficult.

We had to convince the HR team to hire someone to be full time and support all these things. You start at level one or beginning level. What’s the bare minimum we need to do? We just need to keep the wheels and the lights on, etc.

Over time you evolve it. If this isn’t good enough, we can evolve here. We can do more things on culture, integration or those sorts of things. It’s easy to recognize the need, it’s a lot harder to build out the support and the teams, and the capacity.

Since I took over the group, I've been spending more time on integration than on the deal side than I ever had in the past. It’s important and it’s something I’ll work on. I’m probably swinging the pendulum a little bit too far right now, but I’ll go back eventually.

We’re trying to do some stuff to up level where we are and to make some bigger improvements that we think will position us for more success longer term, and it just needs some care and feeding.

Phase 3 - Amplify/expand strategic views

The next phase for us was getting back to the first piece and moving beyond just executing the deals that we were told to. It’s all about:

  • Forming a thesis or strategy of your own
  • Trying to advocate for and going out and meeting companies
  • Having a position and point of view on what you should do, what makes sense, and not just relying on other people to make those decisions.

We don’t have a strategy in our title. We’re kind of explicit about that. We’re not in charge of this, but we think we have a voice and a point of view that’s relevant and should be part of the discussion, so it was all about building that out.

And the impetus for a lot of that for us was our expansions beyond the core work that we had always done and the core industries and customers we served. And as we started to explore mobile and even some social stuff, we had some consumer stuff for a while.

We had these areas where there’s deep expertise inside Autodesk around what we do. I’m never going to out-domain some of these people on what they’ve been doing for 35 years. But they may not know much about mobile at the time, for example. They’ve been doing desktop stuff for all that time.

So, it provided an opportunity for us to get out and spread our elbows a bit and that was another one of these evolutions that I talked about. It kept me interested, engaged, and excited. So that was phase three: building on what we have done to try and provide more strategic insight and value upfront. And to be more of an external voice internally to turn the mirror on Autodesk and say here’s what we say but let’s look at it more practically. We can be more critical ourselves to make ourselves better basically.

It’s like a strategic vision we’re expanding on and helping amplify essentially. Trying to take an external viewpoint that other people inside Autodesk won’t easily access. We’re talking to lots of startups, investors, bankers, the competitors, and maybe potentially more. It’s another angle to bring up on the problem you’re looking at.

Phase 4 - Evolution of the integration function

Phase four was taking over the group and growing into leadership and getting beyond that sort of stuff. The real thing we're working on phase four is this next evolution of the integration function that we're talking about. 

We've got the basics, we've got the foundation, but we're not getting all the results and the impact and the benefits that we can. So how do we connect these things more effectively and drive more value out of the deals that we're doing sooner with more confidence?

Leading an evolving M&A function

I had big visions around building a bigger pipeline. And we’re a 5 billion company roughly now. We need to be a 10 billion company. How are we going to get up there? And the executive is like, yes, that’s great, but first fix this integration stuff and then we’re going to build on that stuff.

It’s a bit of both but my big things were building on all the stuff that we’d done, the work around being an effective team, getting deals done, knowing how to do at least the basics of integration. Having a strategic viewpoint to try and make a bigger impact on the company. I have a  shadow pipeline of my own where I got deals that I think we should do that have bigger revenue and that some of the executives might totally disagree with, but I’m going to keep them on my list and take the opportunity to make pitches etc.

Those are some of the big things. Really, ultimately now, I have no excuse why we’re not driving the right value through integration. There’s no one preventing me from taking the right things to CEO staff or whatever executive I need to and say what I think we should do.

At the end of the day, I might not be able to tell them what to do, but at least I made my point in my pitch. And if they decide to do something else for competing business reasons or whatever, I can at least stand by the fact that I’m doing everything I can to try and drive the most success from these deals.

How the strategy evolved

Sometimes, people think of strategy as a scary thing. It’s like wizardry or sorcery. How do you make it work? And the more I’ve done it, the more I’ve been dumbing it down and making it simpler and simpler. 

