As the global economy slowly gathers steam and merger-and-acquisition activity returns to pre-crisis levels, the crucial role of information technology in merger integration is worth underscoring. Successful IT integration requires that technology leaders balance their resources among three priorities, each of which carries risks and benefits for the whole organization. First, IT departments are tasked with “keeping the lights on,” or ensuring business-as-usual operations during the integration process. Second, they must combine the IT departments of merging companies, often with the aim of reducing costs or recognizing other synergies. Finally — and most important — they must provide IT support for integrating all business units while establishing an end-state architecture for the long-term business objectives of the company in its new iteration.
Balancing these priorities requires regular communication between technology leaders and management, starting as early as possible in the merger process, so that IT departments understand the strategic goals behind a potential deal and can prepare to support those goals. IT and business leaders must undertake a deliberate planning process in order to develop a realistic, detailed road map for the many steps in IT integration — within the IT department and throughout the rest of the company — along with the optimum sequencing of those steps. Fundamentally, this close partnership and communication between business units and IT leadership requires a strong governance structure.