Thursday, October 22, 2009

(empo-tymshft) On post-acquisition reorganizations

The news comes - your company is being acquired by another firm. In many cases there will be a brief "business as usual" period, but eventually changes are going to be made to incorporate the newly-acquired company into the acquiring firm.

Unfortunately, in many cases that reorganization includes something that is usually described with a euphemism, such as "right-sizing," but it basically means that people are going to be fired.

But even if the reorganization does NOT include firings, it certainly will involve changes in the way that business is being done, with a corresponding change in what employees of the acquired company will be doing. In some cases these changes are minor, but in other cases they may be significant.

After the reorganization is announced, there is usually a transitional period. If someone is being transferred from one job to another, the person usually can't drop everything he/she is doing that day and start the new job the next day. Perhaps the employee will ramp up on the tasks of the new position, while wrapping up some tasks associated with the old position.

In addition, there is the issue of the timing of the reorganization announcement to those outside of the company, such as customers and vendors. When should the reorganization be announced to the public? Who should do the announcing? What key messages will be conveyed in the announcement?

These are questions which each company will answer in its own way, and I can only share with you how my company dealt with this issue. For, you see, after 9 1/2 years as a product manager, I returned to the proposals department some weeks ago. However, I chose not to blog about this change publicly until now.

Let's go over the list of things above and see how my company handled the situation.

First, there have been no layoffs. When the potential acquisition of my division was announced a little over a year ago, the acquiring company took pains to emphasize that they were NOT interested in "right-sizing" or "increasing shareholder value" or whatever euphemism you want to apply. In essence, they needed people.

However, once the acquisition was complete a few months ago, the acquiring company was now in possession of two divisions that pretty much did the same thing - our division, and a division that it had acquired back in the 1990s. Anyone could realize that this organizational structure would not persist forever.

So various things were done in the months after the acquisition was complete - very little could be done before the various government agencies signed off on the acquisition - and a few weeks ago the new corporate structure was announced. I'll confine the discussion to my personal situation and note that this involved a transfer for me from the product management organization to the proposals organization. Although I had no knowledge of what was coming, the move out of product management was not entirely unexpected, and the move into proposals was not surprising. I had done some "what if" exercises in my brain, thinking, "If they move me out of product management, and if they don't fire anybody, where are they going to put me?" Because of my previous experience, proposals was a possible choice.

However, there were a number of product management duties that were still on my plate. It is not appropriate for me to discuss many of them here, but all of those items were pretty much wrapped up by the end of September. That only left two product management-related duties:

  • Oracle OpenWorld 2009, which occurred last week

  • Our company's user conference for our customers, which occurred this week and is ending this evening
In both cases, I fulfilled the commitments that I had previously made as a product manager, while privately communicating to various people (including key Oracle contacts last week, and key customer contacts this week) that my job duties were in the process of changing. As appropriate, I put my contacts in touch with the people who would be performing the relevant duties in the future.

In the meantime, other private communications about the reorganization were taking place, but a public announcement of the reorganization occurred at this week's user conference, in which the customers in attendance learned about the new organization and about the heads of the new divisions within the reorganized company. And no, they didn't drill down to the proposal writer level, but if a customer happened to find out that I was no longer a product manager, that would not be surprising to them, given the breadth of the changes.

And now our user conference has had its final sessions and its closing banquet. So, for all intents and purposes, my last duties as a product manager ended at 10:00 pm on Thursday, October 22, and I'm embarking on proposals duties. And frankly, this is a VERY interesting time to be in proposals again...

Does this mean that I'll never listen to a PMV webinar again, or that I will quit tracking what IBM does with its Rational product line, or that I'll purge my mind of all of the acronyms that I've gathered over the years - since, due to my change in duties, I am no longer involved with the CCB, FEC, NSDB, or SEPG; no longer write MRs; and no longer read TRSes, SAUs, PSCMPs, or other CIs?

Time will tell, since I have a new set of things to follow. Did you notice my Shipley post back on October 8? Perhaps you didn't know that I am reacquainting myself with some software (my first trip to the Union Square area wasn't for Oracle OpenWorld, but for some proposal software training back in 1999; we're still getting our proposal software from the same vendor). And I already have some new acronyms that are creeping into my vocabulary (WIP it into shape!).

And frankly, even though I've written biometric proposals before, I still have a lot to learn. Let's face it - even though I was contributing to proposals throughout my years in product management, I haven't actually WRITTEN a proposal in this millennium. So in one sense I'm sort of "the old one" in proposals - I recognize some things in our proposal process that I actually created the last time around - yeah, I'm the "pink bold italic" guy. But I'm also at the same time "the new one," because our proposals team has made a lot of improvements in the past decade, so I've been catching up - pink bold italic text is now an official style!

But I still have this product management experience upon which I can draw, both in my job and outside of it. So I'll probably yammer away on occasion about requirements and use cases and software development processes, at least until people tell me to shut up.

But for now, I'm having fun.

(Picture source, license - and yes, I've used it before)
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