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02 April 2015

A merger is like a good marriage: it starts with getting to know each other

If you are aware of the change that a merger may bring about beforehand, you will not be faced with surprises afterwards. When two organisations, each with their own methods, have to become one, it is important to be fully aware of each other's wishes and requirements.

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A lot of time and attention is often devoted to bringing finances in line, to external communications, the consequences for members of staff and the legal implications. One aspect that does not get so much attention is facility management and real estate management. What, for instance, are the joint requirements or wishes in the fields of building maintenance and facilities?

Benefits of scale following a merger

The merger of organisations often has a big impact on the working method, particularly on supporting processes such as facility management and real estate management. Benefits of scale can be achieved by a merger, but this should not be to the detriment of the quality of the primary process. Supporting processes are geared to the primary process of an organisation: at a health care institution for instance, a patient should receive the best possible care, and members of staff need to be facilitated as well as possible in order for them to do their jobs.

It is interesting to see how processes within facility management and real estate management can be streamlined in such a way that the merger process runs smoothly in those areas too. A very common case is this: two facility organisations are merging and two IWMS systems have to be reduced to a single system. In some cases, they fit in nicely with each other, but in many more cases that is not so.

An eye for cultural differences

In order to facilitate the change, it is important for IT specialists to be aware of the cultural differences that exist. It is therefore very important to discuss the matter with both merger parties. Two existing working methods have to unite in a single ideology that is supported by the new organisation. It also means that existing processes sometimes have to be redesigned, so that they fit in with the new situation.

And that is a big challenge, because people are used to working in a certain way and it can often be difficult to change old habits. An existing working method is the result of the organisational developments, determined by history and culture. So what to do in the case of a merger: reinvent the wheel and try to create a new organisational culture, or learn from each other and combine the best of both worlds, allowing a new organisational culture to develop largely all by itself?

Know what is going on and be aware of each other's needs

I am all for the last option. How? Talk to all parties. Know what is going on at the organisations and find out what the needs are. What could be important for one person, for instance, may not have entered someone else's head. This is valuable input when redefining the processes. If that mountain has been conquered beforehand, it will be much easier for the IT specialists to implement changes. There is a reason for the motto: "Organisation before automation." A merger is merely an illustration of that.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands