Monday, 13th February 2012
Onboarding a new business throws up all sorts of knowledge and information management issues. Staff from the new business will bring a whole set of information with them in a range of formats. Some of this will be intellectual property bought as an asset and could include documents on shared and hard drives, intranet or webpages, databases and subject matter experts.
Onboarding a new business throws up all sorts of knowledge and information management issues. These can be divided into three areas:
Staff from the new business will bring a whole set of information with them in a range of formats. Some of this will be intellectual property bought as an asset and could include documents on shared and hard drives, intranet or webpages, databases and subject matter experts.
The first step is to understand the size of the challenge and the amount of data which needs to come into the new organisation. A simple solution is to start with the rule that only the last year’s data will be brought into the host company’s systems plus historical IP. Other items are left in an accessible archive. If the acquired company has been meticulously identifying records this task should be fairly straightforward. If not, early work to identify the critical documents (e.g. historical client files, contractual documents, HR documents) is essential.
The IP of the new businessmust be well handled as an asset. Knowledge Managers need to make it easy for other parts of the business to find and leverage it, and this includes access to subject matter experts. Unfortunately the process of merger and acquisition means that it is inevitable that some key people holding embedded knowledge will have left, and communities been disrupted, which can make this process challenging in practice.
There is a large change management piece here, and regular communication must start as soon as possible. The challenge is to allow people in the new and host business to work with minimal disruption. Pinning down a named KM champion as early as possible provides the two-way communication channel so vital to support change.
Induction is essential to bring the new employees up to speed with the preferred tools, processes, policies and communities of their new company. There are dozens of guides to working with HR to create a good induction plan. Step Two Designs Managing Director James Robertson explains it well here.
Migrating documents, providing an intranet and web presence and identifying SMEs is the short term objective. It’s a big logistical issue so it’s easy to get caught up in this and lose sight of the longer terms goal of fostering a culture of collaboration between the new and host businesses.
Integrating new stuff into a company involves breaking down silos and identifying and adopting best practice processes. Communities are incredibly helpful for doing this as they will cut across departmental lines and help new staff build relationships and reputation across the business.
Onboarding a new acquisition is very complex, and can easily fail. Specialists in legal, KM, marketing and business development, IT and HR will need to work closely together to tight deadlines. People who haven’t worked on a similar project should have the opportunity to learn from those who have.
M&A is a standard method of company growth and if your company is likely to do this regularly, there is an opportunity for KM to lead an after-action review amongst the support teams, with the objective of streamlining the process and capturing project documents for the next time.
This short summary scratches the surface of a complex issue where strategic KM activity makes a huge difference, and is primarily based on personal experience. For a more detailed analysis I strongly recommend this 2011 APQC white paper available with registration.
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