About Evelyne Notton
Evelyne Notton spent the first ten years of her career as an embedded software and backend developer before leading technical challenges on numerous startups since 2008. She is an expert on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), dealing with the integration of engineering teams, resources and products. Today she is driving the technical roadmap as a CTO at Splio - an ambitious marketing software that helps startups activate and engage their customers. We were happy to have her on stage at the CTO Forum, where she shared her experience on those topics.
I have worked in the IT industry as a leader since 2008, and I like to enter a company when it is about to scale and when it has infrastructure challenges that need to be implemented. I often change companies, and when I don’t have anything more to add to bring, I find another chapter. It keeps me stimulated, and I have learned more this way than if I had spent all those time in the same company.
Merging two company's infrastructure
Today, I am thrilled to be the CTO of Splio. I have worked there for four years now. When I arrived, my first mission was to deal with a legacy stack and a robust and ambitious product. Our team and I had to restructure everything: the code, the infrastructure, the legacy. We went from a non-automated production infrastructure to twenty deployments a day on Cloud thanks to this redesign and the excellent engineering team I supported, especially on the DevOps subject.
But one thing I had to deal with quite often in my career was managing mergers and acquisitions.
How to ensure a successful mergers and acquisitions: integration plan
I worked on multiple companies that ended up buying or merging their company. In one of them, I was overseeing the Research & Department pole, and we knew we wanted to acquire a startup to integrate their product. After we bought it, the way we integrated it was to let the product run in autonomy first, instead of merging them right away. We wanted to understand what it could bring by itself: what was its value? How would it be used? It helped design the integration plan.
Evaluating if the whole integration is worth it when the stack or the infrastructure is hardly compatible is an excellent first step.
For another company I worked at, we did it the other way. We built bridges between the two platforms instead of integrating one product into the other. It allowed us to keep our technical stack and our infrastructure while benefiting from each other.
Cultural fit is a priority for killer M&A
The cultural aspect of companies is one of the most important factors because it deals directly with the people behind it, the people working on the product, making the company run daily.
If the people working on your product don’t find themselves aligned with a new vision, they do not choose for themselves if they don’t meet, and if they don’t share joint projects, the two companies won’t be able to merge successfully.
I advise making your people work together and learn from each other as soon as possible on a standard product. They have to meet, share values, share the mission and find ways to make the product run.
Why 70% of mergers & acquisitions fail
Most of the acquisitions or fusions that companies make fail. They fail mainly because of the cultural fit and the integration plan.
The cultural fit is tough to reach because it depends so much on the human factor. Human always comes first.
Most often than not, mergers or acquisitions happen because some are looking to buy revenues or resources in the hope of having a clear return on investment. For an acquisition to succeed, we should also have a clear integration goal: product and people. Not only a business plan. And this must be part of the earn-out objectives.
If you have only defined a financial objective for the earn-out, the risk is that the product integration won’t be a priority and won’t succeed.