Mergers and acquisitions provide one avenue for organizations to grow via synergistic gains, strategic positioning and diversification. Even with an abundance of M&A activity, research shows that mergers are prone to fail at the business process and information integration levels—seemingly before the ink has even dried. The success of a merger can be greatly enhanced when business processes are integrated and information is seamlessly unified by gathering it from both organizations, analyzing it, establishing clusters of semantically similar information and finding common patterns. Cognitive search and analytics technologies can provide the necessary capabilities to accomplish all of this, helping amplify the expertise of both organizations involved in a merger and acquisition initiative and significantly increasing the odds of success.
Anatomy Of A Sucessful Merger
Let’s envision how this impacts the relevant stakeholders. At the outset, amplifying expertise means establishing unified access to information from both organizations and beyond. Users can leverage machine learning algorithms to explore and navigate this information. For example, the clustering algorithm groups documents into topically-related clusters by analyzing the content and metadata. This is very useful for topical navigation and helps stakeholders identify similar documents based on named entities within the content. Automated classification is another useful technique for unifying information and improving navigability. In certain circumstances such as when classification rules do not exist but a properly classified sample set of content does, a classification by example algorithm can automatically create a model from the sample set, which can subsequently be applied across the combined set of content from both organizations to further enhance findability for stakeholders.
Machine learning algorithms can also help match experts with other experts as well as relevant documents across the consolidating organizations. This is done dynamically by analyzing what people write and collaborate about to compute user profiles, which are subsequently analyzed to compute “peer groups” that connect stakeholders with similar interests and expertise across the consolidating enterprise. With these peer groups established, experts can be more effectively presented with relevant content using a collaborative filtering technique that compares preferred content across the peer group and surfaces valuable content to members of the peer group who have not previously been exposed to it.
As you can see, amplifying expertise in this way facilitates smart information sharing across the consolidating enterprise. Usually a lack of sophisticated security controls impedes greater openness between consolidating entities. A search-based application, however, respects existing security profiles—making it easier to merge infrastructures securely.
Amplifying expertise also helps to identify areas of risk and to solve outstanding issues before financial consequences occur. For example, risks could include content containing personally identifiable information (PII) or content with no security associated. This is done by employing text-mining agents (TMAs), which provide out-of-the-box, rules-based capabilities to extract elements from unstructured text. TMAs can be configured to incorporate terms and phrases specific to any part of the business.
Expertise amplification enables a quick, seamless and successful consolidation of organizations. Typically, in a large enterprise this is done as a series of search-based applications (SBAs) that each pull from a unified information corpus, which is essentially a central cache of unified information. SBAs are preferable for amplifying expertise since they leave the data in place and do not require expensive and time-consuming data migration efforts. In the next sections, we will look at specific areas of the business that typically benefit the most from this approach.
Sales and Marketing
Once initial hurdles are cleared, the organization must move quickly to combine sales and marketing activities, sales methodologies, pipelines and channels to drive revenue in the field and promote up-selling and cross-selling into new and existing market segments. The organization wants to minimize any potential lapse in the sales cycle for the newly merged company. By focusing on amplifying expertise, sales teams are immediately equipped with a single global access point to relevant, real-time and insightful information on products and customers—sales and customer notes, sales processes, product information and sales training are all immediately accessible. As previously mentioned, this is typically done using a dedicated SBA.
An SBA for sales and marketing could provide unified access to the separate CRM systems and allow for the addition of shared content. As a result, no sales note, customer quirk or prospect is lost during consolidation. An SBA also offers the ability to push alerts and notifications out to users. As sales representatives learn about new products, the SBA provides unified access to new marketing materials, sales process documentation, research documents and news articles to assist in training and ensure that they are effectively representing the newly expanded product line. Often when a merger occurs, customers know more about the products from the other company than the sales reps. Amplification of sales expertise can empower and unify a sales team to competently and confidently sell the acquired products and services.
Finance, Acounting and Human Resources
Finance, accounting and human resources are other key departments that need to be unified. A dedicated SBA provides a complete and consolidated access to information from the disparate ERP systems. By providing administrators and content curators with the visibility across the enterprise, all documentation from both parties related to the merger can be managed effectively and securely. Multiple IT systems and finance systems always increase the complexity of a merger. Organizations acquiring a large IT infrastructure need to identify the systems acquired and the value of the data in these systems.
Amplifying the expertise hidden in these systems yields essential visibility and helps to expose any redundant or unused systems that might be eliminated. For example, stakeholders are able to monitor and analyze usage of underlying repositories and applications to show what sources are being used less frequently. Some organizations have even been able to standardize and eliminate the need for multiple search applications. In other cases, the approach works as a stop gap providing access to legacy systems that should be migrated, thereby reducing the cost of forcing an immediate migration.
Research and Development
The cost of R&D increases when multiple teams unknowingly work on solutions to the same problems or fail to recognize and utilize the work done in past research. A focus on amplifying R&D expertise accurately combines research data from the consolidating organizations and provides users real-time access and less duplication of content, effort and sometimes entire projects. In these cases, expertise is amplified by connecting experts working in the same subject area.
Sometimes a key driver in a merger or acquisition is gaining access to intellectual property, which often includes the expertise of the other organization’s knowledge workers. Some search capabilities give employees from each organization the ability to discover the most knowledgeable people on a variety of topics, to view their profiles and to find associated information. This accelerates R&D discovery by enabling users to navigate information in clusters—leveraging the machine learning algorithm—and by content refinements.
This approach enables users to find past research and hidden relationships—including relationships with external experts with whom both companies have collaborated in the past—that would have otherwise been missed, thereby increasing speed-to-market.
The organization is also able to gain greater market share by leveraging and optimizing the information acquired instead of simply discarding projects in progress. One of the key drivers in a merger is the ability to retain and share as much knowledge as possible. Amplifying expertise by connecting experts can spawn greater innovation in the newly expanded R&D department almost immediately.
Expertise amplification facilitates information transparency and communication across the entire enterprise, minimizing disruptions while integrating teams and departments during mergers and acquisitions. Applying this approach effectively operationalizes the information access, speed and control needed to ensure long-term success for the newly formed organization.