How CIOs can survive being acquired

CIOs Surviving Being Acquired | Binary Tree

Earlier this month, we wrote about how CIOs can help speed mergers. In this post, we approach the topic from another angle: What happens when you are the CIO of the company who is being acquired? Acquisitions are one of the most stressful types of business transformations, both for the acquiring company and the one that’s being acquired. As the acquired CIO, it can be hard to keep yourself and your team motivated amid all the ambiguity and uncertainty about the future.

The good news is that an acquisition can be your chance to shine, both personally and professionally. If a larger or more established company is acquiring you, it can be an opportunity to learn how others do things, broaden your influence, and set yourself up for career advancement in the future. If nothing else, you can gain experience in how acquisitions work, which can serve you well in future roles where you might be the acquiring CIO yourself.

If you do decide to stick with the merged organization vs. explore opportunities elsewhere, here are some ways you can contribute to a successful merger. Ultimately, it comes down to how well you can adapt to change, stay positive amid ambiguity, and keep yourself and your team motivated to deliver exceptional results.

Do exceptional due diligence

This phase is when the acquiring leadership team first sees you in action. So you should go above and beyond to give them the information they need about your IT environment. Put together complete, high-quality information about your systems. Be transparent and candid about any shortcomings, challenges, and risks. Your goal is to help avoid any surprises later for the acquiring CIO.

The way you share this information is also important. Gartner suggests that you balance a sense of pride and humility when you’re talking about what made your organization great vs. any areas in which you need to improve. Showing this type of self-awareness helps build trust and shows your talent for looking at end-to-end IT systems and finding ways to improve.

Plan for a smooth integration

As we stress here at Binary Tree, planning can make or break migration and integration projects. Planning for an acquisition is also complicated by the fact that you have two or more teams coming together who have likely not worked with each other before.

So it is important to set clear expectations with your acquiring CIO about how you will handle things during the integration. Be sure to answer questions like these:

  • What’s the IT governance plan for this interim integration phase?
  • Who’s responsible for what? What does the acquiring CIO want to own? What will be delegated to you?
  • How can you make sure that staff in both organizations get equal opportunities and impartial treatment during the integration? What’s the redundancy plan?
  • Are there key gaps between the working cultures between the organizations? How will you address those?
  • What will be the response time for making new IT decisions during this period?

Cooperate during integration

The process to integrate IT systems, cultures, and staff can take months or even years. During this time, you can really step up and lead your staff through the transition. It all comes down to cooperation and communication. I thought Gartner put it particularly well:


“Become a role model for a positive attitude toward change. Address uncertainty with optimism. Offer your staff a generous amount of time to discuss concerns, and address motivational issues to boost self-confidence, retention, and quality of output.”

—Gartner 2017*

Propose an expert

If the acquiring CIO is not already thinking along these lines, this can also be a good time to pitch the idea of engaging an M&A consultant. Gartner says that more than 50% of organizations reach out for help with their IT integration during a merger. That’s because M&As tend to happen infrequently and need to move quickly. A seasoned partner like Binary Tree can greatly smooth and speed your transformation.


Binary Tree offers end-to-end M&A solutions that can help you:


To find out more about how we can help, get in touch. I look forward to working with you on your next merger.


*Source: Gartner. M&A Survival Guide for the Acquired CIO. December 2017.