The mindset I take with any sort of strategic document that I’m working on with my team or pitch, or whatever it is, you shouldn’t have to be a PhD in these things for it to make sense. Our board of directors meet four or six times a year. They know our business, but they’re not PhDs in our business. If they can’t understand it, we’re doing something wrong. That’s maybe more of a personal thing, but it should really just be common sense.

It shouldn’t be that difficult, unless you’re landing rockets on Mars or whatever. For most of the stuff we do, it should be straightforward and basic. That’s the personal evolution we’ve seen. The other thing we’ve seen is that companies in our space used to be much more in their wheels, spheres of influence, and we’ve just seen much more blurring of the lines.

So we’ve had to really expand the way we look at strategy across industry participants and competitors, etc., around how people could enter and exit, complete play. It’s more interesting, more fun, it can get complicated and you have to keep a lot more company names in your mind than I had 15 years ago.

There’s no secret sauce for that. I take a lot of notes, and then I try to spend some time everyday to keep them organized, and put them somewhere I can find them in the future because if I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist. 

I spend as much time as I can getting ahead of what I need to do in the future, just getting organized. Start the year with:

  • What are the things I need to do this year?
  • What are the big rocks?

It’s not just goal setting but it’s more like, am I looking at the most impactful thing? And trying to stay organized. If I can at least show that I can remember stuff and be organized, that’s great.

Scoring opportunities

In terms of scoring opportunities, there’s always tiers or medium, high, and low, or whatever. We’re also trying to build a bit more of a quantitative aspect to it. We’ve been doing scorecards and charting things based on different criteria, strategic versus financial stuff, and seeing how they plot. 

Any criteria is subjective going in, so it’s not like a deterministic tool that this is the number one deal. But if you pick the right criteria, and it’s not too many pieces, you can compare deals just much more effectively.

  • Is it the most important strategic thing?
  • How difficult will it be to integrate?
  • Is the business model consistent?
  • Can we drive high synergies or not?

It gives you a framework to compare the company. You can do it with Harvey balls. We’ve been putting stuff on charts lately and plotting them on an X versus Y type of thing. It’s a tool to use. It’s not deterministic, it’s not an answer but it can help facilitate the right conversations if they’re done right.

It’s all about the conversation and the thinking and trying to force people to think about things with some level of consistency. Every deal has their unique pieces but they also have some of the same aspects. So, trying to have the same level of comparing apples and apples, even though we’re not just doing that.

Speeding up the evolution for efficiency

I probably don’t have a silver bullet there, in terms of speeding up the evolution for efficiency, other than having executives that really care about it. We always had executives that cared. But one thing I didn’t appreciate as a junior person in M&A function is that the executives have 50 things to worry about. 

They might think 50 different things everyday.You can’t expect them to come with the same level of attention to detail and care, and you have to help get them there. 

Having an executive that buys in, is looking for leadership, and you can help tell them how to support you to move it quickly, that’s something that probably could’ve moved us quicker in some of the areas. But also, people tend to not be able to choose their executive, so you might not be able to influence that too much.

Just practice. Be critical of yourself and the function. Don’t hide the ball or sugarcoat everything around how things are going. Be accountable to yourself. Drive accountability with the other leads. 

Stand up functional leads quickly. There’s the nuts and bolts that you have to do. We were very slow and ineffective before we got functional leads or go-to-people in the right functions. It started as designated people.

You go talk to Brett from finance, he'll help you out. But eventually, Brett becomes a full-time person. And eventually, they get some people underneath them. And then you start to build scale and repeatability and you're not kind of starting from scratch. That was a very helpful piece. 

On the big deal, using the big deal as an opportunity to actually define playbooks and forcing people to actually go and document a playbook. Lots of people would say they’ve got their playbook, but when I tell them to show it to me, they say it's in their email or it's in their head. 

