Recently we’ve been having a lot of conversations with companies that operate on the strategy of growth by acquisition. They span various industries. Property management, skilled nursing, assisted living, and most recently volleyball clubs. Regardless of the business vertical they are all buying new properties/facilities/clubs to fuel their growth. With that comes some potentially unique IT challenges.
The IT challenges you’ll face when growing by acquisition revolve around supporting multiple different systems for IT. Maybe the business you acquired uses a different email platform than you do. Perhaps they have different accounting software, or a different way to share files. There’s an almost unlimited list of things that could be structured differently.
This can present challenges for every part of the business. Accounting now must reconcile books in two or three, or ten different accounting systems. Reporting isn’t standardized in any of them, and things take MUCH longer to get done. This is a single example, but this kind of inefficiency can quickly start to show up across all departments and systems. If all systems are left as is after an acquisition, things can quickly get complicated and unusable.
In addition, it creates LOTS of challenges for your IT team as well. They are now required to support 10 different systems that have different system requirements, may run on different operating systems etc. They are also required to secure all those systems which may require separate solutions for each. It will take more time, more staff, and more money.
As you can see the complications are compounding with each site, and things quickly become untenable for the users and the IT staff alike. To avoid these difficulties new sites need to be brought into the fold and migrated to a company standard solution.
The solution to all these problems is to adopt standardized technology solutions for every new location. They should have the same hardware and software solutions as the corporate office and be unified in how they do business. The challenge is the initial migration to those solutions.
Changing out email, file sharing, accounting, and other systems is no mean feat. It can take a fair bit of IT knowhow and time to plan and execute these migrations depending on scale. Timeframes for acquisitions vary, but many of these objectives will frequently end up needing to be taken care of in a short amount of time. The right planning and execution on these projects contribute to the overall success of the acquisition.
The benefits of standardization are many. It allows a common user experience across all locations for the company and easier collaboration. Using common systems allows you to streamline your workflows and save time at every level. In addition, the technology stack that IT must support is significantly cut down. This allows IT to focus on standard systems, become subject matter experts, and deliver support more efficiently and cost effectively.
Site Rollout and Standard Operating Procedures
Once you have a standardized technology stack for use across the organization it’s time to start working on streamlining your acquisition rollouts. This is typically done by building out standard operating procedures (SOP) for a site rollout.
SOP will include guidelines for the configuration of all hardware and software. Also, a basic timeline that gives order of operations to what pieces get done first. These plans are typically built with your expected timelines in mind, with room for adjustment as needed.
IT Strategy for Growth by Acquisition – An example
We support a property management company that frequently buys new properties. Each property has a small rental office with 3-5 full time employees. They use a web-based software for rental management as well as Office 365 for email and SharePoint for file storage. Each site needs a firewall, switch, and wireless as well as several laptops. We typically know about a new site 60-90 days before acquisition. However, the actual implementation deadline is more like 48 hours.
To streamline this clients acquisitions we developed something we call a “network in a box”. That means that once we learn about a new site coming online, we purchase all needed hardware. It ships to our location, and we preconfigure all of it. We label each port on the firewall and color code cables so it’s clear how to connect it.
We gather all the of the user’s data. A few days before the acquisition we create accounts in Office 365 including email and SharePoint access. We also set up logins for all users to their rental management software.
The network in a box is shipped to the location a few days before the transition. On the day we call the user, have them unbox the equipment and walk them through plugging things in. We’ve worked to make the process simple so that they don’t have to be technical to set things up. They just need to work with us and follow simple instructions.
By using this methodology we’ve been able to streamline the manhours it takes to rollout a new site. The site can usually be up and running in just a few hours from unboxing to fully functional. We save this client time and money on every single IT acquisition.
Every Acquisition is Different
This is a simple example. Your organization may have very different needs. Its possible that the networks you need to take over and standardize are much larger and more complex than the example we discussed. In those cases, it’s even more important to have a solid SOP in place that you can replicate. Even if your sites vary enough that the plan needs to be modified every time, you can still enjoy time savings and increased efficiency by having an SOP.
Growing by acquisition can be challenging from an IT standpoint. Many companies don’t have the right IT staff to do the job, or partners that know how to execute at a high level.
i.t.NOW has been supporting clients that use the growth by acquisitions model for years across several industries. If you find yourself stressed with the IT planning and execution that needs to be done to support your organizations growth, give us a call. We can dive into your specific needs and discuss how to take the stress out of managing your IT both for your acquisition projects as well as for your ongoing support needs. We have an entire team of experts that is ready to help.