Acquire and make friends

Our parent company, BT, has just acquired Ribbit, a voice application company based in Silicon Valley - and I'm rather excited about it.

The acquisition makes sense for a number of reasons. First, BT have been changing their image as a telco to that of a software and services company. Ribbit provide a number of services that'll nicely augment those already offered by our SDK team. Also, it gives BT access to Silicon Valley, which is rich in entrepreneurial developer talent, as well as the headquarters of many large tech companies. I'm genuinely excited by BT's continued march into this physical and commercial space.

But this post isn't about that.

Mergers and acquisitions are often quite painful. I experienced two unpleasant mergers in my previous role, both of which involved integration in person. I learned that it's a BIG challenge to get two foreign companies working together. Which is why I've been impressed and surprised by the way social media has been used to develop the relationship between BT and Ribbit, separated by 8 time zones no less.

Ribbit has a Twitter feed, and many of my colleagues jumped on Twitter to wish Ribbit congratulations on the acquisition, and exchange banter ahead of meeting in person. We've challenged them to a table football contest (accepted), as well as threatening them with cocktails. Our own fair unit, Osmosoft, has offered to help them get their feet under the desk. They've been sending photos from the local coffee house, and we've browsed their photos on Flickr. I already feel closer to the Ribbit team than I did weeks after the previous acquisitions.

What can we learn from this? The very nature of mergers and acquisitions is confrontational. There's often the threat of competition, the possibility of redundancies, the territorial hostility, the commercial undercurrents. Social media helps us to neatly sidestep all of that, to develop relationships with human beings. To get a better idea of what makes us tick as human beings, laying the groundwork for the business to follow.

Sounds a lot like Cluetrain to me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are bumps in the road ahead, but I think we're much better equiped to handle these now we've become better acquainted.


Anonymous said…
I think is shaping up to be a great example of change management - allowing people to see the benefits, personal and collective, of the change and them having the tools and space to welcome it.

It wouldn't have worked if we'd been given the tools (Like twitter) last week and told to go make friends, but this way everyone has a better change experience and gets to the good side of the change sooner.

Exciting stuff!
FND said…
It was very nice seeing the flow of tweets between Ribbit and BT/Osmosoft folk.

However, I'm skeptical whether that actually makes a difference - it might just be superficial chatter...