Intranets & Their Role in Corporate Acquisitions

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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

There is typically some generic content, such as personnel policies, product/service information, staff directories, and an expertise database, that will make up any company's intranet. Probably the best route is to plan to put this information into a holding area within the current intranet, in such a way that as the top-level discussions proceed at Board Level the intranet manager can start to plan, on a secure server, the look and feel of the interim pages. Usually, there is a period between the announcement of the acquisition and the completion of due diligence, leading to the formal acquisition. During the intervening period, providing information about your company, its policies, and its business objectives can be a very effective way of getting staff on side. A FAQ can be set up to deal with emerging issues.

Once the acquisition moves toward completion, your intranet manager and some colleagues need to conduct an intranet audit to identify issues about classification, metadata directories, and document management that will influence the speed of development of cross-intranet searching. It is important that there is an open mindset about what is found. There may be good ideas that can be transferred to your own intranet. Another part of this audit is to explore what the integration schedule should be. The best route may be not to carry out a total integration at once, but to do so over a period of time, using the holding area intranet as a test platform.

Vendor Contracts
Another important part of the audit has to be the development of a list of the contracts with external information vendors, such as Factiva or Moreover. This is especially important in any situation where there is a significant amount of research and development effort. Increasingly, R&D departments are subscribing to electronic journals.

There are three issues to consider. The first is that the terms of the agreement will need to be renegotiated, since they are usually based on parameters such as the number of users and/or the number of sites. If both companies subscribe to some or all of the same providers, these discussions can be difficult, since there will almost certainly be a net reduction in revenues for the vendor. Next, access routes to the databases should be considered, which may depend on IP addresses that are about to be changed. Finally, staff may have developed standard profiles and search screens on these services, and these may need to be changed to reflect the changes to the business objectives and activities.

Start Now, Not When
Your intranet represents potentially the most powerful tool in your corporate armory to ensure that an acquisition not only meets but exceeds the expectations of the shareholders and staff on both sides of the deal. For this to happen, it is of the greatest importance that the planning starts now, and not in the frantic days post-completion. Your intranet manager needs to be involved from the outset. Above all, the success depends on the recognition by the Board of the essential role that your intranet plays in the success, or failure, of your business. Remember the old adage of "Together we stand-divided we fall," and print it on the top of every page of your intranet acquisition strategy.

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