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Microsoft-LinkedIn acquisition and the cultural difficulty of mergers and acquisitions

Mike Altendorf | July 7, 2016
Microsoft-LinkedIn acquisition and the cultural difficulty of M&As

But the issue of cultural goes much deeper than the difference between the technical and the non-technical. Digital businesses behave in a quite different way to non-digital businesses. And when I talk about digital businesses I am talking about those were designed, built and grown on digital platforms - businesses that have digital at the heart of their DNA. It is not just about the way they deliver services it is everything about them. Many of the businesses will have been built with agile principles at their core.

Their structures will be flat and their teams multi-discipline. They will collaborate across all disciples and all levels using digital platforms as the key infrastructure rather than siloed systems and applications and they will embrace and relish challenge and adventuring into the unknown, seeing it as the catalyst for innovation and growth rather than a risk to the business.

In my experience the biggest challenge for big companies seeking to acquire digitally native organisations is that they kill the very thing that they were hoping to capture. Often it is the agility, innovation and culture of these organisations that is attracting attention in the first place and yet in the rush to 'integrate' all of that can be crushed. Even if the culture and approach are secondary to a particular product or solution, the talent that produced it will be talent that you want to keep and it is highly unlikely to stick around if the culture changes significantly.

The critical thing here is that the importance of culture is all too often underestimated in the process of a merger or acquisition and actually, now more than ever, culture has a huge role to play in the value and success of a company. Physically the process might have become easier but culturally it has actually become much harder.

From a CIO's perspective this can become a bit of a headache. Digital companies come with a range of tools and techniques for encouraging innovation and collaboration and a culture that is built around their use. Instead of seeing these as a problem however, something adding more complexity to the existing infrastructure, they need to appreciate these systems are part of the fabric of the business. They are part of the value, not the cost and may even one day bring value to their company too.

Source: CIO UK


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