Everyone's going to have a playbook. It's going to have these five chapters or pieces or whatever it is. And then everyone can see them and people can start to understand what HR is doing, and maybe the finance needs to think about doing this at the same time. And you'll start to build that piece of it. 

Working with functional leads

You have to learn each person and how the best way to interact with them is. I was a junior person at the time. I would go in, and it was kind of my demeanor anyway. I would just go in and be open and transparent and maybe vulnerable and tell the person we need to get this thing done and I need help. How else can we do it? Let's try and do it effectively. 

For sure, you have to highlight the importance of the business or highlight that maybe the CEO’s staff has a review on this date, and we need this input by then, so they need to get it to us and have it make sense. 

One thing I probably did too much is just do other people's work. I didn't do finance diligence, but when it came to presentations, reporting, you just wind up doing some of that for sake of expediency. That's probably a skill or not a skill, but something I did too much of when I was junior and I'm trying to break that habit and hold people accountable to do what they need to do and just report on it as opposed to get it right all the time.

Aligning the functions

We do offsites, events, we try to get people to talk about things that are other than M&A, and just build some empathy and some group cohesion. We try to bring them onboard that we’re on a mission or quest to do this piece and we need everyone’s support to do it.

And whether you’re doing the accounting integration or the technical integration, or the revenue or whatever it is, we’re all part of making this successful and we should feel joint accountability for the overall success of the transaction.

We try to report, and try to connect what they’re doing with those value drivers and success metrics explicitly. It’s not easy and not all functions want to hear it all the time, but we do those things.

There's a big group of people that do this work and that’s great. We were also trying to cultivate who were the key stakeholders that we can start to elevate and get them to think about things more strategically, get them out of the weeds of the integration project management and get more strategic around the decisions we’re making, the issues we’re seeing, making things better. Because ultimately, you get better results, but it will provide better engagements and work satisfaction and intrinsic motivation and all those sorts of things. We definitely do it explicitly.

We’re balancing and getting input from everyone. Take a step back, when I came into the role, lots of people said we need to do this and they’ve done it in the past so it’s been on their radar for a while. We’re not dragging people there kicking and screaming. We’re balancing and getting input from people of:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What are the needs that you see that we have versus some of the stuff that we know are important and that we need to get done?

It’s the beginning of a conversation, not the end. There’ll be regular pieces and there’s regular interaction and team building and all that. 

Business units

The way we’re set up, we have four product groups in industry groups.

  • (AEC) Architecture, Engineering, and Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Media and entertainment (film, visual effects, animation)
  • Product technology team (research and forward-looking stuff)

Those are just product strategy marketing. They do not have sales. We have one central sale for everyone. They’re not really business groups, the way some other companies might do them. But those are the four industries that we serve, and on the deal side in particular, we partner with as we grow their strategies and identify their targets. We’re intimately involved in that whole process.

When we started, there might have been five groups because we had MSD, ISD, AEC was called BSD, and maybe a couple of others we have discreetly. Maybe there were five at that time and they merged and changed and split apart and have been through different things over the years.

Corporate Development structure

On the deal side, I've got two directors and two associates. So it's not a big team, and a couple of people on the integration side. We have a dedicated integration team of two people.

The structure we have is a business partner. One deal side, it’s a business partner approach. Each industry group, they have business partners, whether it’s finance, HR, legal, that are part of the executive staff. They’re part of every conversation. They’re not just lawyers or finance people that talk about that. They’re part of the executive staff or that industry group.

Each industry group has a Corp Dev person that’s on there and fully participates on that. That’s where the initial strategy discussions happen. There’s lots of other places where they happen. That’s where the industry groups are:

  • reviewing the pipelines
  • helping to prioritize
  • getting input from the product teams and strategy teams, and other folks around what’s most important for this industry.

We as a team view that collectively across all the industries and make it work. That’s the approach we have. It’s different from what it was when I came on. We were kind of the internal banks. 

