Am I on the cutting edge, or am I buying into hype? Do I have enough tech for my team to compete but not too much that data becomes dispersed and unusable?
These are questions that every leader in almost every industry is asking themselves and corporate development is no exception.
Shreyans Parekh, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Corporate Development at a Fortune 200 commercial real estate firm, strives to strike the right balance between two extremes he’s seen in his years of experience both in investment banking and corporate development.
“One side is too much technology, with no strategy for how to use it. The other, a resourceful team with too little technology to analyze the larger market picture.”
We interviewed corp dev directors from teams doing 1 to 10 deals per year with the help of Office Hours, a research tool connecting professionals through on-demand, expert interviews.
We ask what technology helps them compete and close more deals. Here are the tools they mentioned.
Two important notes before we dive in.
1. These interviews are snapshots of a corp dev tech stack. For an in-depth look at corp dev trends, we recommend reading Aaron Polack’s 2022 Corporate Development Trends and Compensation Report.
2. This list does not include company-wide software like Slack or Microsoft Teams--we've focused specifically on M&A tools that help increase deal flow.
For due diligence, corp dev teams relied most heavily on information from Gartner Reports 451 Research, Forrester, GLG Research, and Coleman Research.
It becomes even more crucial for these leaders to divide their time wisely. While you may not need for an elaborate deal funnel management tool, you can’t spend hours on manual tasks. Your time is best spent developing your thesis, building integration roadmaps, and maintaining relationships with business executives.
Before you can elevate if a software is the right fit, you need to “Know the area that you want to operate in, the product category and how it's defined. What's the formal name and what are analysts or other companies calling that category? You want to start identifying the different keywords that are related to it,” says the senior director of a publicly traded software company.
The sourcing tools mentioned most frequently for teams of one were Pitchbook, Crunchbase Pro, and Grata.
Grata is a deal sourcing platform designed for dealmakers to search thematically by keyword. If you know the keywords you’re looking for, Grata is the best solution for deal origination. And the right tools can save your money on other budget items like hiring. According to George Gould, SVP of Corporate Development at Azul Systems Inc., Grata eliminated their need to hire a dedicated sourcing employee.
As the industry leader in company financials, Pitchbook was mentioned as a resource by corp dev directors as a must-have tool when it comes to late-stage sourcing and due diligence.
The prospecting available within Crunchbase software was described “as a useful first step,” though it had shortcomings. “Our team and the product managers use Crunchbase. It’s a good starting point for a search, but does not give us all of the accurate information we need to make a decision about a company,” said an anonymous director.
In 2021, a survey by Lion Equity Partners found that almost 60% of corp dev teams were using Excel alone to track deal flow.
When you’re no longer a team of one, project management comes to the forefront. For corp dev teams as they grow they find the Excel no longer cuts mustard.
For medium-sized teams, we talked to corp dev leaders who invested in a myriad of project management tools: Asana, Atlassian’s suite of products, Midaxo, and Smartsheet and DealCloud.
Midaxo and DealCloud are project management softwares built specifically for M&A to track the deal lifecycle.
Regardless of which project management tool used, a common thread of advice started to appear with teams conducting 3 or more deals per year:
“Your tool is only as good as your team. The biggest problem with tech tools is the data entry. There has to be a carrot and stick approach to new technology to make sure you’re getting the most out of it” -VP of Corporate Development at a publicly traded software company.
In addition to project management software, medium-size corp dev teams were using a combination of sourcing tools like Pitchbook, Grata, LinkedIn Professional, and Crunchbase Pro.
For large teams, market research can quickly become the largest part of the budget.
“Most of my budget is spent on information resources rather than project management tools. I have my team budget and then an IT budget that is about $100k and it is all spent on deal sourcing research and tools.” -VP of Corporate Development at a publicly traded software company.
Resources like the 451, GLG Surveys, Gartner, and Forrester were commonly found alongside deal sourcing platforms like Pitchbook, Crunchbase, and Grata.
Another fee that large corp dev teams budgeted for was integrations. Corp devs need to be ready to grow subscriptions as the team expands.
“Integrations become more and more necessary over the years, especially with CRM usage. You need your fact and data sets to work seamlessly,” said a director of corporate development at a Fortune 200 company.
Learn more about how Alex Fries, Director of Corporate Development at Progress, uses Pitchbook, Grata, and DealCloud in tandem to scope the middle market and engage executives.
Corporate Development directors not only have to track external communication, but internal as well. How do you disseminate information and build excitement company-wide about M&A efforts?
Here’s what that looks like at Progress.
Internal communication processes between sales, engineering, and product are crucial to finding the right targets. It’s important to harness your team’s knowledge of competitors and collaborators in the industry.
For a small team, the occasional slack message or email to the corp dev director is manageable. For larger corp dev teams, it’s much easier for important target information to get lost in an email or in a direct message. To keep information organized, the corp devs we spoke to often used a Google form where coworkers in sales, product, and engineering could submit target recommendations.
The form may be as simple as “Name” and the company’s “URL” or it might include more in-depth questions around how the target fits into the company’s overall M&A strategy.
Technology can help corp devs find more targets and stay organized – both of which increase deal flow.
One corp dev expert told us that one of his key responsibilities is keeping a detailed record of not only companies that were approved and moved forward into due diligence, but also the companies they accessed and did not move forward.
“Make sure your past research is easily accessible. One thing that corp devs absolutely hate is if we are caught by an executive or a board member that says, “Hey, we just saw that X Company went out and bought Y Company. As corp dev leaders, we need to be able to concisely share 1) Yes, we knew the company and 2) Here’s why we didn’t move forward.” -VP of corporate development at a publicly traded software company.
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