How Corporate Intelligence Teams Help Businesses Manage Risk

The word “intelligence” is loaded: While some confuse it with corporate espionage, today nearly every major company has an intelligence function or is building one. Prior to Covid-19, many corporate intelligence teams largely focused on security, but the pandemic has demonstrated the broader value of intelligence.

In a world of contradictory and misleading information, smart business leaders use intelligence to see around corners, mitigate risk, provide insight, and shape their decision-making. The authors offer an overview of corporate intelligence functions and provide advice on how to structure these internal teams.

In January 2020, a small team at the global financial services technology company Fiserv began closely watching early warning signs of a new disease outbreak in the regional capital of Wuhan, China. The team triangulated reliable media sources and applied their best analytical judgment based on comparable early indicators from historic outbreaks, such as SARS.

Prescient analysis revealed a potentially major disease was in the offing. The team recommended against executive travel even before the virus had been detected in the U.S., earlier than most companies or governments. Scenario assessments of the potential human and economic impact led the company to invest in protective equipment for personnel early on and mitigate risks by swiftly transitioning to remote work.

Why did Fiserv correctly anticipate looming risk while others languished behind the news cycle? Because it had a dedicated and trusted geo-political analysis team, which practices intelligence work, scanning the horizon and keeping senior leadership informed of growing risk and consequent business implications.

In a world of contradictory and misleading information, this kind of intelligence provides situational awareness of cyber threats, security risks, political instability, or other trouble brewing. Smart business leaders consciously use intelligence to shape their decisions.

The word “intelligence” is a loaded one. Some confuse it with corporate espionage, as described in Barry Meier’s Spooked, which portrays private-sector intelligence practitioners as dangerous renegades. Companies can cross the line. Among other egregious examples, an eBay team targeted and harassed bloggers and Credit Suisse used private investigators to surveil employees. These are the bad news exceptions.

Every day, private-sector intelligence professionals legally and ethically steer companies away from trouble and towards opportunity and decisiveness. Organizations, such as the Association of International Risk Intelligence Professionals, are establishing standards and codes of conduct, and academic institutions, such as Mercyhurst University, are producing a new generation of private-sector focused intelligence professionals.

Companies invest in security and intelligence because it helps the bottom line. According to Lewis Sage-Passant, a doctoral researcher at Loughborough University studying private sector intelligence, these functions are now “ubiquitous”: Virtually every major company either has a security intelligence capacity or is building one.

Seeing Around Corners

The best intelligence functions help leaders understand what is happening and what is likely to happen next. Erica Brescia, who until recently served as chief operating officer at GitHub, described the value of their intelligence team during the Covid-19 pandemic: “Our team helped us to identify threats and communicate effectively with multiple audiences throughout the company and across national and cultural boundaries to keep our employees safe and the business running.”

Likewise, Microsoft Global Intelligence Program Manager Liz Maloney told us: “Intelligence is the first step in understanding your risk…Our mission is to enable decision makers to mitigate risk and to respond to residual risk that we can’t avoid.”

A survey of 94 private-sector intelligence professionals revealed that their positions were often created in response to a “threat or crisis.” In the aftermath of terror attacks, cyber assaults, disinformation campaigns, and sudden political shifts, companies belatedly realized that a small investment in situational awareness is better than costly late reaction to unanticipated problems.

In a stark example, a fatal 2013 terror attack on a BP/Statoil/Sonatrach joint venture in In Amenas, Algeria, led both BP and Statoil to significantly enhance their intelligence capabilities to better identify hidden threats.

Mitigating Risk, Providing Insight

Intelligence can create a competitive advantage by enabling operations where others fear to tread. In high threat environments, strong intelligence enables companies to efficiently target security resources on the most relevant risks.

When entering new markets, intelligence teams help executives avoid becoming entangled with dodgy partners or overspending on security while closing the deal. “Information is king,” an aviation security intelligence professional told us. “You don’t need all the armed guards if you have good intelligence.”

The value of private-sector intelligence, according to Maloney, is “giving the business confidence and avoiding overreactions.” For example, after Microsoft executives saw alarming external reporting about security dangers in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Microsoft’s in-house intelligence team provided a nuanced assessment, specific to the company’s footprint, that gave the C-suite the confidence to continue operating safely.

