The simple answer is no, quite to the contrary! Very large companies and serial acquirers have their own in-house teams in charge of integration, with repeated successful experience of absorbing new businesses; most have developed their own approach with a proven track record.
Whereas many senior executives of mid-size companies hold the view that integrating an acquisition into their existing business should be far simpler than it is for global giant companies, the challenge is in most cases greater. These are businesses that might have 500 to 10,000 employees scattered across several locations, possibly across geographical and language barriers, operating in countries that have different legislations and business cultures. Mid-size companies do not have access to the vast resources and talent enjoyed by industry giants, their management will typically have less collective experience, and yet they will have to manage the same breadth of issues and complexity to integrate their acquisition. Same task, but with fewer means to tackle it.
The common point between very large and mid-size companies preparing for an acquisition is the extensive support they seek and receive until the close of the deal: auditors, lawyers, tax and pension experts, investment bankers and other financial institutions, functional consultants. Indeed, no effort or precaution should be spared to ensure the deal is legally sound, that the price is the right one and that the business case rests on plausible hypotheses.
Things change as soon as the ink has dried on the legal documents. Support for the integration is in most cases limited to setting up a PMO (Programme Management Office), providing a plan for the first 100 days and lists of tasks. This is the “launch pad” of the integration process, but who will pilot that rocket and maintain it in orbit after the initial launch?
The conventional wisdom is that the consultants who set up the PMO will hand-over to the business after those first 100 days. In reality, this can only work in businesses that have their own in-house integration team; for the others, in the absence of a dedicated integration leader and staff seconded to the integration programme, momentum will rapidly decline, nobody will be accountable for resolving issues and managing disks, delays in progressing the integration will cause costs to escalate, and that constant disruption will adversely impact commercial performance. In short: a failed M&A.
Post-M&A integration is not a quick fix. Companies intending to make a significant acquisition should plan on having dedicated experienced resource focused on delivering the integration for a duration of 6 to 18 months depending on the scope (the integration can progress faster in service companies compared to businesses that produce physical goods, where stocks, replenishment, spare parts, procurement, manufacturing footprint, warehousing, and logistical consideration will come into play).