Systems integration, bringing together a range of subsystems into one effective and coordinated whole, has long been one of the major challenges of mergers and acquisitions. With an anticipated increase in M&A activity over the next year, systems integration will become a key competency for a growing number of commodity businesses.
Aligning disparate systems is not only a technological challenge. As well as unifying software, it also means aligning the different processes at work in each company and changing mindsets; including improving collaboration and creating a shared sense of purpose – something that can be difficult when teams were competitors before the merger.
Software systems integration
Systems integration that creates a unified software ecosystem also unifies operating procedures and can go a long way towards creating a more collaborative mindset too. There are many ways this software integration can be achieved, from adding connections between existing systems to rolling out the best commodity management software to all business areas.
After M&A activity, it is possible to keep each business unit using their previous software and add connections for central data analysis, risk reporting and other management functions. This approach may be less disruptive as employees do not need to learn a new system, but does come with many challenges.
Firstly, if each company was using a different CTRM prior to the merger, these systems will have different methods for processing and storing data, different field names and likely different fields entirely. Systems may also use slightly different rounding or conversion metrics, different timing of data snapshots and different admin/access rights. Reconciling these information systems can be very challenging and time-consuming, and may lead to more manual processes down the line.
It may also cause challenges further down the line as any new functionality requirements will need to be agreed with multiple vendors and may require further development of the integration software too. Maintaining separate systems can also make it more difficult to unify the business as it reinforces existing siloed operations, and ignores a prime opportunity to improve processes.
Creating a unified commodity management ecosystem – fast
Implementing and migrating a global commodity management solution can be faster and simpler than you might imagine. When Gen10 supported the Corrie MacColl Group after a large acquisition, one office was migrated to our CommOS platform in just 3 weeks, and the multi-lingual system for the China office was translated, data was migrated and the solution was live within just 6 weeks.
Unifying the way people work in one process is the building block for many future improvements, and can be managed in such a way that each unit maintains their independent portal and branding, with centralised reporting functions and integrations to other software.
Your business can only realise the value of data when the people who need it have access to it, so data flows and data access become bigger challenges as more complexity is added to the organisation. At a certain point in the hierarchy, management will need to see the data for all companies in a comparable manner, but other levels of management may only need one company’s data. Data security and limiting access can therefore be just as important as data accessibility.
Data also needs to flow between commodity management, ERP, finance and other systems. Modern commodity management systems such as Gen10’s CommOS automatically share information with other systems, but some CTRMs may require your team to manually re-enter information.
CommOS automates the day-to-day tasks of trading and operations teams so they carry out their role within the system, meaning that reports are instantly generated based on live data. The real-time risk management and position reports generated by CommOS would not be of the same benefit if other companies within the group were using manual reporting, as there is no way to verify how up to date data from these systems is.
For companies investing in big data and business intelligence tools, ensuring that data is collected at the same time and processed the same way is essential. Commodity management and CTRM systems are often integrated with the BI tool so that reports can be updated as required, but if only part of the data is correct at that moment, reliable conclusions cannot be drawn.
Rolling out a commodity management system across all business areas also presents the opportunity to review and improve processes, whether you are implementing a completely new system or expanding the software you already have in place. Again, these system improvements can be easier than you may expect; Gen10 platforms map to your business processes through configurable workflows that can be changed without development work.
And by mapping to your business processes, a good commodity management system ensures that your people are following your processes too. For example, CommOS includes checks and controls that make following processes simple and prevent risky actions that fall outside your approvals processes. This makes it easier for people across the business to adapt to new ways of working and feel confident in your new processes faster.
Post-M&A systems integration gives your business the opportunity to build on the processes that are effective and change those that are not working for you. It allows you to derive better insights from your data and to make better decisions faster based on the live situation. It also empowers individuals within the business to embrace new ways of working and make any changes necessary for the success of the new business structure. And systems implementations can be faster than you might have imagined – with business unit onboarding in a matter of weeks and global project timeframes measured in months.
Watch the case study now to find out how we achieved all of these results for the Corrie MacColl Group.
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