To identify the top 10 U.S. dealmakers, one could simply look at the largest in the industry because they have the most spending power, or those who understand the process and buy the right firms at the right valuations, or look at those who have closed the greatest number of deals. But do these criteria really paint an accurate picture? The answer is yes and no. One could also argue that some of the top buyers are not the biggest firms, nor the most active, but rather firms that have best used M&A to their strategic advantage.
Regardless of the criteria, we could create a list with dozens of companies such as: Oracle, Bentley Systems, Dell, Deltek, Fiserv, Symantec, HP, IBM, Intuit, Kronos, and Yahoo. Limiting the list to 10 is a near impossible task but here are some of my favorites:
·  Accenture has a history of expanding geographically and adding specific vertical market expertise.
·  Quantive went after smaller acquisition targets (usually under $30 million) while building a dominant position in the online ad space. The combined entity was then sold to Microsoft for $6 billion.
·  Cisco is a perennial deal powerhouse, but their success is mainly due to their ability to integrate their transactions.
·  Electronic Arts has acquired competitors and complementary technology to become the major independent player in the gaming space.
·  EMC uses M&A to expand the footprint of the firm through landmark deals RSA, Documentum, Legato along with dozens of other complementary transactions.
·  Francisco Partners The private equity firm is using M&A to build strong positions in specialized markets.
·  Google has used M&A to be at the forefront of innovation but has remained focused, a contributing factor to their success.
·  Infor Global, with the aid of Golden Gate Capital, has built the third largest ERP vendor behind only Oracle and SAP, entirely through strategic acquisitions.
·  Microsoft simply put, the company is the largest and most active technology buyer.
·  Sungard Data Systems was built through M&A, and has consistently been one of the most active buyers in the financial services space.
A version of this article originally appeared in Soft•letter and Software Success.