Data Management and M&A: A Guide for Smooth Transitions

Lucas Hayden
Posted on: 05/30/24
Written by: Lucas Hayden

Rapid growth through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can be common, particularly during periods of high optimism and competition. However, this growth path may spark unique data management hurdles. To ensure a smooth transition, it is essential to map out a data management strategy that sustains your business now and in the future.

The latest AEC Inspire Report from Unanet highlights a direct connection between profit, win rates, talent retention (i.e. growth), and a tech-centered approach to doing business.

In this compact guide, I’ll sort out the potential data management issues you could encounter during M&A and how to effectively manage them to ensure a seamless and efficient transition.

Consolidation

When a merger or acquisition occurs, leaders are confronted with the crucial choice of either merging data and systems or keeping them separate.

This isn't a straightforward decision – the ideal solution is contingent on your unique situation.

Consolidation brings with it enhanced efficiencies and profound insights into business operation throughout your project lifecycle. For instance, tracking pipeline and relationship data from a single source across your business and disciplines can ensure teams have everything they need to pursue the best projects for your firm.

Maintaining separate, isolated systems introduces efficiency drawbacks, reporting challenges and can promote siloed operations.

Whether embarking on your first M&A transaction or if you are a seasoned veteran, here are some tips to help guide the conversation.

  • Ensure your IT teams are prepared to manage all existing and/or new systems. If you already have a strong infrastructure and intend to shift the newly acquired company onto it, provide your teams with the necessary resources for flawless integration.

  • Integrate your business applications. Do your current or soon-to-be-acquired systems integrate seamlessly within your existing tech stack? If not, merging them into a more readily integrated ecosystem might be beneficial.

  • Prepare your data for insights. Make sure you have a thorough inventory of the data that exists across your business applications and that you can easily graft it into your reporting strategy.

  • Create an ecosystem of tools that support repeatable automated processes.

The key is to involve all parties affected in the decision-making process. Once decided, communicate it transparently and detail any new processes moving forward.

Accounting

Compatibility of accounting and business policies is another critical factor that requires close examination. Everything from the basic blocking and tackling of AR/AP to the more robust processes involved in project accounting, job costing, and revenue recognition should be well reviewed and optimized for making business easy.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can help facilitate and streamline many of these core operations. Working with a solution built specifically for AEC can also give you a great head start.

Key accounting questions to contemplate include:

  • Fiscal year. Is the firm you're acquiring operating on the same fiscal year – and what are the challenges in aligning their accounting systems and practices with yours?

  • Chart of accounts. Will the incoming company continue using its existing chart of accounts? This might seem in the weeds, but it is paramount from a reporting perspective.

  • Reporting and analytics. What are your reporting needs? Will you need to run consolidated financial statements, etc.? Your measurements of success have a drastic impact on how you structure your systems and processes.

  • Cross-charging. How will you arrange your organization from a project perspective? Will employees from the acquired company work on projects managed by your existing firm? If so, what will impact your business processes like time tracking, expense, and billing? Regardless, you need to ensure your environment has the appropriate controls in place to keep your business processes risk-free and error-free.

Redundancy

M&A often introduces redundancies in business systems, accounting practices and processes across the organization. Ensure to carry out a comprehensive evaluation to look for synergies and efficiencies. Document known redundancies during your evaluation and design a plan to address them.

Don't hesitate to learn and enhance your business processes based on the insights gleaned from the firm you're acquiring. This will mitigate disruptions and steep learning curves associated with acquisition, thus aiding in discussions about data management and system consolidation.

Data Migration

Decisions on how, when, and where your acquired data should be moved are integral to any system consolidation and integration process. Proper attention should be given to data migration during M&A. A thorough data migration strategy guarantees a smooth and secure transition of crucial information. Contacts, projects, opportunities, and bill/cost/OH rates are all examples of the type of data that should be evaluated. Within your evaluation you also need to consider any impact to ongoing compliance with applicable industry regulations. By taking the time to work through these areas, firms can ensure that high-quality and current information is always accessible for decision-making.

Resources

Lastly, ensure all employees can access the necessary information they need to succeed during M&A. Equip your staff with the tools required to manage their projects – and related data - effectively. By offering employees real-time access to vital information, A/E firms can ensure smooth and cost-efficient operations during the merging or acquisition of new firms.

In the end, comprehending the potential data challenges linked with M&A is crucial for successful growth amidst a highly competitive environment. Some best practices include:

  • Consider how you will consolidate your acquired systems and data

  • Audit your current accounting practices and procedures to optimize business operations during and after the transaction

  • Leverage an industry-specific ERP system

  • Develop a clear strategy for data management

  • Equip employees with the information they need to be successful

  • By grasping the potential data management challenges in M&A processes, AEC leaders can mitigate risk and optimize success for achieving scalable, sustainable growth.

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