Project Management Best Practices for Mergers & Acquisitions

August 27, 2018by Nate Nead0

According to Thomson Reuters, there have been over 40,000 business deals that involved a change in ownership in the last year. However, many of these deals ended up failing, which begs the questions: How well are they being monitored and executed? Are they planned with the best possible project management practices? Have risks been properly identified? Does the project team understand their roles and understand the importance of leadership?

Before managing any M&A project, these are all questions worth considering. Read on to learn more about how executives can apply best project management practices to ensure a successful M&A transformation, and closing the deal.

Ask Clarifying Questions. During the initiation phase of the M&A project, it’s important to ask some clarifying questions to accurately capture of the scope of the project. For example, what problem will a merger solve for an organization? Which opportunity is the organization seeking? Will a merger create the most value for the organization and its stakeholders?

Asking these types of open-ended questions will not only ensure understanding of the project scope, but they can aid executive teams in determining if a particular merger is worth the organization’s time, money, and resources.

Look at the Big Picture. An executive project team should spend some serious time “soul searching” to identify reasons for proceeding with a merger and to look at the big picture. For example, executing a merger will likely spark smaller sub-projects within the organization.

Although M&A projects are often managed as larger programs, sub-projects can add a complex layer involving multiple departments and functional areas within the organization. To ensure successful execution, project teams must look at how the merger will impact the organization as a whole.

Estimate, estimate, estimate. During the planning stage of an M&A project, applying the best practices for scheduling, resource allocation, and estimating are all key. These steps should be done prior to communicating the merger plan to the organization.

Define a high-level, large-scale plan, then estimate costs accordingly and form contingency plans and contingency funds based on the details and information gathered during the initiation phase of the project.

Determine Authority and Sponsorship. Every M&A project requires securing approvals for proposals, work breakdown structures, costs and budgets and change requests.

However, securing approvals when needed can also create a time suck and bottle neck in a project. To avoid running into a schedule constraint, identify the authoritative figures and sponsors in the beginning of the project, such as the CEO or a Board of Directors.

Allocate Resources. Every project requires people and talent; money; time; leadership support; and materials, tools, and/ or technology. This is an area where many M&A projects go awry. One of the biggest challenges in managing an M&A project is defining and allocating sufficient resources. Identify and allocate these resources to the M&A project during the planning phase to mitigate the risk of experiencing a shortage of resources and/ or cost overruns during the execution of the project.

Call on Monte and Murphy. We all know the concept of “Murphy’s Law”. The Monte Carlo simulation is a quantitative analysis technique used in project management that can help executive project teams identify and analyze the probability of risks related to the M&A, and create contingency plans and contingency funds based on this risk analysis.

Consider Your Stakeholders. Every organization has internal and external customers and stakeholders. While managing an M&A project, communication is key, and is also one of the greatest programmatic risks. A good project manager should spend approximately 60 to 80 percent of his or her time communicating project mission and updates accordingly to internal teams and stakeholders, and host project status meetings as often as necessary.

Integrate a Measurement System. Once a project has been properly planned and executed, the executive project team must then integrate a measurement system to effectively monitor and control the outcome and output of project tasks and activities, and measure performance. For example, this is often done with a Balanced Scorecard.

Plan a Project Launch Day. Finally, when an executive project team has finished the initiation and planning phases, now it’s time to plan a “project launch day” for the M&A once the agreement is officially signed. This will be a date when plans for the merger are communicated to the organization as well as to external customers and stakeholders, and the tasks and activities planned for the M&A implementation are carried out.

After spending months or even years planning and preparing for the launch of an M&A, it’s important for executive project teams to remember that the M&A project launch is only the beginning.

However, by applying best project management practices throughout the deal lifecycle, project teams can not only ensure the successful launch of a merger or acquisition project, but also a successful outcome.

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is a licensed investment banker with Four Points Capital Partners, LLC and Principal at Nead, LLC. Nate works with middle-market corporate clients looking to acquire, sell, divest or raise growth capital from qualified buyers and institutional investors. Four Points Capital Partners, LLC is a member of FINRA and SIPC and registered with the SEC. Nate resides in Seattle, Washington.

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