Offering Much More than Security

Prior to Covid-19, many corporate intelligence teams largely focused on security, but the pandemic has shown the broader value of intelligence. Diana Dragon, head of global insights at Standard Industries, noted: “The same skills used to assess security risks can be used in identifying trends and opportunities.” According to the aviation security intelligence professional we spoke to, prior to Covid-19, his team was known as “the security guys.” Now they provide widespread strategic intelligence.

Intelligence analysis can simply relay facts to protect people and assets (baseline level of the pyramid below) but is most valuable when used for strategic, proactive decision-making support (top level). At Fiserv, the geopolitical analysis team, which sits outside of security, already had a broad remit and provided critical intelligence analysis early on that prepared the company for the impending Covid-19 pandemic.

Similarly, teams at Microsoft and GitHub tapped into the top-level potential, analyzing security or geopolitical trends to support strategic business decision making.

Managing Intelligence Better

Intelligence roles are often buried deep in an organization, scattered across corporate functions, or obscured under opaque job titles. Surveys reveal intelligence roles popping up in 20 different business units.

This approach often makes intelligence employees invisible to senior leaders who would benefit from their skills, experience, and networks. “Not having direct contact with decision makers significantly degrades the quality of the service,” says Ryan Long, co-founder and co-host of the Business of Intelligence podcast, “and will likely cause the practitioner to miss mark altogether.”

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for structuring intelligence teams, but specific characteristics lead to success. First, direct connectivity to decision makers is critical. As explained by Brescia in her time at GitHub, “the intel team has direct contact with decision-makers across the company.” From the outset, she met with her head of intelligence, set expectations and priorities, and empowered the intelligence team to come to her if they identified risks that needed to be brought to leadership’s attention.

The intelligence team is also included in working groups on issues of concern to leadership from early on, giving them visibility on executive priorities. Intelligence teams provide the best value when they are clear on the decisions to be made, the questions to be answered, and the company’s strategic goals.

Second, corporate intelligence units must break down silos and engage stakeholders across all business units. “It’s critical,” says Long, “that the intelligence practitioner engage with the customer to understand their needs, receive frequent feedback, and develop rapport.” Teams closely tied to strategy give better support. Better questions lead to better responses.

And finally, an intelligence professional must lead the effort. Whether from government or the private sector, they must be versed in analytic tradecraft, understand collection methodology for the private sector, be able to evaluate vendors’ quality and ethics, and have the skills and experience to understand what the business needs.

Some companies are leading the way and have built intelligence capacities that harness the potential of intelligence to both mitigate risk and facilitate business opportunities. Fiserv’s geopolitical analysis team reports alongside security to the head of global services.

At Standard Industries, the intelligence function moved out of security in 2021 and now the head of global insights sits on the executive leadership team. This new structure arose due to intelligence’s demonstrated ability to provide strategic guidance and support to senior executives on opportunities and trends, as well as risks, across the gamut of corporate activities.

If your company does not have an intelligence function, your competitors likely do. And even if you do, you may not be using it to optimum effect. Are you engaged with the team? Does the team understand your strategy, timelines, and gaps in information? Are you using intelligence beyond security issues to inform wider business challenges?

Executives must empower their intelligence teams, sharing goals and objectives. Likewise, intelligence teams must understand the business, tailoring their products to maximize opportunity and minimize risk. When the right insight arrives at the right time to shape an important decision, a firm gains enormous advantage. It is well worth the modest investment of time and resources to make that happen.

Source: How Corporate Intelligence Teams Help Businesses Manage Risk

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Crypto Prices Tumble Again After $300 Billion Sell-Off—How Low Can Bitcoin Go?

The price of bitcoin fell to a three-month low Saturday, continuing a slide that began Wednesday when the Federal Reserve sparked a broad sell-off by cautioning it may move more quickly than previously expected to reverse policy meant to bolster the economy during the pandemic, and experts forecast the latest crypto market drawback is likely to go on for weeks.

