On June 13, 2016, Microsoft announced plans to buy LinkedIn for the paltry price of $26.2 billion. All kidding aside, it’s Microsoft’s most expensive acquisition ever, dwarfing the $9.2 billion it paid for Skype and Yammer in 2011. It looks as though Microsoft is hoping to integrate more effectively into the social landscape, with a vision of blending their Office suite and their own CRM (Dynamics) product with LinkedIn.
At its heart, this is a target customer buy. LinkedIn has 400 million users, mostly professionals. To Microsoft, that’s a bigger asset than anything else in the deal.
What changes can we expect?
We’re not likely to see any major changes in the short term. LinkedIn’s leadership team will stay intact, so the management philosophy will remain largely the same. LinkedIn was already making changes to their tools, both paid and free options, with the dual goals of making them more useful and more profitable.
From an end-user perspective, those changes seemed to be introducing as many bugs as they were adding features. What we hope to see first are fixes for some of the bugs users have noticed, and attempts to make the tools more stable.
From there, we enter the land of conjecture. We can be relatively certain that integration with Microsoft Office will end up being a win all around. Some of the smaller and more immediate improvements we hope to see include:
-Improvements in sharing capabilities. Integration with the Office suite means improvements on both sides. Users can expect to see changes which will make it possible to share spreadsheets, other documents and contact information with LinkedIn connections—in real time.
-SharePoint and PowerPoint integration. LinkedIn already has SharePoint, which is an integrated distribution network, so an eventual hookup with PowerPoint is practically guaranteed.
-Click-to-call integration of Skype. This would allow users to manage their contacts and their meetings within LinkedIn.
Microsoft CRM + LinkedIn CRM
One of the most significant integrations is likely to involve Dynamics CRM. Both Microsoft and LinkedIn have their own CRM platforms. Microsoft’s Dynamics, isn’t as widely used as the company would like, and the LinkedIn’s, Sales Navigator, has some limitations of its own. An eventual integration of the two is likely to be deeper than either one separately, and would make an enormous amount of customer data available to users.
It will almost certainly result in the automatic tracking of LinkedIn conversations and interactions within the CRM (something largely relegated to the land of 3rd party add-ons now). It’s also very probable that users will be able to add information about a lead to the CRM and have it automatically pull up all of the information that can be found in LinkedIn about that lead and the company he or she works for.
“Cortana, Tell me about…”
Microsoft’s digital personal assistant (its answer to Siri) is called Cortana, who we’d love to see play a larger role in the integration. Cortana could provide voice reminders about upcoming meetings, or even inform a user about the person he or she is meeting. Users could ask Cortana if they are connected to anyone via LinkedIn who knows the person, or find out about the business services they use, or even about their personal interests. All this could be used as valuable insight into a contact and for relationship building.
The growth and capability of personal digital assistants is largely reliant on the information they have access to. Access to the wealth of LinkedIn data means that Cortana’s uses may be limited only by one’s imagination.
Microsoft + LinkedIn: Good or bad for users?
The question that hangs over every acquisition is, “Will this be a good thing or a bad thing?” In the short term, we’re betting on a good thing. LinkedIn will likely start focusing on user stability instead of rapidly adding new features that continue to introduce unpleasant changes and interface challenges.
But it’s likely to be a good thing in the long term, too. Both Microsoft and LinkedIn serve the needs of professionals pretty well already. We expect that people who use both will eventually get the best of both worlds and that Microsoft will be quite happy with their investment.