Merger and acquisition integration can be a daunting challenge for IT – but one that can be made considerably easier through the use of virtual desktops.
For IT staffers, the process usually begins with rumors about a pending deal. These are likely to be played down by management trying to maintain a veil of secrecy.
Next comes a hurried exercise in integration estimation. The conversation might go something like this.
“I need to know how long it would take us to integrate another company’s IT systems into our environment.”
“How many apps? What platform do they run on? How much data is involved? Where are the users located?”
“I don’t know, and even if I did I would not be at liberty to disclose that information.”
“Uhhh … best case, let’s say 90 days.”
Finally there comes a major announcement, the deal is done, and the clock starts ticking.
The integration timeline SWAG becomes a hard requirement, with bonuses for the entire IT dependent on meeting what turns out to be a hopelessly optimistic date.
Options at this point include:
1. Heroic efforts involving cancellation of all vacations, mandatory nights and weekend work, and the hiring of a small army of contractors and consultants.
- Benefits include a clear sense of urgency.
- Drawbacks include widespread disorganization, staff burnout, and high costs.
2. Have the PMO create a project plan based on realistic estimates. The resulting timeline will probably be on the order of 6 – 9 months, and so will be rejected. But the point will have been made.
- Benefits include having a semi-fact-based document to justify why the original target was missed.
- Drawbacks include the likelihood that management will decide to keep staff from the acquired company when analyzing redundancies.
3. Attempt to run the acquired company as an independent operation, thereby obviating the need for integration.
- Benefits include reduced integration effort.
- Drawbacks include duplication of systems; difficulties in getting roll-up views of common metrics; and ongoing second-guessing about why the deal was done in the first place.
4. Find a technology solution to speed up the integration process (aka looking for a miracle). The good news is this last option is actually viable using virtualized desktops.
Most often people think of virtual desktops as replacements for physical machines. However, they can also be used to augment existing environments in much the same way that Citrix and Microsoft Terminal Services have been used for years to deliver special or problematic applications.
For the M&A integration use case, the acquiring company can set up a virtualized desktop environment that serves up key environments such as the company intranet and business critical apps.
Best of all, this can be done prior to the consummation of any agreement. Once the deal is finalized, users of the acquired company are simply given access to this virtual environment.
I have personal experience working with a large health care insurer that had acquired a claims processing company in a distant city. As is often the case, there was an integration deadline with severe financial penalties if it were missed.
In this instance, the acquiring company began by building out a virtualized desktop environment.
An icon was then placed on the desktops of the claims processors that launched a Remote Desktop Connection to a desktop virtual machine.
This gave the new workers rapid access the applications they needed to do their jobs. They viewed the virtual desktop as a simple extension of their existing environment.
Desktop as a Service (DaaS) Delivery Model
The process can be made even easier with a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) delivery model.
Rather than having to spin up a sizeable virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment, a company can use DaaS as a pay-as-you-go alternative.
In addition to being simpler and faster than the do-it-yourself approach, DaaS avoids large capital expenditure as well as the questions that would inevitably arise with a major VDI build out. Plus the predictable per-user costs provide an improved basis for the M&A financial analysis.
Whether built or bought, virtual desktops can deliver quick, secure access to necessary resources for employees of acquired companies.
Desktop virtualization can also buy much-needed time to plan out further integration activities without stress.
And once users are accustomed to the benefits of virtual desktops, they rarely want to go back to the old, noisy, unreliable space heaters that used to sit on their desks.