Mergers & Acquisitions: The Project Management Essentials

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Strong project management is crucial for mergers and acquisitions, according to Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez of CIO. A project manager’s skills and the expertise of his or her team can mean the difference between a smooth, successful business integration or a failure.

Shaking hands in a meeting

Learn more about the essentials of project management during mergers and acquisitions:

Be Selective About Projects

Nieto-Rodriguez noted that while mergers and acquisitions are usually managed as large programs, these programs can encompass numerous smaller projects. He states that it’s not uncommon for a thousand projects to come from a single business integration effort.

So many projects are very difficult to manage, so Nieto-Rodriguez encourages business leaders to be selective. Consider what projects represent the best use of your current and future financial and personnel resources and focus on these jobs.

Utilize People With Project Management Skills

In its white paper “Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions: Frequently Asked Questions,” global consulting firm Protiviti stressed the importance of utilizing people with project management skills in the business integration process. It notes that the project management office and its functional teams should include employees with strong project management skills.

James Snyder of RSM Consulting Pros says businesses should give prominent roles to employees from both organizations involved in a merger or acquisition. This ensures employees from both businesses feel their firms are represented and valued during the transition process.

Protiviti says people involved at the project management office and functional team levels should have a dedicated focus on the business integration processes until they are complete. This organization believes integration project management requires complete focus and a great deal of time, especially in the early stages of a merger or acquisition. Workers involved in business integration shouldn’t need to juggle the tasks involved in this process with other professional duties.

If you do not have people with project management qualifications or experience in your organizations, or the time needed to invest in a merger or acquisition, Protiviti recommends supplementing your team with third-party project management consultants.

Members of sub-teams can have more limited formal project management skills, as their roles are not as critical to the success or failure of a merger or acquisition. They may also learn project management skills from members of the functional teams during the business integration process.

Create a Plan and Execute It

James Snyder, writing for RSM Consulting Pros, stresses the importance of developing a plan for business integration and then executing it. Sticking to a well-thought-out plan, Snyder says, “can make the difference between realizing the intended synergies and failing to create value.”

He recommends creating individual work stream checklists for each employee involved in the business integration process. These checklists should identify the work each employee needs to complete for successful integration and when this work should be delivered. Including deadlines helps project managers measure and monitor the progress of their teams during the business integration process.

Be realistic when establishing your deadlines and anticipate that some problems may arise. Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez of CIO says most projects take longer to complete than anticipated. He suggests using prior experience to develop a more realistic deadline. For example, if comparable work has previously taken twice as long as anticipated, double the length of time you’re allowing for it.

In addition, Snyder recommends developing a communication plan. Clear communication is crucial during a merger or acquisition, as communications and content marketing strategist Sobia Siddiqui noted in her paper “The Importance of Effective Communications During a Merger or Acquisition.” A communication plan will help the team directly involved with a merger or acquisition communicate their progress to other employees, company stakeholders, the media, and members of the public.

Protiviti encourages all people involved in a merger or acquisition to use a common project planning language. Using clear language understood by all members of the team will improve communication and efficiency during business integration projects. Protiviti says project managers should spend time teaching their teams the language through the use of support materials and training initiatives.

Take a Linear Approach

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez of CIO encourages project managers to take a linear approach to any business integration project or subproject. To do this, you should define the project’s start and end points, as well as key milestones in between. Once these points are defined, a timeline with clear deadlines can be developed.

Nieto-Rodriguez encourages project managers to use best practices for project estimation when developing deadlines. Develop a top-down, high-level plan and alter it after considering a comprehensive bottom-up estimation based on your project plans. Communicate the deadlines clearly to employees in both organizations so they can focus their efforts on meeting them.

Use Project Management Software to Improve Efficiency

Protiviti recommends that project management offices coordinate the implementation of standardized project management software during an acquisition or merger. Its use may vary from team to team. Employees at the project management office level are likely to rely heavily on software, while workers in sub-teams may not need such technological support.

Businesses may benefit from using project management software already used within their organization. This ensures workers can quickly operate programs efficiently, without the need for additional training. Alternatively, businesses may decide to use a program like Microsoft Project. As most workers are familiar with Microsoft’s suite of programs, employees should find using the new software intuitive.

Protiviti says other familiar programs like Microsoft Excel and Microsoft SharePoint may supplement businesses’ project management software. Companies can use Microsoft Excel to capture basic business data and Microsoft SharePoint for creating and sharing task lists and workflow documents. These solutions may be preferable for companies whose workers are not already familiar with project management software tools.

If you want to improve your project management skills for more successful mergers and acquisitions, consider pursuing an online project management degree from New England College — Master of Science in Management – Project Management Online degree program.


Value of project management for mergers and acquisitions