Bitcoin fell as much as 3% to below $41,000 by 1:45 p.m. ET, according to crypto data website CoinMarketCap, bringing its losses to more than 12% since the Fed warned it may move more aggressively to remove pandemic-era stimulus as it looks to combat high levels of inflation.

In a weekend email, analyst Yuya Hasegawa of cryptocurrency broker Bitbank cautioned he expects the world’s largest cryptocurrency could continue falling until the broader market, which has similarly struggled since the Fed’s Wednesday announcement, digests the likelihood of the Fed hiking interest rates as soon as March.

Hasegawa said bitcoin could fall as low as $40,000 in the near term, but that the government’s consumer price index report due out next Wednesday could bring a rebound if it shows inflation spiked more than expected, stoking the inflationary fears that have lifted bitcoin to new highs as recently as November.

On Thursday, crypto billionaire Mike Novogratz, the CEO of financial services firm Galaxy Digital, told CNBC the selloff could push bitcoin down another 8% from current prices to as low as $38,000—a level unseen since early August.

“I’m not nervous in the medium term but we’re going to have a lot of volatility in the next few weeks,” the staunch bitcoin bull said told CNBC, before pointing to booming institutional adoption as a bullish indicator for the nascent space.

Novogratz wasn’t alone among billionaire crypto investors cheering bitcoin on during its latest sell-off: “So. much. money. patiently waiting to [buy the dip] in bitcoin,” Barry Silbert, the founder and CEO of crypto firm Digital Currency Group, wrote on Twitter Saturday afternoon.

Bitcoin was far from alone in falling Saturday afternoon. Over the past 24 hours, ether, binance coin and sol were down 5%, 6% and 3%, respectively—pushing losses to roughly 20% apiece over the last week.”Bitcoin remains vulnerable to a breach of the $40,000 level, and it could get bad for ether if it breaks the $3,000 level,” Oanda Senior Market Analyst Ed Moya wrote in a Friday email. Ether prices clocked in at about $3,034 on Saturday.  “The long-term outlook is still bullish for both the top two cryptocurrencies, but the short-term is looking ugly.”

Despite bitcoin’s bouts of intense volatility, Goldman Sachs co-head of global foreign exchange Zach Pandl wrote in a note to clients this week that the cryptocurrency could top $100,000 in the next five years. Pandl said he expects bitcoin’s share of the crypto market, currently about 41%, “will most likely rise over time as a byproduct of broader adoption of digital assets” and that the cryptocurrency will increasingly compete with gold as a hedge against inflation.

$1.9 trillion. That’s the value of all the world’s cryptocurrencies Saturday afternoon, down more than $300 billion, or 14%, since Wednesday and more than $1 trillion below an all-time high of $3 trillion in November. Over the last five years, bitcoin prices have skyrocketed about 4,300%.

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I’m a senior reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: ‘Looking Ugly’: Crypto Prices Tumble Again After $300 Billion Sell-Off—How Low Can Bitcoin Go?

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The Art of Deep Listening To Resolve Conflict

A lack of effective listening between colleagues is one of the main causes of workplace conflicts, a problem that has been on the increase during the pandemic.

Before we have even stepped into the room, we are likely to have our own agenda which disrupts our ability to truly listen and resolve issues. But what can be done about it to improve communication and resolve conflict, and why does it matter?

Poor listening and communication are at the root of many relationship breakdowns, conflicts and disputes and lead to talent loss, poor productivity, low morale, missing deadlines, failure to complete on projects, loss of sales and a breakdown in trust and relationships.

In business truly listening to employees, colleagues and stakeholders means seriously entertaining their ideas, thoughts and feelings, whilst simultaneously putting your own ideas and instinctive responses on hold.

Why The Pandemic Made Listening Harder

Being asked to work from home and attend frequent online meetings has meant that we have less access to verbal and non-verbal cues, body language, lipreading and facial emotional reading. Turn-taking is difficult in these sorts of meetings.

If listening and speaking are harder, then people have less opportunity to express themselves. In addition, we may be distracted by other things going on at home and our mood and mental health may have been suffering. A lost ability to socialize at work means that meetings are often now solely functional. Furthermore, whilst wearing them may be required, masks have increased communication and listening problems too.