The example we use is a short order cook. We’re the short order cook, we throw it up there. We'll cook it up and put it back up on the shelf. And now we're trying to farm to table. We're part of the initial conversations. We're all the way through to the end, and even beyond whatever comes after a farm to table.

And then, there's a corp dev resource in the BU. They're dotted line into the BU, basically. They report to me directly, but they report dotted line to those people to give most of the review information. They join all the staff meetings and go to the off sites.

They went into an evolution. When I joined, there were people in the divisions that were called business development. They didn't really do business, but they basically did corp dev, but they only did the upfront strategy target identification and that was it.

And then Corp Dev did everything past then. We did the valuation, the negotiation, the term sheet, the diligence. And then that relationship was not super helpful or functional, it was a legacy of something that was before my time. So I came into this environment. Ultimately, 10 years ago, we combined those.

A bunch of people had left, and they made the decision to combine those, but then they centralized them under Corp Dev with this business partner model. So that was how we got there, and frankly, this approach definitely cost strife because these people in the business unit sometimes want to do stupid deals. And we're trying to say, this deal doesn't make any sense and we shouldn't do it. We're overpaying. It's not going to do what we want to do. But at the end of the day, we were there at the bank.

We got in line, but now it's much better. At the end of the day, we're not the ultimate decider. We have a strong voice. Executives want to do a deal, we're going to go help them get the deal done. But we have a much stronger voice in this scenario and a bigger seat at the table and stake in the conversation.


The Corp Dev person in the BU is involved. The expertise and history of both of the folks that I have in those roles right now is more on the deal side of getting to close. 

We bring the integration team very early. They’re part of all the diligence conversations. They start interacting with the BU or the division execs even right when we get to a term sheet, even before we start thinking about: 

  • What are the big rocks? 
  • What do we need to be focused on?

Ultimately, the evolution of what we’re working on becomes a slow transition. It’s not this hard and fast thing where the deal is done and the integration team eventually is off and running. The deal side is focused in the early phase of diligence, etc. The integration people have a smaller impact and that grows over time. You get to close and you're ready to go, and lots of what the deal folks appreciate that at Autodesk. 

It's not just about getting the deal done. We care about the decisions and assumptions that are made. The product and go-to-market integration decisions impact the revenue plan, which impacts the success metrics, which impacts what everybody cares about. It's very much a group effort. But the deal folks do tend to drop off a little bit after closing and go working on the next deal. They still stay involved in some of the reporting and connected to it, but not the day to day of integration.

Working with integration folks

Include them on the invites, get them in there. The thing that we’re really doing is getting our leads and most importantly, the person that’s running the integration to join and embrace what our vision should be. The integration is a strategic advisor to the executive around what they want to accomplish.

If this is not a reactive, passive activity, it is a forward-leaning and strategic advisor role to the executives. If you want to achieve this, here are the things you should and shouldn’t do. Here are the issues that you should be worried about, driving, being proactive, being directive with the teams around the standards and how to hit them. If they can’t hit those standards, talk to the executives and confirm why and decide to say yes or no. Just be more directive and proactive.

It’s also up to the integration leader to some extent, to force himself to be relevant and force his way in there, and force decisions to be made early. Because one of the worst things you can do with an integration is just keep delaying and not talk about things and jump to sign and close. 

Get those first things done. You have to have the conversations early. Someone I admire made a statement I really like: “I can fix a bad decision, I can’t fix no decision.” So just make a decision and then we can move forward.

In terms of approaching decision making, I don’t have a great answer for that yet. That’s one of the things I’m asking my team on. I don’t want 1500 lines, a smart sheet, that’s not useful for me at all and frankly, I don’t think it’s useful for anybody. Maybe somebody somewhere has to confirm that all this stuff gets done.

We need a framework to talk about things at a level that makes sense to executives. Back to the strategy piece, if it doesn’t make sense, if you can’t look at this and understand what’s going on, then we’re looking at it in the wrong way.

