In theory, IT should make it easier to merge one company with another. But as times goes on, it appears that the complexity of IT is becoming a major impediment to mergers and acquisitions.
The latest example of that impediment comes in the form a major IT glitch at TD Bank that has resulted from the bank's attempts to integrate the systems of its TD BankNorth unit with the systems of recently acquired Commerce Bank.
Beyond the fact that the bank is now the subject of customer ridicule, the bank may soon find itself the subject of a U.S. government audit if it doesn't fix the problem once and for all.
TD Bank is hardly alone in encountering these kinds of problems after a merger. The issue that companies continually seem to run into is that various processes that need to be integrated are typically on incompatible systems. Ideally, the company doing the acquisition would like to convert everything to one standard IT architecture, but that can take years.
In the meantime, the IT organization usually faces mission impossible in terms of getting multiple systems integrated in a meaningful way. Of course, the complexity of those tasks is often underestimated by the people doing the mergers and acquisitions, all of whom can usually be counted on to express their surprise and disappointment when something like this happens. It's unclear if this is the case with TD Bank, but it happens all too often.
The simple fact of the matter is that as more business processes become automated, the more customers are going to find themselves locked into the specific IT architectures on which those systems are built. We can talk about the merits of open systems in the context of better enabling mergers and acquisitions, but even when two companies are lucky enough to be using the same platform, there is still enough devil in the details between the two systems to make them incompatible.
Obviously, people planning mergers and acquisitions need to do a lot better when it comes to understanding the real IT intricacies involved in successfully pulling off these deals. But the real question may be: Has IT become too complex to make these types of deals really feasible in the first place?