Bobbi is SVP, Software Engineering at Loopio. She is a technology leader with over 25 years of diverse experience in the industry.
After a merger and acquisition (M&A) deal closes, everyone takes a deep sigh of relief and reaches for a glass of champagne. It is time to celebrate.
M&As can be difficult. There are so many business challenges leading up to the completion of an acquisition, and the difficulty isn’t over once the integration begins. That’s why it’s unsurprising that many companies often find themselves with two different engineering departments functioning independently under one company umbrella. Sometimes, it is a deliberate strategic decision that’s celebrated. Oftentimes, however, it is an unfortunate oversight.
Since engineering is intimately involved after the acquisition closes, typically leading the integration and operation of the acquired offering, the integration of two engineering teams needs to be thoughtful and purposeful. The solution centers on people working well together, common rituals and goals and psychological safety guarded by common values.
A thoughtful integration strategy will accelerate the implementation plan.
While closing an acquisition is a time-consuming and complicated process, it is important to carve out the time to dream of the life after.
An engineering leader needs to always be a step ahead, thinking through the team integration process that will set them up for success. A well-detailed integration strategy is invaluable when the transaction goes through, as this enables the communication to go smoothly and the process to start quickly.
Two critical aspects worth considering during an integration are the combined team organizational structure and leadership roles as well as the communication strategy for cultural integration. The latter by itself deserves special attention because, ultimately, the mark of a successful company comes down to people working together, a common goal, a set of values and creating personal relationships.
An acquisition defines a new era for both companies, and this is the time when people are open to change in anticipation of a new working environment. There is a sense of excitement mixed with insecurity. This is the time to lead with vision and strategy. This is the time to describe the future in broad strokes and allow people to find their place in the picture. Prompt communication, taking the right steps, and executing according to the laid-out strategy with urgency and purpose can create trust and remove any sense of uncertainty.
Leaders should facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration.
Everyone knows it is important to encourage collaboration and personal connections. It is easy to get people behind this idea, but it is much more difficult to make this happen.
People continue collaborating within their own circles and strive to accomplish their daily tasks. Extending a helping hand or reaching out with introductions becomes an additional ask that they struggle to get to. One way to make this happen naturally is by establishing structures that encourage and even drive this collaboration and connection.
Good examples include the creation of tech guilds for the engineering organization. Tech guilds are well-adopted grassroots structures within engineering departments that include developers who work on different teams but have a common skill set. Establishing tech guilds and setting mutually agreed-upon and beneficial goals is an effective way to get people to exchange ideas and knowledge.
Other structures to consider include common team rituals like stand-ups, sprint demos or simple chat rooms for collaboration. It is best if companies adopt multiple methods and structures to create goodwill and drive personal relationships that naturally lead to a cohesive culture.
Begin projects with members from both teams and establish common goals.
A move that yields good results in many companies is starting common projects or integration teams. Platform integration is often a requirement and might also be a driver for an acquisition, but it is also important to view it from a people integration perspective. People are working shoulder to shoulder on integration engineering tasks united by a common goal. These tasks might include common architecture, common infrastructure, common components or others.
Whatever the mission of the integration team might be, these common initiatives create lasting bonds. Allowing people to celebrate accomplishments together can help reinforce a cohesive culture and values.
M&A has the potential to create transformational value for a company. Taking the right steps after the transaction is completed unlocks that value and positions the company for accelerated growth. However, finding the right way to address integrating the engineering team is tricky, time-consuming and influenced by many factors.
Being familiar with best practices and starting with the desired outcome in mind helps position the engineering team for success. Having a well-thought-out strategy starting early, defining common structures that drive collaboration, and kicking off integration projects will help achieve the picture of success that was defined and provide extra time to make that happen.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?