In today’s enterprise and startup world there is quite a lot of activity around mergers and acquisitions. For better business synergies or for faster growth, companies are in a constant state of flux, associating in very many models. The success and smooth functioning of two combined entities not just depends on people compatibility but also on quick and seamless integration of IT systems
Even prior to the Merger or Acquisition it is essential that the topology of systems in place need to be studied and the quantum of work involved in executive an effective integration is a must for a successful performance of post merger ecosystem.
The effective risk assessment for any integration bottlenecks and identifying redundant systems performing the same functions in both units is key steps involved to not just prevent downtimes but also to improve efficiency of collaboration between teams.
The commitment towards the mitigation of the flux that come part and parcel of any disparate systems coming together is key objective of the management undertaking a merger or acquisition. There are instances when more that two business entities merge, in such cases the complexity increasing multi-fold.
A careful assessment of all the software assets involved and systematic integration planning and execution can lead to massive benefits instead of chaos. Most cases of M&A usually ends up affecting customer experience. The usual confusion about sudden UI changes also leads to erosion of customer confidence as they are used to a certain interface, even if the improvement is for the better.
Therefore instead of effecting any sudden changes to user experience, it is best to work on the lowest hanging apples. Get the backend systems to work smoothly with each other. An effective middleware which doesn’t depend on underlying systems can ensure integration without disruption of business.
When multiple entities come together usually there are different expertise, programming languages, database systems and platforms are involved. Especially when the organisations are large they do come with legacy systems and large ERP systems, so bringing them together especially when the nature of business of each entity is similar is quite a challenge.
In depth analysis and documentation of the underlying systems and getting all stakeholders together is an arduous but essential task during Integration planning.
Follow a playbook of successful prior M&A Integration can kickstart the process in the right direction. There is never a one size fits all model, so it is essential to keep the plan agile so that any tweaking and random surprises can be accommodated without affecting the outcomes.
Phased project execution planning with definite tangible milestones need to be defined as a blue print for the execution. Precise, transparent communication is foundation to effective results. Each team involved should follow the same goal not violating the direction which the integration is planned.
There are various tools and actions that can be performed based on the underlying systems. Lets explore some of the options that can be utilised to execute the integration
Middleware for Data Integration (ETL Tools)
One of the essential tools in any effective integration is to employ an ETL tool to get multiple systems to talk to each other without any re-engineering of those independent systems. There are various battle tested ETL tools that are available to execute an low code system integration. There are visual drag drop interfaces which can bring together, cleanse and modify data to be consumed from source to destination systems.
ETLs are quick and effective means to get things together, have systems talking to each other even when they are built with different languages, RDBMS, NO SQL or Services.
When massive loads of data has to be put together and modified to be consumed between two systems, like for example customer information which now need to exist in multiple entities while we are unifying the customer database can be effectively implemented by batch processing the data, so that it can be consumed by both systems.
Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)
Data when needs to be exchanged between systems real time, an ESB can be utilised. The difference between ESB and an event streaming tool such as Kafka is that the logic is centralised in ESB whereas Kafka is decoupled.
Either an ESB or Kafka implementation needs the source and destination system to be able to publish and consume the data streams. If the data has to be input directly to database then ESB implementation is more suitable. Also any business logic to be added can done so centrally without having to touch the actual systems.
So based on the flexibility and need for data reactivity a choice of ESB or Event streaming tools can be employed to create the integration.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
Where data is not accessible through direct connection to database, or the data structures lack clear documentation to be able to batch process and integrate, RPA bots come in handy to automate data extraction from interfaces either through assisted or unassisted processes.
RPA can be used to automate most time intensive process, cutting down any manual interventions needed. Selection of such bots to perform these automations can also be used post merger to cut any inefficiencies in systems achieving a better human resource utilisation.
Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Event Streaming, APIs & API Gateway
The newly created entity can have needs to consume or publish data from or to third party systems. Utilising existing SOAP services, Restful APIs or build new standalone micro-services, which back to back consume data through ESB or from existing applications can create an open system which scales better, while modernisation is being undertaken.
To ensure robust security and granular control over the apis being consumed or published an API gateway implementation helps scale the landscape as the company grows. The gateway can be positioned in cloud if the landscape ids already on the cloud or create a hybrid cloud environment extending the on-premise setups to cloud providers. This way the scalability, cost optimisation and feature benefits of cloud can be leveraged while changing the topology.
Circuit breakers for dependant systems
While multiple systems and being integrated building fault tolerance is essential. In the initial phase of integration there can be many unforeseen circumstances during which the connections may fail or systems become unresponsive.
The failures usually correct themselves after a short period of time, but a robust integration should be prepared to handle them by using a strategy such as the retry pattern. Building a proxy layer between the integration points can watch for failures and prevent traffic flow from affecting the consuming applications.
Modern micro-services are usually built with such circuit breaking capacity to mitigate failures and add fault tolerance and resilience.
Breaking Monoliths to micro-services
If the merging entities are having large monoliths, it might be a good opportunity to break them up where possible or build satellite applications which can take the load away from the core systems and enable to create a distributed environment. A careful system study and functional impact has to be assessed prior to undertaking any such re-engineering. Though distributed systems provide scaling, development, deployment and maintenance are much more complex in distributed applications. Abundant caution needs to be taken while attempting this challenge.
Unified Security systems and IDM
When both entities are brought together, the employees to be able to seamlessly access resources at both entities need to have a unified Identity management systems or SSO (Single Sign On). When the two IDMs are disparate in nature it is often difficult to port the identities to one of them or to consolidate them in one solution mostly due to different softwares being used or specific structures. To negate this issue a middleware application can be applied to check all IDM systems and get the required data back to the applications.
To get the various MIS with granularity across the newly created enterprise all data can be streamed or batch processed into an unified system to visualise data for executives to make apt decisions.
Consolidated Accounting and Finance
When entities are put together it only makes sense to be able to consolidate the revenues and expenditures and create a consolidated balance sheet and PNL. So if there are ERP or accounting systems in place which can create consolidated reporting, it can be leveraged to create the reports or an additional consolidation reporting tool can be applied on top of the existing systems to get the desired reporting.
As a final step redundant systems can be eliminated to reduce wasteful expenditure and maintenance. A consolidated study of systems in place yield opportunities for optimisation and system modernisation. While any system re-engineering is undertaken, the opportunity can be untilised to design or modernise applications such that they can scale as combined entities as well as be future ready for any new mergers in addition to the current one.
Post execution a through audit and evaluation of system integrity, regression issue fixes and stability, a through documentation and security audit report filing is mandatory to ensure we have stable, scalable and secure systems are in place.
A roadmap for modernisation, security patch management, audits, systems optimisation and technology governance and SOPs are key concluding elements of a well executed M&A IT Integration