We’re trying to up level the way we talk about integration, the decisions that need to get made, in a way that is more intelligible and can’t just be this 900-line thing of stuff that takes two hours to go through. 

What are the big rocks? We have to rely on some of the functional people to just execute the job below who can know the right thing to do once we set the higher direction. That’s what we’re trying to get to. It’s a work in progress. We’re not there yet but we’re moving the needle.

OKRs are a part of it, for sure. Trying to balance the desire of folks to make sure they have every I dotted and T crossed versus OKRs’ bigger objectives, big rocks. What are the key decisions? This is where the creativity and the strategic advisor piece of integration can come in. What are the big rocks that we should care about with this deal based on:

  • What we know about the company
  • What we know about the buyer
  • What we know about what it takes to integrate
  • What are the things that we should be most focused on and pushing those forward.

To me, it’s a lot more fun because you’re having real conversations.

  • Is the channel activated?
  • Is the corp dev collect integrated?
  • How do we get to that level in a way that’s more useful for execs at least?

Evolution of the governance model

We’ve bounced back and forth. We’ve had M&A committees, which are subsets of CEO staff and a few other people we’ve had. We’ve had the executive sponsor and they do everything and they’re the decider. There’s tradeoffs with everything you do. What we’re focused on now is setting up the right kind of steering committee that can provide governance, inspection, decision making, without being a ton of bureaucracy and making sure that we have the right people there and for the right deals.

Some deals don’t need a steering committee, if it’s too small and there’s not going to be a lot to talk about every month. We’re just not going to do it, but if it’s important enough to do, everyone needs to make a commitment and that’s where we’re going to drive accountability, and make sure we have the right folks there.

We’re doing okay on that. It’s better than sending out dashboards that are out of date and unintelligible or we can’t really tell what’s going on. So we’re forcing people to have a conversation and building the expectation that this is going to be the nexus of accountability for these deals. That’s what we’re doing now. 

We’ve been in early signs of success. You don’t have the full playbook built out, but it’s best practice and you need to have some kind of written-down governance people can rely on and become accustomed to.

Success metrics

We generally have the standard success metrics. Ones that most folks have. Some sort of topline, customer or go-to-market type thing. Some product type goals, people goals, integration goals. Those are the main buckets that we’ll look at, and then we’ll pick and choose what’s relevant.

What we're trying to get to now, and this is one of the evolutions we're working on, is making them less of a report card that comes out at the end of the quarter, where you get to see if they performed red or yellow or green. And then you have arguments whether it's 89% red or yellow or whatever. By the time everyone sees it, it's out of date, and everyone sort of knows about it anyway. 

In making the steering committee, people are really looking at the tracking of the efforts, whatever it is, whether it's top line or product or whatever is most important and more importantly, the forecast and are we on track? So having the time to make decisions that can impact their trajectory versus just saying if we do well or not. 

We'll always have some element of the backward looking. We have to say how we did last quarter, but there's not that much you can do with that, except either pat people on the back or make them feel bad.

I'm much more interested in the conversations that have a view on the forecast and what we can do going forward. So we're trying to make them more forward and backward looking, drive the right kind of conversations, and it's been sort of the same as the steering committees.

We're seeing success so far. We're not done, but we've seen it driving the right kind of behavior and engagement with folks, which is really kind of the biggest thing I was looking to achieve. 

Retaining deal learnings

We do post mortems and we try to share everything with the teams. We're getting back to documenting playbooks and trying to have more stuff documented that we can then go back and look and say:

  • Did we change this? 
  • Did we do what we said we were going to do? 
  • Are we on track or not?

But no, I probably don't have a silver bullet for how you get everybody baked into what you do. Some of it comes down to just pattern recognition and being part of these things for over years and being able to raise your hand and maybe have an uncomfortable conversation that maybe we’re doing the wrong thing here or we're on the wrong track or we really need to think about what's doing this a different way.

