The information time bomb at the heart of M&As

Our research found that employees in the record-intensive, customer-focused financial services and insurance sectors were the most likely to worry about integrating different data sets. Employees in this sector were, however, also the most likely to feel supported and informed, both about how to consolidate and protect digital data, as well as how to integrate and store physical documents.

We found a very different picture among manufacturing and engineering firms. Employees in these firms were the most likely to worry about change in the way they handled information; and felt the least supported in terms of company guidelines and communication.

However, across all the sectors and markets surveyed, it was clear that many employees work hard to adapt to the new post-M&A landscape. One in three employees said that, although they had felt reluctant at first, they tried to take a positive attitude and get to grips with the change.

In short, the way employees feel about the M&A influences how they take responsibility for the information they manage. Moreover, we found that employee sentiment can be transformed by effective information management approaches and clear communication.

Information is a vital business asset and needs to be treated as such. There are simple, practical steps a newly combined firm can take to ensure the full wealth of knowledge and intelligence is harnessed and secure. For example, when it comes to paper documents, we would recommend an approach we call paper light . This combines secure off-site storage for archived paper documents with an active digitisation programme for frequently accessed or new data. Digitisation ensures that important information on paper can be released into the business and digital information systems, such as a newly integrated CRM database.

Most of all, success requires a strong commitment to communication and employee engagement. Staff need to understand what is happening and why, and what they can or are expected to do to integrate and protect information. During times of change, this becomes more important than ever.

Our study confirms that going through a merger or acquisition can cause employees responsible for managing valuable company information to feel insecure in their role and under-supported. In an information-driven world, these employees could very well be holding the future of your business in their hands. During times of change, firms would be well advised to offer sufficient support to their information managers and to make sure that changes to processes and policies are clearly and frequently communicated.

Charlotte Marshall is Managing Director of Iron Mountain in the UK, Ireland and Norway.

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