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Mergers are hot again: Is your tech team prepared for post-deal integration?

By Jim Milde, executive vice president, Keane Inc.

Milde says IT can drive operational excellence. Photo: Keane

History shows that M&A deals during downturns yield better results. Boston Consulting, which analyzed over 400,000 deals from 1981 to 2008, recently concluded that “downturn deals create 14.5% more value for shareholders of the acquirer” than deals done during upturns. And they’re twice as likely to produce long-term returns of more than 50%.

That’s good news for companies that act now, especially if they are able to successfully execute complex business – and information technology integrations – to support their goals.

PepsiCo’s (PEP) $7.8 billion acquisition of its anchor bottling operations, announced in August, is a prime example of a company changing its business model in an effort to get more efficient and better serve customers. How? If done correctly, the acquisition will eliminate redundant support functions and streamline sales, marketing and supply chain operations.

I joined PepsiCo in 1999 when The Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG) was being divested from PepsiCo. I was fortunate enough to be the CIO of PBG from 1999 to 2002.

Setting bottlers free to make them more efficient

PBG was spun out as a separate public company to push the anchor bottlers (PBG and Whitman) to improving their operations. The strategy worked: During my tenure, PBG instituted standardized operating practices and made significant technology investments, all of which made the bottling company leaner and more efficient.

A decade later, beverage market is more mature, demand for the core product – sodas – has softened, and Pepsi now sees a chance to gain even more efficiencies by bringing its bottlers back into the fold in what basically amounts to a “reverse acquisition.”

The key to making this deal work will be the ability for PepsiCo to standardize various business processes across its new operations, while eliminating redundancy throughout the anchor bottlers and within PepsiCo.

And while this sounds like hard-core business operations, the information technology staff can be a huge ally as Pepsi undertakes the next step in a reverse acquisition – the reverse integration.

During my years in the “Pepsi System,” I was fortunate to work with world class operating executives, many of whom are still in the respective organizations today. I would suggest the following guiding principles to ensure a successful outcome

  • Ensure Senior Level Executive Support: It is critical to build executive support with all stakeholder to ensure the integration realizes all of the pre-defined acquisition business outcomes. Without senior executive level support throughout the entire integration initiative, business efficiencies will be under-realized and negatively affect customer satisfaction.

  • Involve Trading Partners Early in the Process: Involve all strategic vendors and customers as early as possible in the integration process. Processes such as accounts payable and accounts receivable must be seamlessly integrated with supplier and customer functions, respectively. The inability to align trading partner processes upfront in the integration process may result in cash flow inefficiencies that negatively impact the bottom line.
  • Create an Overall Program Management Office for Full Integration: Focus first on creating an overall program management office (PMO) to oversee all cross-functional integration activities. The PMO should be comprised of key executives from each business function within the organization, as well as strategic vendors and customers.

Jim Milde is executive vice president of Keane Inc., a Boston-based IT services firm. He has served as the chief information officer at PepsiCo, Inc., Pepsi Bottling and Sony Electronics.