Why Listening Matters

When we communicate, we are subconsciously conducting a test for trust and respect. The test is continuous, it happens from moment-to-moment and is based on what people see, hear or feel. What they want to know more than anything else is ‘Do I matter?’ and ‘Am I heard?’

We also pay most attention to the things that directly concern us or are relevant to our own situation, our own needs, interests, fears and concerns, which means we can often listen from our own point of view rather than the speakers.

The message that a person or organization intends to give is frequently not the message that the other receives. Even when we feel we are expressing ourselves with great clarity, if either or both sides don’t truly listen to what is being said or don’t share the same meaning in the message there will be failures in communication. Not feeling heard can affect work relationships which can result in deep resentment, frustration and conflict.

Tips of how to use deep listening to resolve conflict.

  1. Understand that every conflict has two components: emotional and rational. When a person experiences high emotion in response to a situation or an exchange with another person, the rational, thinking part of the brain will not come into play until they have dealt with the emotional hijacking of the brain. It is physically impossible for someone to switch to logical thinking when their amygdala has created an emotional fight or flight response.
  • Acknowledge a person’s emotional state with an empathetic response. In instances where an emotional response is taking place, the first step to resolving the situation involves expressing empathy. You do this by saying something like ‘It sounds like you are feeling very frustrated’, or ‘I can see that you are upset by this’.
  • Be curious about what it is that is bothering them. If you are aware of and respectful of the other person’s needs, interests, fears and concerns then that is a great opening for good communication. Equally understand that the surface level of conflict is usually just that and there may be deeper issues involved; you may be missing subtle cues or underlying messages. Try not to interrupt or jump to conclusions.
  • Stand in the other person’s shoes. Even if only for a brief moment in time, try to see the world as the other person sees it, rather than how you see it. If you can do this then the person that you are communicating with will begin to have trust in you.
  • Show you are listening. Make eye contact, be present, don’t multi-task at the same time, turn your phone and the tv off, and pay attention to what the other person is saying rather thinking about your own response. Speaking to someone who gives the impression that they are not listening will only escalate the situation further.
  • Reflect back. Unless we take the important step of reflecting back to the speaker what we thought we heard and checking that our interpretation is correct, then we have no real way of knowing that we have understood accurately. Don’t tell them what they are feeling but summarise the important bits by using phrases like ‘I think you are saying’…’ and ‘If I heard you correctly…’
  • You don’t need to have all the answers.  Sometimes people just want to offload or vent and they don’t want fixing.  It is ok to not always know what to say. The important thing is to be present and there for them and to have created a safe space for them to tell you how they are feeling.
  • Tell them your reaction if relevant. Give the speaker some information about your response to their message. Don’t attack on what has been said but add some value to the conversation, describing your reaction rather than criticising the speaker.

By: Jane Gunn , Renowned Mediator and Conflict Specialist, http://www.janegunn.co.uk

Source: The art of deep listening to resolve conflict – HR News

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Reducing Risk When Migrating Mission-Critical Applications To The Cloud

Over the last decade, significant strides have been made in cloud computing, and today’s enterprises have substantial data and application footprints in the cloud. Many organizations are moving toward implementing cloud-based operations for their most crucial business applications.

A cloud-first mindset is usually a given for new companies and continues to gain traction for established enterprises. Still, existing legacy infrastructures and large on-premise footprints that don’t map easily to cloud architectures are slowing and even blocking faster adoption.

Organizations are poised to prioritize cloud investments over the next five years, according to the results of IDC’s Future of Operations research. The appeal includes the potential for an improved experience for customers, employees and suppliers/partners, better development agility, improved time to market and increased operational efficiency across organizations.

Although a pivot to the cloud could complete the evolution of the business from an operational and capital perspective, significant barriers to broader adoption still exist.

Cloud spending is on track to surpass $1 trillion by 2024, partly due to urgent changes to business operations driven by the pandemic, which accelerated cloud adoption timelines for many companies. And the results of recent research find that optimizing cloud costs tops companies’ 2021 priorities for the fifth year in a row.