I advocate for my team, and I try to model this behavior of throwing ourselves in front of the train. The deals can take on a momentum of their own, and so can the integration plans, and the other pieces. And if we don't raise a voice or make a point, maybe no one else will.

So, I try to do that and bring that forward and make that part of what everyone feels comfortable doing. Not everyone has access to the brake handle on the train, but at least it probably has an impact. 

The hiring process

I haven't hired anyone yet this year, but hopefully I will. For the junior people, we still do look at that. The experience you get as a junior banker, as an analyst, or an associate around just the stuff that we need to be able to do: models and comps and company comparisons and decks and all those sorts of things. 

We've hired people that don't come from the core M&A banking background and you can train some of that stuff. But anyway, it's a steep learning curve if you have none of that experience and especially given that most analysts do two years of work more or less in the year they're there, so they're well trained. We tend to focus on that. I'm less worried about that. 

For the more senior people they need to be able to interact with directors or with executives, operate with indirect authority and ambiguity. They need to handle those. Those are the skills that they need to be able to handle. They need to be effective advocates and ambassadors for auditors externally to different folks. So those are the things that are that are more important, but for now, both of my deal directors are ex bankers. That's where it is. 

We do use consultants from time to time, certainly in some of the functions, in particular. Across the integration team more broadly at Autodesk, we have a mix. We have some people that just grew up in Autodesk and they're functional experts and now this is what they do.

We have some people that have done this at other companies. They've hopped around and so they’ve become more of an integration or an M& A expert. And there's pluses and minuses to both of those pieces. 

The skill I'm trying to hire for now is what I talked about. You need to embrace this strategic advisor, concierge mindset to the executive. Your job is to help shepherd this thing from A to B and to help lead the team to help them. 

Some integration functions come in and say, well, here's the checklist, tell us when you're done. And if you're not on track, we'll report you as red. And that's not what we're looking for. The teams need to come say, here's where you need to get to. Here's where you are. And here's the roadmap to do that. We're going to help you. We're not going to do all your work. We're not going to solve every problem for you, but we are not going to let you spin. We're not going to force you to chase your tail around. You're going to know what's going on and we'll escalate when we have stuff that we need to talk about. 

So embracing that strategic advisor mindset and that kind of “concierge mindset”, but helping them get there. We're not going to solve all your problems, but we're going to make it explicit so that you're not wondering what's going on and we'll get decisions more quickly. 

That’s an integration lead. That's a functional lead that can do that role within their function. If you're on the finance side, here's where this is and here's where we're going to be fully integrated and all these systems retired, and here's how we're going to get there.

The role of the integration management person, the person that's running an integration, is to help synthesize all of those issues up in a way that the executives can understand and that they can help them make decisions on what's important, what's not important. How should they trade these things off?

One of the things we hear a lot, because I had no idea that this decision was made, it comes up later that this is a huge problem or it's an issue. And someone down in my team, they never heard about it. No one else heard about it. We have to figure out what those are and do a better job of shining a light on them. 

Lessons learned

Another lesson I’ve learned, it's more personal than anything else. I wish I had been more outspoken and aggressive when I was younger and more junior. It was not in my demeanor. And now you get older, you don't care as much. You just get much more comfortable.

I wish I hadn't been as nervous and I had been willing to call more BS when I saw it. People appreciate a point of view. Don't be obnoxious and respectful with it, but I wish I had done more of that and got more comfortable with it earlier.

That's one big personal thing that I try to instill on my team as well. You have to have a point of view. If you don't like what we're doing, tell us what the alternative is and why it makes sense. A lot of times they don't have an answer for that, so they need to have an answer for that. That's one piece. 

The other thing I would say is just be out there, be external. To me, the piece that kept it most exciting for me was getting away from just doing deals that people told me to do and getting out there, talking to companies, talking to investors, bringing that external point of view back inside the company, and be out there and talking and building your network and having something useful to say, but being out there regularly.

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