Tips for IT Integration: From Inside the Largest Merger in Tech

Setting a course for integrating IT operations to bring together Dell and EMC in the largest merger in high-tech history is a bit like climbing a mountain. You need to decide where to start and map out the path you will take to get to the top.

Defining Dell IT’s (the name of the new combined organization) journey for integration was the first step as we began the process of molding both companies’ IT resources into one IT organization to serve what was becoming a 140,000-person global company. And while we still have a ways to go in our integration effort, here are some of the methods we used and lessons we learned so far that might make your IT integration journey a little less daunting.

Deciding the what

What we found as we began the IT integration was that we had far more work and even greater desire to integrate systems and processes than we had time to accomplish out of the gate. We needed a framework to focus our priorities.

We turned to an integration committee of key leaders from business groups across both companies, including IT, called the Value Creation Integration Office (VCIO) for guidance.  IT plugged into the VCIO’s guiding principles, criteria, approach, scope, timeline, and decision-making framework to come up with five pillars spelling out that our IT integration priorities would focus on one of the following:

  1. Improving revenue synergies: delivering a set of capabilities that make it easier for us to cross sell the portfolio of Dell and EMC products across the company.
  2. Customer/partner impacts: centering on improvements for our customers that demonstrate us coming together as one company, such as changing our email addresses and updating our logos and buildings.
  3. Delivering cost and process synergies: like an integrated supply chain, a common fiscal calendar, and an aligned financial reporting platform.
  4. Building foundational capabilities: like bridging our networks or implementing a human capital management system.
  5. Team member experience: Making sure team members or employees around the world are energized and excited about what they want to achieve.

We worked closely with stakeholders to rigorously set priorities, walking them through the framework for making decisions and making them aware of what we were going to be able to achieve and what we couldn’t.5 IT Integration Pillars

Bringing people together

Once we decided what we would focus on, we turned to how we would do it. That began with bringing people together, which turned out to be one of the most important aspects of the integration.

Creating effective integration teams was all about building relationships and forging a level of trust between the legacy EMC and Dell team members. We did that through frequent in-person workshops— first to understand each other’s as-is landscapes and challenges and then to structure teams and define how we would work with our colleagues across each VCIO workstream. Once we understood user requirements and what was needed for Day One of our official merger, we set up plans to map out what was possible.

We also established plans for what was required for the start of the next fiscal year, which for us is February 2017, and what set of projects we should focus on for six months after that. Since we viewed the integration in a 30-month window, we further spelled out a number of incremental capabilities as long-term deliverables.

As with any project, fitting the scope within the budget was a challenge. Having strong executive support and a top-down focus was an important factor here. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well the teams, which came from different organizations, worked together to put the best options forward to make the integration a success.

Weighing solutions

As we defined solutions to address each challenge, some themes emerged as we evaluated options: use manual processes; stand up a brand new system; integrate between two systems; or choose to go with one or the other system.

In making these decisions, we weighed how much time an option would take to deliver, what it would cost, and whether the benefits were worth it. We also based our choices on a North Star vision of where we wanted to go with each solution five years out to make sure the selected options wouldn’t conflict with longer term goals and end up as throwaway work.

One example of where we decided to do nothing was our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. After evaluating the time and resources it would take to consolidate Dell’s Oracle-based ERP and EMC’s SAP-based ERP, we found it did not result in an adequate ROI to justify the effort. We concluded that it was okay to have two ERP systems for a while, and build some limited integrations.

For our human capital management system, however, we opted to stand up a new system given the importance of managing 140,000 employees. Adding to that decision was the fact that both companies had already been looking at replacing their legacy HR systems.

Lessons learned

It would be impossible to pass along all the insights we learned thus far in this vast integration, but here are a few that stand out as I reflect on our journey so far:

  • Create a mechanism that allows you to have the visibility you need to make sure things are progressing according to plan. We learned that the way our two companies track and stand up projects is very different and we needed to find a common method that worked for everyone.
  • Keep in close partnership with your business counterparts around expectations to make sure no incorrect assumptions are made on the scope of your projects.
  • A comprehensive guide is key to helping prepare your organization for the changes ahead. We found our Quick Start Guide offering one-stop info for employees to be invaluable.
  • Align your combined teams on the vision of where you need to go and make it all about executing to achieve that vision. Keeping people focused on the task at hand helped cut through challenges and differences we had.
  • Escalate risks early and often. Keeping on top of issues as they arose helped us meet a compressed timeline to be ready for Day One.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of getting people together in a room as your two companies are coming together. For us, investing the time and travel to get people together in monthly workshops was essential to building relationships that contributed to our success.

About the Author: Kate Parsons