24/06/2014 07:23 BST | Updated 23/08/2014 06:59 BST

Acquisition Angst

We are all creatures of routine and habit; we seek certainty and comfort in the familiar, especially when it comes to our work. So, for many of us, the prospect of our company being completely overhauled is a daunting experience. But that is what happens when one firm acquires another. For the acquired firm, everything changes and, justifiably, people fear for their job security, additional or reduced responsibilities, new relationships and different ways of working. However, the distraction provided by these factors can have a damaging effect on the security of business data.

Company acquisitions are a fact of working life for many of us as firms seek to grow, expand their portfolio or enter new markets. It is concerning, therefore, that research from KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and others reveals that more than half of all mergers and acquisitions are expected to fail. The reason behind this is largely a consequence of ineffective integration of the processes and practices of the companies joining forces.

Obviously, signatures on a contract will never be enough to turn two different workforces into a strong single entity with a single culture. This kind of change does not happen overnight and is particularly the case when the employees of one of the firms involved feel like a conquered people whose roles and ways of getting things done are about to change.

Unsurprisingly, our own research shows concerns about integrating customer and company data and addressing disparities and duplication take second place to worrying about job roles and the impact of change.

The risk to information is clear: integrated and secure customer data is vital for business effectiveness, the quality of customer service and brand reputation. Unmanaged, unmonitored information left floating around a business is vulnerable to loss, damage or exposure.

Company mergers, however, paint a far more positive picture - perhaps because they are perceived by employees as a coming together of equals. Our research found that workers on both sides of the merger process are focused equally on the main information management challenges; with three quarters (71 per cent) of them feeling well supported.

Overall we found that most of us work hard to adapt to the new post-M&A landscape. One in three said that, although they had felt reluctant at first, they tried to take a positive attitude and get to grips with the change.

The way we feel about the merger or acquisition influences how we take responsibility for the information we manage.

There are simple, practical steps a newly combined firm can take to ensure the full wealth of knowledge and intelligence is harnessed and secure:

  1. Be "paper-light" - this combines secure off-site storage for archived paper documents with an active digitisation programme for frequently accessed or new data.
  2. Go digital - digitisation ensures that important information on paper can be released into the business and digital information systems, such as a newly integrated CRM database.
  3. Understand retention guidelines - make sure you're not hanging on to information for too long and have visibility for how long you need to store different documents for.
  4. Clear communication - a strong commitment to communication and employee engagement is vital. Staff need to understand what is happening and why, and what they can or are expected to do to integrate and protect information. During times of change, this becomes more important than ever.

Going through a merger or acquisition can cause those responsible for managing valuable company information to feel insecure and under-supported. In an information-driven world, however, these people could very well be holding the future of the business in their hands. During times of change, the company you work for would be well advised to offer sufficient support to information managers and to make sure that changes to processes and policies are clearly and frequently communicated.