Increasingly ambitious migration timelines are driving important decisions about moving critical applications without fully understanding the risks. Organizations are addressing application and data migration with largely ineffective one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t always meet expectations, often causing more problems than they promise to solve.

Others are moving with extreme caution when deciding which applications to keep on-prem and which to move, migrate or refactor. Mission-critical apps remain on the legacy infrastructure to assure control over the foundational data and safely maintain business as usual.

Moving from massive, on-prem data centers to the cloud presents a future filled with possibilities but also a level of risk due to the various unknowns within this significant paradigm shift. After all, a mission-critical app can be essential to the immediate viability of an organization and fundamentally necessary for success.

Although moving to the cloud is the way forward for many modern companies, migration can prove time-consuming and highly challenging, often with incomplete or unacceptable results. Successful migration can further business opportunities, but the risk of failure is considerable, and the high visibility that accompanies these major initiatives increases the level of exposure and consequences of said failure.

Mission-critical initiatives often cross the length and breadth of organizations, across low-level operational groups up to the C-suite and beyond. But just as all data is not created equal, neither are clouds or migration strategies.

Data Mobility Matters

With increasing cloud investments comes a growing need for more accessible data mobility. As more data moves to the cloud and strategies expand to occasionally include multicloud environments, there’s an expectation that underlying cloud resources deliver about the same level of performance as on-prem. But, often, the required type and volume of cloud resources are not available and deployment is difficult or impossible.

Performance is instrumental in determining where a mission-critical application should live and drives myriad scaling considerations and challenges. Sometimes, particular features, functionality and capabilities are lacking.

Perhaps the data primarily resides in a private or hybrid cloud to engage in cloud bursting on the public cloud when capacity needs to balloon. Longtime legacy challenges of architecting for the peak versus the average persist. Still, cloud decisions have forced IT leaders to relinquish a level of control over the physical infrastructure, significantly increasing risk.

Managing data mobility is challenging. To increase success, plan an approach that minimizes workflow disruptions of critical processes while ensuring sufficient capacity to support expected workloads and providing enough scalability to handle unexpected workloads. Managing random workload fluctuations requires a solid plan and a scalable, flexible and agile architecture to avoid those black swan events that are all too threatening.

Cloud Migration Considerations

Successful migration is not easy, but for many applications, it’s pretty simple to migrate to a platform as a service (PaaS) or managed service and be up and running fairly quickly. But for those performance-sensitive vertical stack monolithic applications running on the most expensive hardware for decades, moving can prove challenging and even impossible.

Ideally, refactoring enhances an application without negatively modifying external behavior and improving the internal architecture, as well as perhaps gaining cost efficiencies, maintenance or performance. But not all mission-critical applications are a fit for a refactor. Complexity, cost and the risk of disrupting a mission-critical app that’s performing as expected are valid reasons to leave some apps on-prem.

Others are constrained by performance requirements that aren’t achievable in the cloud with current offerings. There are fundamental limitations to the types of applications and databases that can quickly move to the cloud, and overhauling those solutions introduces significant risk, possibly resulting in critical delays and higher costs.

Solving Migration Problems

The best plan to mitigate the risks and improve the odds for cloud migration is to eliminate silos between multiple clouds and on-prem — regardless of type or location — facilitating a free flow of information in a simple, resilient, well-understood fashion. The next truth can’t be overstated:

Data is the new oil and should be treated as such. Just as trained specialists are leveraged to find and extract oil, specialized experts should be utilized when performing high-risk, business-changing moves regarding mission-critical data and the application stacks that access it. Ideally, the team migrating mission-critical applications should be proficient in enabling data mobility across environments without refactoring to reduce risk.

The question of cloud migration in 2021 is often no longer “if” but “when and how.” The material risk of maintaining the status quo can be significant, and avoiding moving mission-critical applications to the cloud is often no longer an option. A wise man once said, “What’s dangerous is not to evolve,” and this truism fully applies to an organization’s journey to the cloud.

