Mergers are always tricky things to handle. The general rule is that the system that will be abandoned after the merger should be adjusted to match the needs of the system that will be used going forward from the merger. In nearly every case this means that the merging firm needs to adjust their data to suit the system of the acquiring firm.
In your example, I'd convert the data from the single hotel into the format used by the hotel chain. The only exception would be if the chain was acquiring the hotel because of its management system or software, which could make things very interesting!
Once you decide which data needs to be converted, you'll need to understand both systems well enough to be sure that you convert (or sometimes recreate) all of the data needed to convert the important information from the old system to the new system.
You should plan at least three sessions with the management team that will exist after the merger.
In the first session, they need to explain for you what they want done: what they want converted, how they want to use it, what must happen, and what must not happen. Take detailed notes, or better yet record the sessions if they will let you. This is the conversion step that represents the artists rendition of a building. You'll use this information to plan how you'll do the conversion, and establish what must happen and what cannot be allowed to happen in the conversion.
In the second session, you need to explain for management what you plan to do in the conversion process. This needs to be done at the "30,000 foot level" with little or no detail, but all of the big pieces clearly labeled. Management needs to "buy into" this description, so they need to clearly understand the big picture, but not the minute details (unless those details are critical to the process, such as legal requirements). This is the conversion step that represents the blueprint of the new building (or addition).
Once management buys into your description, you need to "make it so". You'll probably need to talk with them on an ongoing basis at this point, giving them status information and clarifying details, but this will usually be your baby to handle on your own. At the end of this process, you should have a "show and tell" meeting so that they can see where things started, and where you took them. This conversion step represents the final walk through where the buyer approves the addition.
Mergers are almost always big projects. They have different impacts on the merging organizations. They offer real opportunities for you to show the value of internally managed IT groups to both the merging and the acquiring organizations.
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This was first published in January 2003