Are Two IT Departments Better Than One?

If you're fortunate, upper management has involved you in plans to acquire another company.

If youre fortunate, upper management has involved you in plans to acquire another company. This process—usually referred to as due diligence—gives you, as IT manager, a chance to learn about another companys environment and technology. As a result, youll be able to report to your companys management on a variety of areas, such as what type of effort might be required to merge the two technical environments or whether the acquired company needs a large-scale investment in technology to bring it up-to-date.

From an IT perspective, there are generally three ways to go about merging an IT environment. The paths all have their pluses and minuses, and your choice may also depend on your companys management style and available resources.

• Rip and replace. Rebuilding everything that isnt compatible with your environment can be the most painful but is often the fastest way of getting the two companies integrated. Dont attempt it without the requisite authority and mandate, along with the necessary budget and staffing resources. Expect a bumpy ride, culture clashes and staff turnover.

• Leave them alone. Your company may have bought this organization because its lean, fast-paced and profitable, so why tamper with success? In fact, your management may hope the parent becomes more like the adopted child and not vice versa. You may not need to do much more than add the acquired companys addresses to your e-mail system and establish some basic connectivity.

•Phased integration. Work with the IT director of the acquired company to set future milestone targets—each of which brings you closer to full integration. For example, the acquired company needs to replace Hewlett-Packards OpenMail, whereas you already have plans to convert from Notes to Exchange. An integrated Exchange environment becomes the common goal, but you take different paths to get there.

In all cases, it is important to remember that what may have been a best choice for one of the companies in the past may no longer be the best choice for the combined company. As an ex-boss of mine said, those who can demonstrate an ability to adapt to change will be the most successful.