Since it was announced late last year, a lot has been written about the acquisition of Red Hat by IBM. The analyst community and media have reported that this acquisition positions IBM as the largest cloud provider in the world. And some speculate that IBM is well positioned for the next generation platform play that will create seamless computing across all clouds, public and on premise.
Positive in opportunity but cautious in tone, as history tells us successful acquisitions are just plain hard to pull-off. Of course, there are the typical issues of how the technologies compliment or extend portfolios, customer overlap and cross sell opportunities, operations integration, resource redundancy, and more.
These business functions need to be addressed and executed upon. And of course, there is the complexity of corporate culture, which is far less tangible, far more fragile and the single most important factor to successful integration. So yes, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of factors at play.
Analyst and media coverage have been dominated by predicting the effectiveness of IBM’s execution of this deal. What has received much less attention is what happens to customers, both in the short and mid-term. As part of the regulatory hoops required for approval of the deal, employees were under a proverbial gag order ensuring that there is no exchange of information or contact between the organizations.
Based on my own experience I’m predicting that these silos will stay firmly intact for years to come. The reason? Companies do a poor job mapping their employees to their peers and while they may have a cadence supporting status updates, they generally provide nothing meaningful or actionable for the market facing teams. Subsequently, consciously or sub consciously employees focus on their own metrics, ring-fence their teams and try to maintain the status quo.
This is where the partner ecosystem plays a critical role in connecting the pieces for clients. Long-standing partners of Red Hat and IBM have history and relationships that provide access to people and information that can be incredibly beneficial to customers looking to plan strategically and reap the benefits of the acquisition. There’s little doubt that there are significant customer benefits delivered by this deal, and that the emerging company will stumble to articulate them in an actionable way – at least in the near term. As IBM and Red Hat address the challenges of integration, a strong partner organization will be the best equipped to guide customer cloud and open source strategies. The most opportunistic customers will capitalize on value of the new entity quickly with the guidance from a legacy IBM/Red Hat partner with a forward-thinking perspective.