The Datatel and Sungard Higher Education merger has been completed and the new company will be known as Datatel+SGHE until a new name is chosen. I thought this would be a good time to revisit the approach to planning in my initial review of the merger in Vendor Consolidation: Another Challenge to Planning. The first phase was the actual completion of the deal, with a new organization identified and under a consolidated management team. This is a positive step forward, but it is still too early to understand the true impacts of the merger.
Based on the announcement, it appears Datatel was the model for the new organization. Now that the consolidated organization has been defined, all of the hard work begins for the new company. Customers will first see the changes to the back-office processes like Finance and Legal. These are obvious areas for cost savings by eliminating redundancy. Datatel customers probably will not notice much if any changes. SGHE customers, however, will likely notice changes, but hopefully these will be positive. Changes in products, services, and sales will begin, but will really be dependent on the new product strategy that has not yet been defined.
When will we see changes in product strategy?
The announcement identified all three product lines will be continued and enhanced. This is the message you would expect in a merger announcement, because the focus is to reassure the customers while the new organization has the opportunity to implement new product strategies. This message of assurance will probably continue for the next 12 to 24 months as the new product strategies are finalized and work new components are identified.
For planning, it is important to listen to the messaging, but it is just as important to understand the context of the message and watch the behaviors of the organization. The purpose of the merger was to bring together the companies and focus resources to provide new and improved solutions for customers, which means there will be changes. It would be counter-productive for Datatel+SGHE to not change their product strategy based on market needs.
Listening with an open mind and watching the behavior of the organization will help you gain insights as the strategies are finalized. It is important to look at the changes and their impact, positive or negative, before making judgements. Taking an approach of not wanting your product to change may cause you to miss opportunities as the strategy is refined.
It is still too early to make any decisions based on the merger. It is important to understand the new product strategy as it emerges, as well as to look at changes occurring in the marketplace. New SaaS based solutions are coming to market that that the potential of chipping away at the traditional ERP solutions. It will be interesting to see how quickly Datatel+SGHE will be able to define their
I think the planning approach has not changed since my original review. Understanding your needs will empower you to make the decisions and even provide input into future product decisions. When the new product strategy becomes a reality, it could very well be your best solution. A good understanding of your needs will allow you to make the decision about what is best for your institution and the the vendor. In the mean time:
- Decisions that have already been made should not be reevaluated unless they are not meeting the organization’s needs
- Organizations making significant decisions on pu
- Every organization will benefit from clearly understanding their needs, options, and a clear decision process to meet their needs