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2/2/2011
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8 Reasons CIOs Must Walk Point On M&As*

*Even if it means eventually putting yourself out of a job.

3. Manage The Entire Project, Not Just The IT Angle

Don't stop at overseeing the technology part of the deal. Offer up project management for the entire transition. Think about it: IT teams are in a great spot to project manage the deal because they tend to have the most--sometimes the only--experience with project management systems, and they have a central view of all activity across the company.

"Adding a solid formal project management process is one of the most critical success factors for any acquisition," says Dan Abushanab, CIO of technology firm ATG, who has been part of four acquisitions during his tenure. ATG was itself acquired late last year by Oracle. For Oracle, ATG was the latest in a string of more than 75 acquisitions; the company has built up dedicated teams and processes over the years. ATG's acquisitions were on a smaller scale, but Abushanab says his structured methodologies and approaches were critical to their success.

Many CIOs will feel a bit queasy at the idea of offering up their project management teams to assist finance, human resources, even-gasp-sales, but it's a logical move. Even if some or all of those groups employ project managers, they will inevitably focus on their specific areas. Having a central project management team is key to finding hidden problems early, and finding and solving problems is what CIOs do.

IT is also comfortable dealing with outside vendors. More than 60% of us are already managing some level of outsourced talent, according to our most recent InformationWeek Analytics Outsourcing Survey. Finance and HR may work with the occasional auditor or consultant, but it's unlikely they have day-to-day experience with complex integrations that cover multiple vendors. Throw them a lifeline.

4. Think Virtual

Virtualization is your secret weapon. After the ink dries on an acquisition deal, there's normally a major project launched to consolidate data centers. If your company has already virtualized its systems, you have a significant integration advantage. Rather than dealing with the nasty task of moving servers, you have all the fluidity and flexibility of a virtual stack.

A recent acquisition by a U.S. insurance company took advantage of just this situation. Rather than attempt to move the acquired data center, the CIO deployed a team to create virtualized instances of core systems and bring them back to the main data center. The integration teams then worked on the virtualized servers while the legacy physical servers remained running. The final data cutover was done to the virtual servers, and the legacy center was shut down. No muss, no fuss.

Double bonus if the acquired company has virtualized as well.

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