Bringing together two or more organizations is not easy, and merging multiple IT environments is no different. However, there are ways to simplify this process. In this two-part article, I will tell you just how to do it, from identity management to collaboration, based on our own experience with many such projects. Let’s get to it!
Change is the only constant in the universe. This principle also applies to business entities and their structures. Although it might not be apparent from the outside, there is constant change in the business world: organizations are continually being bought and sold.
The process begins with legal proceedings and negotiations. But when both sides come to their various agreements, there is an inevitable impact on technology and processes. We call this the merger and acquisition (or M&A for short) process.
Mergers and acquisitions are complex beasts, no matter whether you look at them from a legal, cultural, organizational or technological perspective
When two or more companies merge, you as IT face multiple decisions and challenges:
Interestingly enough, we also found that M&As don’t just affect the organizations at the time that they are being transacted. We discovered that some choose to run newly acquired business as completely separate business units for many years. Eventually, due to changing business landscape, cost savings, or even complexity they decide to consolidate their assets.
Even though M&As are generally standard practice, they can still pose a technical challenge for someone who has not been through one. What more, we now have the cloud to contend with. Cloud services like Office 365 and Azure require a new approach and tools to properly execute a merger. But there is good news! The cloud can actually simplify the process. Our experience has been that cloud-based processes and tools are easier to merge, making the whole process smoother.
In this two-part article, I am going to share six lessons that we learned from delivering M&A projects last year. After all, we’ve merged a total of over 100,000 users and employees–and that counts for something.
We’ve done it, we’ve learned it, now we share it!
First of all, how do you end up in a M&A scenario? Typical cases we’ve seen are as follows:
From a technical point of view, you will be executing one of two scenarios:
The latter case is less common. We see when we are consolidating organizations within a single group. In many cases, this is done to clean up the technical debt in the organization and leave behind what was already there.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? If so, let’s dive into how a typical scenario unfolds with the cloud in the picture.
You know it has to be done. There is usually a set date for the M&A to go into effect. “Go into effect” is the operative term here.
A typical M&A scenario for an on-premises infrastructure took months to execute. Mostly because there was a lot of networking and security issues to be covered (i.e. network readdressing, establishing direct links, NATs, making sure all firewalls are in place and configured). What if I told you that we can make an M&A scenario effective and in place for 50k+ people in less than a month? Yes – it can be done.
To achieve this, you need to start with planning for Day One! Day One is the first time that users from the merging entities will be working in a new structure, with new services, and will need access to each other’s applications and data.
There are a lot of pieces, but from our experience, a typical set of services required for Day One are as follows:
This pretty much covers the must-have list for Day One.
Of course, you can add more elements, and you probably will. Here are a few things that I can throw in based on our past experience:
… the list can go on.
It is imperative that you determine what is critical on Day One. By no means does your list have to be complete. You still need a comprehensive plan to migrate the rest of the enterprise. It is fair to assume that on Day One everyone will continue to work in the way they used to, with additional access to those elements that are on your list!
Gather Day One requirements from your business organizations and plan for the day!
Or, as Alex Simons better states, “identity is the new control plane.”
Anyone who finds themselves in a M&A or a consolidation scenario will appreciate this. Identity is one of the very first things you’ll need to tackle: how to enable users to access services across the organization.
Consider the scenario of network connectivity in the on-premises world. You need to merge the local networks of both organizations (VPN?) and establish a trust relationship between AD forests or domains. Not to mention, clearing network address spaces and ensuring that everything is secured.
What we’ve learned from the last 12-months of merging organizations is that Azure and AD as a service makes this process much easier and faster.
Just a quick reminder: Azure AD is a cloud-based service that provides authentication and access control to the cloud, and in some cases, on-premises resources (we will explore this further on).
How does Azure AD help in M&A scenarios? Let’s go over the benefits:
So, no networking work upfront, no AD trusts. Plan the scenario for Azure AD authentication and configure it to establish identity service for both organizations.
Here is a quick cheat sheet for your planning session:
Typical scenarios we have encountered so far are:
Now you know your how to start plan for a successful merger project. In the event that you have a more unique scenario or need a bit of help to get started, please reach out and ask us a question!
Once you’ve got your plan and a security configuration in place, you can move on to the next phase. We still need to cover communication and collaboration, so check out part 2!
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