Leaving users unscathed after M&A

WatchGuard Technologies recently finished its acquisition of BorderWare Technologies, Trustwave purchased Vericept, two separate investment firms swooped up Entrust and Aladdin, RIM bought Certicom, Websense took over Defensio, McAfee procured Solidcore (and before that MX Logic), Symantec bought Mi5, and the list goes on and on and on… My point?

Information security as an industry sees a profusion of mergers and acquisitions. But one interesting effect from it is the need to re-evaluate the variety of business practices under which each individual business once operated before the transaction, so that refinements and more sweeping changes can be implemented and followed after they merge.

Now, we in the security field know that tying together the operations of two disparate entities can introduce tons of security vulnerabilities. We often hear about organizations failing to establish proper security practices for the unified company – a blunder that usually sees the company exposing critical data, trouncing customer and board trust, and losing tons of profit.

This is a huge problem that we've covered in our publication and on our website, but there are other less discussed issues that need attention, too. One that we tackle on a monthly basis in our Product Section is that of support and service. Ensuring that the products you sell are buoyed by good customer support is critical – so critical, in fact, that one bad experience could lose you important customers.

An unpleasant experience I recently had with might serve as an example. I had to waste the good part of a day on the phone with their customer service reps bouncing from department to department after my confirmed reservation was lost. The incident started me thinking harder about what happens to large corporate customers after major acquisitions.
Such shoddy practices could signal the death knell for many companies. A security vendor acquired by a much larger beast whose customers have come to rely on strong security products must keep customer service practices a top priority. Refining support and service policies to ensure that the change leaves long-standing customers unscathed is a top priority. The people who dole out advice to help customers are just as crucial as the products they're supposed to support. Failing to account for their thorough training and professionalism could mean loss of repeat business and threaten development of the new.
Illena Armstrong is editor-in-chief of SC Magazine.

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