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Source: Reducing Risk When Migrating Mission-Critical Applications To The Cloud

Global Merger & Aquisition Volumes Hit Record High In 2021, Breach $5 Trillion For First Time

Global dealmaking is set to maintain its scorching pace next year, after a historic year for merger and acquisition (M&A) activity that was fueled largely by easy availability of cheap financing and booming stock markets.

Global M&A volumes topped $5 trillion for the first time ever, comfortably eclipsing the previous record of $4.55 trillion set in 2007, Dealogic data showed. The overall value of M&A stood at $5.8 trillion in 2021, up 64% from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv.

Flush with cash and encouraged by soaring stock market valuations, large buyout funds, corporates and financiers struck 62,193 deals in 2021, up 24% from the year-earlier period, as all-time records tumbled during each month of the year.

Investment bankers said they are expecting the dealmaking frenzy to continue well into next year, despite looming interest rate hikes.Higher interest rates increase borrowing costs, which may slow down M&A activity. However, deal advisers still expect a flurry of large mergers in 2022.

Accommodative monetary policies from the U.S. Federal Reserve fueled a stock market rally and gave company executives access to cheap financing, which in turn emboldened them to go after large targets.

The United States led the way for M&A, accounting for nearly half of global volumes – the value of M&A nearly doubled to $2.5 trillion in 2021, despite a tougher antitrust environment under the Biden administration.

The largest deals of the year included AT&T Inc’s (T.N) $43 billion deal to merge its media businesses with Discovery Inc (DISCA.O); the $34 billion leveraged buyout of Medline Industries Inc; Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CP.TO) $31 billion takeover of Kansas City Southern (KSU.N) ; and the breakups of American corporate behemoths General Electric Co and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) .

According to a survey of dealmakers and advisers by Grant Thornton LLP, over two-thirds of participants believe deal volumes will grow despite challenges posed by regulations and the pandemic.

Deals in sector such as technology, financials, industrials, and energy and power accounted for the bulk of M&A volumes. Buyouts backed by private-equity firms more than doubled this year to cross the $1 trillion mark for the first time ever, according to Refinitiv data.

Despite a slowdown in activity in the second half, dealmaking involving special purpose acquisition companies further boosted M&A volumes in 2021. SPAC deals accounted for about 10% of the global M&A volumes and added several billions of dollars to the overall tally.

Analysts say the U.S. economy has proven resilient in the face of pandemic-related challenges, and many expect the global economy will still expand at a well-above-trend pace.

After initially tumbling in December, world stocks recovered over the holiday period as investors became reassured economies could handle the surge in Omicron coronavirus cases, and are heading back toward record highs.

“As far as COVID is concerned, for now, market participants may stay willing to add to their risk exposures, and perhaps push equity indices to new highs, as several nations around the globe held off from imposing fresh lockdowns, despite record infections around the globe the last few days,” said Charalambos Pissouros, head of research at Cyprus-based brokerage JFD Group.

The dollar index fell 0.418% on Friday. On Wall Street, New Year’s Eve trading ended near record highs on Friday. read more

All three major U.S. stock indexes scored monthly, quarterly and annual gains, notching their biggest three-year advance since 1999.

Reuters GraphicsInvestors have held onto expectations for resilience in the global recovery into 2022 and the prospect of further gains if money remains cheap and corporate profitability high.

This year’s “everything rally” has seen a wall of cheap central bank cash, government stimulus and strong economic rebounds out of the pandemic make it hard not to profit from soaring asset prices.

U.S. stocks have powered the global rally as record-breaking earnings figures from Big Tech companies excited investors. This week the S&P 500 hit another record high.

By

Source: Global M&A volumes hit record high in 2021, breach $5 trillion for first time | Reuters

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Get to know everything about what Post-Merger Integration (PMI) means, 4 Steps to PMI Success and possible challenges of PMI.

Post-merger integration is the process of unifying two entities and their assets, people, tasks, and resources in a manner that creates the most value for the future of the enterprise by realizing efficiencies and synergies.

From an IT perspective, PMI is a complex process requiring the leadership of enterprise architects to ensure a smooth process. According to the 2021 LeanIX M&A Report, nearly 90% of EAs are involved in post-merger integration, with the following use cases named as most prevalent.

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