You go through an extended selection process, check out reference sites and experience, and select an SAP Partner. You finally get the new Partner integrated smoothly into your business processes and build a strong relationship. And then your Partner announces they have just been acquired—perhaps by a company you rejected on the first round. Now what?
In this day and age, acquisitions happen, and there can be several compelling reasons behind them. When one of your vendors gets acquired, it is important to understand the rationale behind it because that will help determine your course of action going forward.
Software consultancies merge suddenly and frequently for a variety of reasons. From a buyer’s perspective, they may seek to acquire new technology expertise from another company rather than develop it themselves; they may want to firm up their propositions with complementary solutions; they may wish to consolidate for lower administrative costs and increased profits, or they may simply want to buy out the competition.
A seller’s perspective usually falls into one of two camps as investors want to see a profit on their investment. Your SAP Partner is either doing really, really well, and a bigger company wants to take advantage of this, or it is struggling to hit targets and maintain service and are trying to find a way to save itself.
Acquisition is not necessarily a bad thing. If your SAP Partner was bought by a bigger company it could provide access to new resources and capabilities. An acquisition can be an effective way of growing a client base, but that assumes the acquiring company is good at it—good at integrating the new company, formulating plans, and executing them strategically. Some are better at it than others and some become good at it only after learning from the mistakes of prior acquisitions.
But even in the case where it is a good thing, the acquisition of your SAP Partner can cause disruption for you. Existing clients often lose out:
- If the acquiring vendor has a competing IP, painful decisions need to be made about which solution survives. If it’s a strategic move by a large company to enhance capability, or one competitor buying out another for market leverage, there may be little or no interest in continuing the acquired methodology or good practice.
- Consultants who made the acquired Partner what it was might not stay.
- Relationships you’ve already made with your Partner are also likely to change. Support people may be laid off. Salespeople may start operating under a different incentive schedule that makes their relationship with you less important. There is always the risk that you could lose that original, valuable contact and be swallowed up into a pool of employees who know little about your industry and even less about your business challenges.
- The two companies’ business processes are likely to change as they are integrated—and that isn’t always a smooth ride.
Chances are you will be promised new, different, innovative solutions that may make some of your carefully worked integration plans no longer valid. The acquiring organisation knows you have already committed to the SAP landscape so there may be no incentive to expend energy and money on you when they could be focused on all-new customers instead.
KEY QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK IMMEDIATELY
It is important to meet with key executives of the acquiring vendor (not just your current contacts) as soon as possible. Let them know your vision, any plans currently in progress, and discuss any concerns you have about their support going forward.
Prepare a list of questions you need answering now that this acquisition has happened. Here are a few suggestions but you may have your own unique concerns:
Why did they do the deal?: What were the reasons behind the acquisition? Try to understand whether they have a history of investing back into acquisitions or if they have a history of acquiring competitors just to absorb their client portfolio or IP. Don’t accept the standard ‘marketing’ answer to this question. It’s your investment in your partnership that has also been sold so don’t be afraid to dig deeper.
Key Contacts: Who are the contacts for relationship management, customer service (including billing), and technical support?
Current Team: Are they keen to grow the expertise of the team you are currently working with? What is their talent retention policy? Spend a little time looking at the track record of the acquiring firm and ascertain what their plans may be for their latest acquisition and the team you currently work with.
Current Projects: If you have any agreed implementations or improvements in the pipeline, confirm the timeline and the resources for the delivery of those.
Service Levels: Is there a roadmap for providing services and support post-acquisition? Will the current agreed service levels change in any way within the lifetime of your current contract? Even the smallest reduction in service could result in unresolved issues, long waiting periods, downtimes, and more.
Pricing: Should you expect any price changes once your Support contract is up for renewal?
Support: Will there be any changes to your Support model? If you’re currently enjoying an on-shore service, ask for confirmation that this will continue. Your new provider may work with a near-shore, or potentially even an off-shore model.
It is also worth making a request to speak to several of the acquirers’ current clients so you can find out:
- What is the company like in meeting deadlines?
- What is their customer service like?
- How flexible are they?
Hopefully, you will come away with the reassurance that the acquiring company is capable of integration without losing the unique qualities and personal attention that attracted you to your SAP Partner in the first place. Given the complexity of the SAP industry and resource constraints, this is often a tough call. Tangible, measurable levels of commitment to this goal should have already been mapped out by your new SAP Partner organisation and have been discussed openly and honestly with you to align expectations.
CHECK IN REGULARLY
Keep in mind that answers can change—because the truth can change. Even if your vendor is telling you what’s true today, this can change over time. So it’s worth checking in regularly to monitor performance.
- Is your Partner still performing at the same level, and complying with your existing SLAs?
- Is the new Partner demonstrating real understanding and commitment to your ongoing business strategy?
- Have the Partner’s core competencies changed?
- Have they reduced employees or replaced key Consultants with less experienced people?
IT’S IMPORTANT TO DEVELOP A ‘PLAN B’
Even in the best of cases, having your SAP Partner acquired generally does involve some disruption to your business, your employees, and your processes. It can be difficult to foresee the true outcome of what the merger will mean so it’s important to carry out due diligence to evaluate the acquirer fully, just as you would on any new vendor.
And just as you would with any other new vendor, it’s important to make sure you have at least one other alternative in place. Don’t see this as a problem, but as an opportunity to reconsider your options. You still have the power to choose what works best for your business.
This may also be the right time to evaluate whether this newly formed organisation still fits your needs, now and in the future. And while you’re at it, why not make sure the solution is still the right fit for your company. This could be an ideal opportunity to upgrade or escalate your move to an intelligent enterprise, audit your licence base, or evaluate your SAP Support needs.
If you’d like to discuss strategies in navigating an acquisition, or a chat about the value of working with an independent, boutique SAP consultancy committed to adding real value at every point in the client relationship, then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stacey White, Managing Director, UK
I joined G3G to help grow and develop our ERP practice and spent several years helping clients seamlessly translate strategic visions into deliverable roadmaps, before moving into my current role as UK Managing Director. I have spent almost 20 years in the IT industry implementing a variety of software solutions worldwide across multiple verticals.