Rewriting the M&A Playbook to include a modern lead-to-revenue integration strategy

How organizations can unite revenue operations, fuel growth and strengthen the customer experience through a comprehensive and effective lead-to-revenue solution

Acquisition is a long-favored growth strategy for companies across industries. With it often comes the promise of rapid revenue gains, increased customer base, extended product offerings and cost-side synergies. However, as recurring revenue becomes the de facto operating model for many businesses, uniting each organization’s disparate systems, platforms and tools—the vast majority of which have been customized based on the organization’s unique needs and capabilities—is no easy task.

Post-transaction integration activities that companies once performed on autopilot now require a custom-built lead-to-revenue integration strategy—one that connects people, processes and technologies across Sales, Finance and Operations to allow the parent and target company to operate as one. Here we explore how organizations can update their M&A playbook based on the needs of the recurring revenue model and today’s continuous customer.

What is lead-to-revenue integration?

Uniting disparate systems, technologies, people and processes across Sales, Finance and Operations to allow the parent and target company to operate as one in a post-transaction world.

Companies with a long history of M&A activity may underestimate the complexity and urgency of lead-to-revenue integration now that many businesses have shifted to a recurring revenue model. Even in like-for-like companies, both the acquired and acquiring businesses have their own custom-build processes and systems to attract, retain and grow a specific customer segment based on their particular offering. Connecting sales, pricing, packaging, billing and service systems is absolutely critical to the business’s ability to cross and upsell across brands. It is also central to providing a unified customer experience.

This disconnect translates into lost opportunity for the business—and often lost revenue too. In working with clients, we’ve identified an inflection point where business performance begins to deteriorate due to the use of disparate systems following the completion of a transaction. Disjointed processes and tools across Sales and Finance cannot serve the needs of the business as a whole, which negatively impacts revenue opportunity.

As with any inflection point, the business can go one of two ways: performance can decline as the business continues to operate multiple entities separately; or, the organization can unite these different organizations within a cohesive integration strategy in order to unlock valuable new growth opportunities.

Naturally, our goal is to help clients do the latter—developing a comprehensive and holistic integration strategy that unites Sales, Finance and Operations into single lead-to-revenue architecture. Here we look at these various components of the integration strategy and how businesses can unite them to fuel growth, profitability and agility.

Sales: Building a relationship vs. completing a transaction

In today’s landscape, customer expectations have reached new heights. When the business completes a transaction, the customer may accept superficial changes in terms of branding, but they will not tolerate friction within the sales, delivery or billing experience.

To maintain the customer experience, both organizations must develop a shared vision for the intended customer pathway across the new range of products and offer models, from new sale to renewal and expansion. Only then can operating dependencies be understood so that order management and subscription management can act together to provide customers with a unified and frictionless experience across the new portfolio of products and services.

Moving to optics, all quotes, orders and invoices should look the same, reinforcing the idea of a single company. In terms of service and support, consistency is also key. Finally, while sales staff may specialize in different products or services, the handoff between representatives should be seamless.

Sales Takeaways

  • Sell as one company
  • Create a single customer journey across all product lines, brands and geographies
  • Develop a universal catalog that allows both organizations to present, price and package products consistently

Finance

In a recurring revenue model, the back office plays an equally important part role in the company’s overall performance. Once a standalone function, Finance must now manage an endless stream of increasingly complex sales and monetization models, as well as a long list of associated tasks, such upgrades, add-ons and swaps—all while maintaining control and compliance.

For organizations that complete a transaction, there are often duplicate or even triplicate billing processes. These redundancies draw added resources, including people, awayfrom their primary function in service or sales. This can introduce friction within the user experience, which can lead to significant business issues, such as revenue leakage, cash flow restrictions and customer churn.

In many cases, duplicative processes stem from system redundancies. For example, when the acquiring and acquired company use different ERP systems, it becomes extremely complex to plan as one enterprise. That disconnect trickles down, creating inefficiencies throughout the back office, including billing, compliance and reporting. To combat this issue, companies need to identify and implement one ERP and reduce the number of back office platforms as much as possible.

For some businesses, back office redundancies are overlooked for the simple fact that
they work. The business is managing billing, collection, reporting and compliance—but at what cost? In working with many clients, we would argue that the price of disjointed finance operations is far too high. Through effective integration and thoughtful use of technology, it is possible for the business to unite back office operations and automate select tasks.

