How to Integrate IT Operations After a Merger

By Brian P. Watson  |  Posted 09-14-2007

Bringing companies together is something of a specialty for Patricia Morrison, who joined Motorola as executive vice president and CIO in 2005, following stints as the top IT executive for Office Depot and Quaker Oats. A key focus in each of these jobs has been integrating operations after mergers and acquisitions.

At Motorola, for example, Morrison has overseen the acquisitions of Symbol Technologies and Good Technology. She recently spoke with CIO Insight senior editor Brian P. Watson about her outlook on integration strategies, and the ways the communications equipment manufacturer uses its own technology to drive its business.

CIO Insight: Is it possible to have an overall strategy for M&A integration, or is each situation different?

Patricia Morrison: Most integration situations are similar, and you can have a strategy. I've seen it from many different angles and there are very consistent issues involved.

So what are the similarities?

You have to start with the two most important things. First, how do you make the acquired company feel like part of the acquirer? When it comes to the cultural integration, you always have what we call day-one issues, like getting them access to your e-mail systems and intranet.

Second, each acquisition is executed with a set of synergy expectations. They're often cost-related synergies but there are also revenue synergies. The hardest is revenue synergy. One of the more difficult questions is how you're going to go to market: Who will sell what? The faster you can get the sales force the information they need to understand the products they're selling, the faster you can get revenue synergy.

What about integrating systems and applications?

Those synergy commitments then drive what you do with IT. We're an Oracle shop at Motorola and Symbol is an SAP shop. That's irrelevant. The issue isn't for IT to say it'll be Oracle or SAP--it's getting the sales force the information they need to effectively serve the customer. [Shortly after the acquisition,] Symbol's sales team began to sell enterprise mobility products that were part of Motorola's product portfolio. The faster IT can get rid of all those barriers, the faster they can serve the customer.

So if there is such a thing as an integration strategy, how can other CIOs plot theirs?

First of all, most really good CIOs are going to understand project management. They need to think of [an acquisition] as a project. They need to insist on IT's early involvement, as soon as due diligence opens. Recognize that you may have to make adjustments to your current portfolio. Integrating a company will require you to stop other work. When we acquired Symbol, for example, the business leader for networks and enterprise and I made a joint decision to hold off on some projects. A lot of times, you sit and talk to the business [side], and they go through a lot of iterations. You can use business process management tools to help them understand the process. We've used a set of business process management environments that really help us in that dialogue.

You work for a mobility-focused company at a time when more businesses are focusing their mobility strategies. How does that affect your job?

It's a very, very huge part of what I do. What I love about my job here is that I get to live the brand every day. I get to utilize Motorola technology and influence its development: How do we think about apps that will be mobile? How do you take things like enterprise resource planning capabilities and deploy them in a mobile environment using portal technology? We're using a lot of Motorola technology here to enable this vision of how to keep people really productive in the reality of how they do their work. I'm actually a customer who sits at the senior leadership table every day.

What kind of practical implications does the mobile focus have at Motorola?

To enable that within my company, I need a toolset that's going to be flexible. That means it's got to be lightweight, and indestructible. And I have to know where all the tools are; I have to manage security very tightly and make sure they're as reliable as a wired environment.

Think of an environment where the Internet is completely over the air; that's what I have to enable for my enterprise. It's about flexibility: to really work from anywhere, anytime, and have access to anything you need.