Sentiment analysis: What do people really think?
The ability to capture and analyze unstructured data to identify patterns has increased in recent years. Artificial intelligence-powered tools such as natural language processing can pull common themes, key trends and other valuable insight from massive amounts of information that otherwise would be labor-intensive to review. This can include consumer reviews of companies and their products and services, employee comments on companies and management and other collections of text that could better inform companies on how they’re viewed by stakeholders.
Cyber due diligence: Get ahead of data risks
Companies need to incorporate cybersecurity and privacy issues into their assessment of any M&A target. Between a deal's announcement and closing, an acquirer has to assess the cyber capabilities of the target, its vulnerabilities and how they can impact operations, customers and ultimately the transaction value. Key risk indicators include the resiliency of a company’s IT operations and which parts are in danger of attack, the amount and nature of customer data a company has, what data is most sensitive and valuable and how well it is protected. Having the right talent with experience in these and other cyber issues is crucial.
Communications strategy: From leaders to the front line
Announcing the deal is just the beginning—a comprehensive communications strategy ensures key audiences, including customers, will understand and appreciate how the transition is going. Communication is a stabilizer, and this is crucial after Day One of the new, combined entity, when integration begins in earnest and the parts of the two companies come together. To ensure customers aren’t left wondering, M&A communications should include both broad outreach on the company brand and specific messaging on opportunities resulting from the transaction, articulated by customer-facing employees.
Integration management office: Building a new ecosystem
Many companies have experience in creating a central project management office (PMO) for major initiatives. However, a merger or acquisition, especially one that transforms a company, is more than a “project.” An integration management office (IMO) converts the integration strategy into actions by aligning people, processes and systems with M&A objectives. An IMO can provide both discipline and flexibility to adapt to a transaction’s unique circumstances and evolving needs. Coordinating activities across teams in both companies pays dividends—not only with employees of the combined organization but also customers, who will then see a smoother transition.
Test and learn: Include customers on the journey
M&A is often a big investment with big expectations. It makes sense to consider investing time to go deeper with consumers on what they’re concerned about and would appreciate as the company evolves. Whether it’s through an IMO or another process, surveys, focus groups and pilot programs can yield useful insight on a small level that can better guide the larger transition.