Finance Takeaways

  • Find billing synergies between companies, brands and geographies
  • Select and implement a single ERP and as few billing systems as possible
  • Leverage technology to automate appropriate tasks
  • Reallocate billing staff to sales and service roles

Operations

Establishing a consistent customer experience, reducing friction from cross-sales and finding internal operational synergies can all stem from a shared services strategy.

However, forcing the systems and processes of the existing business onto new acquisitions may cause more harm than good. Operational awareness at the outset will help balance the approach and avoid common integration traps, such as duplicated licensing and entitlement systems that fragment the customer experience and threaten shareholder value. Rigorous and thoughtful comparison of each operation against an objective cross-functional yardstick is essential to enable a melding of operational best practices.

One of the biggest operational concerns during a M&A is fulfillment. Every company takes a different approach to titling, provisioning, and shipping. The key is to connect these points when possible and eliminate redundancies once united.

Finally, the organization must present a consistent customer experience across both the acquiring company and the target. This is crucial to reinforcing the company’s identity within the market and with customers.

Operations Takeaways

  • Connect the lead-to-revenue lifecycle throughout the front, middle and back office
  • Custom-build a strategy that avoids commons integration traps
  • Prioritize fulfillment unification

Part Two: The Solution

Connecting functions, regions, segments and products through a common reference architecture with Navint

Lead-to-revenue integration success comes from what we call a strong “reference architecture,” a combination of efficient processes, technologies and tools, as well as a high-performing organizational structure. The reference architecture establishes a common language for the business and outlines a set of rules for bundling, pricing, and managing service agreements that need to be aligned and operationalized across the business. Most importantly, the reference architecture becomes the basis for shared understanding of the target so that integration activities are marching towards a single, understood goal, and enabling leadership to make informed decisions.

Speed, efficiency and agility through an M&A Lead-to-Revenue Integration Playbook

Private equity firms and large corporations have been successfully absorbing and integrating business acquisitions for many years. Those who have not already done so should create a playbook in order to guide the activities that must happen in the post-acquisition process, even if informal.

Navint has found that even the most experienced organizations can sometimes overlook the nuances and complexities that come from integrating acquired sales, operations, and systems. Further, as the recurring revenue model becomes more common, and lead-to-revenue operations play a more critical enabler of growth and efficiency, it is important to consider how the existing plan must be adjusted in light of this new model. Put simply, the new playbook must be built upon awareness that new practices need to be blended into the business through the integration process.

  1. Align the organization on the integration strategy

  2. Integrate x-product customer experience

  3. Unify sales & customer service model

  4. Guide cross-sell and upsell processes

  5. Revise offer model including packaging and pricing

  6. Consolidate order and billing solutions

  7. Standardize and simplify function-based processes

  8. Align operations across business units

A step-wise approach to change with the Navint M&A Playbook

Paradoxically, focusing on speed alone during the integration process often results in stalled programs that become too big and complex to execute in a single timeline. In contrast, if companies wait too long to act, a complete business transformation is the only option.

Recognition of an iterative approach from the outset enables shared plans and milestones that are manageable, transparent and predictable. This will help enable stakeholders to transition through structural change, revise business practices, embrace incremental technology changes and preserve revenue performance with a sequence of stable and measured changes to sensitive customer-facing functions. Navint helps clients map these efforts sequentially, addressing integration in a series of thoughtful, careful steps.

Critical success factors for an effective integration strategy

  • A dedicated program management team should oversee all facets of the integration strategy, including technology build resources
  • Incremental transition events that improve the customer journey at each step
  • Clear identification of roles between business units and corporate services
  • Clear understanding of what needs to be flexible to BUs and what should be standardized
  • Careful transition process that is supportive of Accounting and Finance objectives at each step
  • Prioritized technology efforts

Case Studies

  • How a global leader in credit data and marketing services optimized $2.5B in usage-based revenues through order-to-cash transformation  – view here
  • How a leading SaaS provider mastered rapid, seamless integration within its recurring revenue framework – view here
  • How the world’s #1 job site is transforming its enterprise architecture – view here

Conclusion

For many modern organizations, the M&A playbook must be updated to include a custom-built lead-to-revenue integration strategy—one that unites people, processes and technologies across Sales, Finance and Operations in order to align the two organizations and provide a consistent customer experience. A stepwise approach to integration will help the organization drive manageable, transparent and healthy change required to meet the needs of today’s continuous customer.

For more information on how your organization can update its M&A protocols to include a lead-to-revenue integration strategy, please contact us

 

 

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