You often hear or read about merger and acquisition (M&A) integration as a growth strategy, however, companies often under-estimate the effort involved in guiding multiple integrations simultaneously. If part of your organization’s strategy is to grow through M&A, you need to think about incorporating a framework for multiple integrations—not just one.

Some questions that may be beneficial in developing this framework include: How many mergers and acquisitions are planned for this fiscal year? What is leadership’s vision for the future? Do all employees know the vision and embrace it? How will your organization keep people engaged to drive each integration? How does your organization ensure each new company feels welcome and part of the team?

Step 1: Do your homework

Before an organization can even think about integration, you must go through a thorough due diligence process. This not only encompasses the usual finance, IT and tax areas, but also operations. Operational due diligence can accelerate results and reduce risk by ensuring the oncoming organization fits well with your current business and the vision for the future. Without it, you risk the possibility of missing unforeseen capital needs and delayed integration due to unexpected fundamental operating differences and you will likely delay or entirely miss synergies.

Step 2: Create an integration “one stop shop”

As integrations begin to get closer together or even overlap, it is vital to have a single place for tracking and managing. This includes both an integration management office (IMO), as well as a consistent project management tool. Having an IMO enables stakeholders to see across each integration, and easily provide guidance, direction, coordination, risk escalation/de-escalation/mitigation and progress tracking where necessary. Selecting and sticking with a single project management tool allows everyone in the organization a place to see progress at any point. Having a centralized location where stakeholders can see what’s upcoming and what’s at risk is critical to sustaining multiple integrations. There will likely be many opinions regarding the tool selection. Make sure you choose a program that is user-friendly and is accessible to everyone in the organization. Additionally, having an IMO and a project management tool will help provide a launch point for the next integration, so you’re not starting from scratch each time.

Step 3: Communication, communication, communication

In order for your organization to succeed at not just one, but several integrations, it is paramount to have constant communication–internally and externally. Communication between leadership and the “boots on the ground” is critical. Key stakeholders need to know the vision for the company and how each acquisition fits within it–they have to know the picture of the puzzle they’re assembling. The “boots on the ground” employees will be putting in extra effort during this time and will need the occasional pat on the back to continue at full steam. The extra time and attention key individuals are putting into an integration should be considered as part of their respective incentive plans. In addition, new companies coming onboard may be afraid of losing jobs so communicating the plan and keeping regular touch points will help reduce unnecessary angst and potential fallout. Furthermore, external communication prevents any surprises to customers and clients, which helps mitigate the loss of business to competitors. There are several stakeholders in an integration effort and it is critical to keep in regular contact with each one to have a successful integration and sustain that momentum through the next series of integrations.