28% of executives are planning for either a merger or acquisition in 2013. This is a crazy statistic published in a recent article onĀ CGMA Magazine’s website. The article makes the argument that one of the most common mistakes among executives is failing to plan properly for the integration of the two businesses.

From my experience, the executives probably spent tens of thousands of dollars on how to ensure the cultures mesh, planning around how the brand will survive or evolve, how to ensure that customers and the public in general don’t lose confidence in the business. That isn’t the type of integration I’m talking about (not to mention what the author of the article was referring to either).

It’s all about the accounting and reporting. No matter the size of your company, you are going to have to figure out how to integrate the books and make sure that your management teams are still able to get the information they need to run their divisions.

Here is our guide to integrating accounting systems:

  1. Survey all the financial teams to get an understanding of the systems they use to prepare the financials statements and truly get an in depth understanding of each system.
  2. Survey all the executives and management teams to find out what information they receive (or pull from the systems), how often, how they use that information, and come to a consensus of what is needed and what isn’t. (Finance can’t make these decisions by themselves!)
  3. Gather all your information and come up with a plan to unify. Determine the system(s) you are going to use, how you are going to get the information in there, how will your teams have to change their processes, etc. This is your initial framework – don’t worry, it’ll change!
  4. Bring together several key employees to get their feedback on the initial framework.
  5. Go back to the drawing table and start adding more detail to your plan (and change all those bad ideas in #3). The point of more detail is to simplify, not complicate. I’ve seen people change job codes from names to numbers – why? I never got a real reason, but it sure did confuse every single one of us.
  6. Start planning how you are going to implement all these changes. Are you going to run concurrent books? Are you going to flip the switch on a certain day? When are you going to deploy the changes? Whatever you decide, make sure you think of the pro’s and con’s either way.
  7. Get the support of management before you go live. You’ll never get anywhere without their trust and backing. Trust me – I’ve been there! Management has to be on your side because change is hard for everyone. Things are going to go wrong and if the executives start showing their disappointment, then it’ll just trickle down throughout the entire organization.
  8. Train & listen. Remember that all of your employees haven’t been involved in the planning, design, and implementation like you. And, at the same time, you haven’t been doing their job this whole time. While you show them how to do their job in the new system, make sure to listen when they have complaints, concerns, and issues. Be open to changing your plans or procedures if things don’t work right.
  9. Continue to adapt. Just like any good organization, a good finance team is always adapting to the changing business environment to better their financial and management reporting. No one gets it perfect the first time.

Accounting integrations or migrations are a lot of work, so you need to be sure to have the right team in place. Sometimes that even means bringing in consultants that understand both the technology and accounting involved. So, are you planning a merger or acquisition this year? Have you considered how your reporting is going to change after the deal is done?