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Mergers and Acquisitions and Office 365

Introduction

Growth by acquisition is a common strategy in today’s business world.  Leveraging other businesses strength to enable growth can be game changing, but how do you ensure that that strength is leveraged as quickly as possible, especially if you need to integrate your Office 365 environments?  When combining smaller companies the integration may be accomplished with little technical or organizational complexity, and leveraging that strength may only require minimal change management and short duration.  However, when large enterprises engage in Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) activities, leveraging the intended strength is often more complex and longer in duration,  especially when migrating or integrating Office 365 environments.  

The following are 3 facts you should understand to ensure your M&A activities that involve Office 365 are successful.

Fact #1 – Merging Office 365 Tenants is Complex!

This may seem like the cover story of “Obvious Monthly” magazine, but the migration and business process integration aspects of M&A activities, especially when multiple Office 365 tenants are involved, can be very complex!  Obviously, technical issues will be part of the equation, but legal, compliance, support desk, communications, data sovereignty, timeline, and many more factors must also be considered. As a general rule of thumb, the larger and more technically mature the organization(s),  the more complexity you should expect in migration activities. 

The best analogy for the complexity of large M&A initiated Office 365 mergers is an iceberg.  The obvious part of the iceberg is easy to identify, in the case of Office 365 M&A integrations this is content like user Exchange mailboxes, and shallow SharePoint content.  The tip of the iceberg are where most of the simple integration and migration activities occur, and there are even tools that can help accomplish these integrations quite well.  But just below the surface is the complexity that can have a more significant impact on M&A activity. Here are some of the more important aspects that are beneath the surface that can increase complexity:

  • Merging and mapping Office 365 unified groups
  • Merging on premises and an Office 365 tenant
  • Dealing with content in deep legacy SharePoint hierarchies
  • Migrating conversations (Teams), tasks (Planner), business intelligence (Power BI) and more
  • Migrating conversations to Yammer
  • Migrating workflows and automated processes
  • Merging content from different regions
  • Migrating content with data labels and classification
  • Migrating content with retention, compliance, or discovery requirements
  • Decrypting content prior to migration
  • Integrating and migrating corporate taxonomies
  • Addressing licensing gaps for services during migration

The items above can all increase complexity and be directly competing with M&A activity deadlines and other requirements for a merger or divestiture. There are even other things to consider, for example, what happens when the acquiring entity is the technology laggard?  Or worse, what happens if the acquisition requires collapsing and migrating disparate technologies like Google Suite, Slack, Notes, or other solutions. Complexity is a fact that just must be dealt with, and this necessitates the next fact.

Fact #2 – Failure to Plan…

M&A initiated migration and integration activities in Office 365 require the application of the timeless proverb “Failure to plan is a plan to fail”.   At ThreeWill we have been practicing Scrum since early 2006, and have learned that being agile does not mean “no planning”.  In fact, ThreeWill’s unique 2 Phase Hybrid Project Approach for migration projects enables planning and execution across multiple businesses, teams and workstreams while also enabling discovery driven planning.  Being agile,  even in the context of large, complex migration and integration projects requires assessing, planning, verifying and executing while continuously monitoring and adapting to changes.  A solid plan is essential to address the complexities inherent in large enterprise M&A activities must include the following: 

  • Assessing organizational readiness for the integration
  • Inventory of environments to determine migration/integration depth and complexity
  • Coordination of user support efforts across multiple teams
  • Coordination of communications efforts across businesses
  • Triaging and management of migration/integration issues
  • Verifying and validating migrated content

ThreeWill’s 2 Phase Hybrid Project Approach enables in depth planning to assess the overall M&A activity landscape, identify areas of high risk which require contingency planning or remediation, and provides a framework that allows M&A activities to adjust in-flight based on the dynamic nature of integrations.

Fact #3 – Some Assembly IS Required

Understanding that M&A integrations of Office 365 are complex and planning appropriately enable a full view of the effort required to complete a merger or divestiture.  Based on our experience, the third fact of M&A based migrations or integrations is the need for customization and automation to ensure meeting M&A deadlines, compliance, or other requirements.  Modern migration tools do provide great capabilities here, but it is very likely that you will need customization or automation to some degree. 

Modern migration tooling is designed to meet common requirements, including migrating mailboxes, migration of file content, and even some metadata and workflow.  However, migration and integration products are, by design, built to cover the most common scenarios and typically in enterprise M&A activity one size does not fit all.  Common scenarios that require customization or additional automation include: 

  • Parallelizing and scaling high volume content migrations to meet tight timelines
  • Custom applications to manage self-service request of resource owners
  • Customizations to migrate “non-standard” or proprietary content  
  • Customizations to migrate automated processes and workflow (especially in-flight processes)
  • Custom processes and automation to maintain and ensure business continuity

Again, the complexities of enterprise Office 365 M&A activities often represent an iceberg.  COTS migration tools provide the capabilities to address common challenges “above the waterline”, but in our experience large enterprises usually have unique business processes or systems that mandate custom automation to ensure a successful integration.

Conclusion

Migrations in general are complex, but combining Office 365 and on premises Microsoft workloads as part of large enterprise M&A activities can carry unique challenges.  ThreeWill has a proven track record of successfully migrating and integrating some of the largest implementations of SharePoint and Office 365.  For more details see our “Ultimate Guide to Migrating to Office 365” for more details about how you can ensure your M&A migration or divestiture success.   To learn more about how to engage ThreeWill to assist with your M&A activities for Office 365,  please see our Migration service offerings – https://threewill.com/services/sharepoint-migrations/.

Pete SkellyMergers and Acquisitions and Office 365

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