Agile Mergers & Acquisitions Advisory Services

September 10, 2018 By ,

September 10, 2018
By Vaughn Hulleman

Agile is a project management method whose principles include placing customer satisfaction as the highest priority and delivering products or services frequently. This approach is used mostly in software development, but can advisory services for Mergers and Acquisitions be Agile?

The Agile project management approach includes breaking the overall work requirements into smaller components that can be completed within a time-boxed iteration known as a Sprint (eg. 1-2 weeks). Progress is tracked and re-planned in short meetings called Daily Scrums. This approach has worked well in software development, where smaller service components can be developed and tested with clients so that course corrections can be applied more frequently (than other development methods) to deliver an end-product that satisfies the client.

Recently, Stillwater was retained by a private equity (PE) firm focused on large energy-infrastructure investments. In two different engagements, Stillwater helped evaluate a potential investment for which the PE firm was granted a four-week exclusive period to review the asset.

In each case, the PE team had significant analytic skills and broad energy-infrastructure knowledge but retained Stillwater Associates for our deep knowledge of the market, products, and the assets being considered. The challenge with this type of advisory engagement is that the issues being considered change quickly as new information comes to light. Equally challenging, the issues often are complex and require thoughtful and thorough analysis, but time is limited – conditions that called for Agile project delivery.

Leading the engagement, I applied Agile principles by first breaking down the engagement’s overall objectives (Do I want to invest?  How much would I pay?) into four sprint topics to be delivered on successive Fridays of a four-week engagement:

    1. What is the asset, and how do its customers use it?
    2. What are the supply/demand and market outlooks for the asset’s products and services?
    3. What are the downside risks to the asset’s use?
    4. What are the upside opportunities to improve the performance and financial returns of the asset?

Further application of Agile had us adopt Scrum meetings for each week’s deliverable.   The project team met every Monday morning to review the client’s feedback and concerns from the previous week then broke down the current week’s objective into a more detailed analysis plan and work assignments. Scrum meetings followed each successive day – Monday afternoon and Tuesday were focused on analysis, Wednesday centered on documenting the results, and Thursday we refined our point of view and messaging, delivering the results to the client on Friday.

The project team found the Agile approach to be very effective; more importantly, so did the client. The weekly delivery cadence provided a good balance between thoughtful work with the client’s need for timely advice. It accelerated the PE firm’s analysis while tailoring the following week’s work to new learnings, allowing us to meet a common request: “Now that you have explained that, we would also like to know more about this.”

Interested in learning more about Stillwater’s Agile approach? Contact us.


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