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The Role of M&A in Vendor Selection

by Dave Hannon

June 1, 2011

By Dave Hannon


At first, I thought it was a lucky coincidence. When I was interviewing the Campbell Soup Co. about their use of SAP BPC, I learned they had used software from OutlookSoft before it was acquired by SAP. Of course, they were were thrilled to hear that SAP bought OutlookSoft because it made their IT landscape a bit less complicated.

“Lucky break for you” I actually said to the folks at Campbell’s.

But it wasn’t the first time I had heard about such a lucky break. Not too long ago, I had been talking to an IT executive who had been using BusinessObjects solutions even before they used SAP. And when those two vendors married up, “It was like we died and went to heaven” the IT executive told me. Heaven, you say?

So then I started getting curious and went back to some notes I took while interviewing an exec at an SAP customer who was also a strong proponent of the Sybase platform for mobile. Sure enough, he used some “dreams came true” kind of language when talking about the SAP acquisition of Sybase.

I started to wonder – what are actually lucky breaks and what are the product of some IT executives or organizations being shrewd enough to consider such possible mergers when selecting their vendors?

I know what you are going to say. You base your vendor decision on a thorough vendor selection process that takes into account the functionality provided by the blah blah blah. I have read a few RFPs in my day, so I know the company line and I know there are plenty of happy accidents in the world.

But at the end of the day, vendor selection is not an automated process, it involves human reasoning, and sometimes it involves hunches (or calculated estimations, if you prefer). So the question is: how much does the possibility of two companies combining or even just the M&A market in general play into the decision of which vendor to sign on with?

For example, every IT department and their brother is analyzing the cloud market right now, pairing up with vendors for various aspects of cloud. And at the same time every major IT vendor, be it software or hardware, is looking at making some cloud acquisitions. So the cloud market is going to go through some major changes in the next couple years. That sets up some tricky decisions for the average CIO, right? Team up with a cloud vendor who gets acquired a week after you sign the contract and you could be stuck doing business with a vendor you had no intention of doing business with by default.

But what are your options?

  • Hold off on cloud until the market shakes out? (Not an option for most.)
  • Go with the standard RFP and if that cloud vendor gets bought deal with the fallout later? (That would be the most common choice.)
  • Do some extra due diligence (rumor mill) and try to ascertain (guess, hunch) just which vendors will marry up and come out two steps ahead of the game? (Maybe.)

As always, I would love to get your thoughts on this topic, either personal experience or even just opinions or observations.

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Scott Wallask

9/25/2013 8:55:31 PM

I love the thought of software deals being influenced by the human aspect of "it just feels right." It was interesting to think of rumors as part of due diligence, but you're right, they should be.