Merging Records in Perfect Harmony
Consolidating records in a merger or acquisition (M&A) is a bit like playing “Heart and Soul” as a piano duet. You need focused effort, a common vision and exquisite timing.
M&A activity is becoming less a question of “if” as one of “when.” According to the Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances, more than 130,000 transactions occurred in the first decade of the 21st century. (See table) While the basics of good records and information management (RIM) ought to be the same everywhere, the details can vary between two merging organizations. Each may have slightly different content, processes, locations and needs. Addressing them all takes time. However, it’s crucial to harmonize the vital records — and records management policies and programs — of both companies as soon as possible so that these files are identified, accessible and protected.
There are specific steps to take as soon as the due-diligence process allows:
- Assemble the best players. Start with the experts and stakeholders: each company’s records management team and the key business leaders. However, given the complexity, upheaval and tight timelines of most acquisitions and mergers, playing this duet may require support beyond in-house resources. If an outside consultant is brought in, take care to hire an experienced and trusted RIM expert, one that collaborates seamlessly with the merging teams.
- Assess the current state. Records management staff from the merging organizations should meet as soon as possible to share the details on their respective collections — RIM policies and practices, types of records and formats in which they are stored, where files are kept, how they can be accessed, and any relevant legal and compliance issues. This baseline provides three advantages:
- The new company knows where essential records are kept and how to retrieve them;
- The groundwork is laid for harmonizing records management across the newly merged organization;
- A process is in place to retain institutional knowledge regardless of staff changes.
- Look for ways to improve. A merger, acquisition or other major business change presents a golden opportunity to take a critical look at existing RIM policies and practices. Don’t just pick one or the other company’s system; assess the long-term, strategic needs of the newly created business entity, including legal and regulatory requirements. You may find a bigger bang for your buck, too, whether it’s fewer storage sites, better use of technology or streamlined management processes.
- Develop a unilateral RIM policy. Managing records seems like the least critical thing to worry about when integrating two companies. True, the impact on people and the business is front and center. But what if a legal or compliance issue arises during the transition? What if employees in the midst of job restructuring or separation aren’t clear on the document retention policy? Files essential to the business function of the new company might be accidentally mismanaged or even purposely destroyed. Harmonizing the policy and processes, actively applying it and educating employees about the procedure is essential to managing this part of the integration smoothly.
There are a number of useful tools to help guide the integration process. For example, check out “The RIM Manager’s Role in Supporting Major Business Changes” online at ARMA International based on research reported in Mergers, Acquisitions, Divestitures and Closures — Records and Information Management Checklists, which is available as a free download.
In the end, the most effective tool is commitment — bringing the right people together to make the transition flow quickly and smoothly, like a well-played duet.
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The expert team at Abraxas has proven experience with integrating records and RIM policies through mergers and acquisitions. We provide clients with tailored records and information management solutions, delivering the business intelligence that matters most — and we do it more efficiently and reliably than anyone else, particularly in highly regulated industries. To learn more, email@example.com or call us: 866.535.0016 (toll-free) or 269.226.0016.