By now you've probably heard the big news: Microsoft has agreed to purchase LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. As much as you like searching for new jobs, and reading endless memes about achieving your inner greatness, you're probably scratching your head, wondering why Microsoft would dump about half of its worth on a social network that doesn't even crack the top three in popularity. It's fair to question whether or not the acquisition makes fiscal sense, or whether the two tech giants can form a cohesive and practical business unit. However, the acquisition doesn't entirely come out of the blue, especially if you've been closely following Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his machinations.
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Less than a year ago, Nadella emailed his 118,000 global employees to lay out his vision for what Microsoft would become under his leadership. In that memo, he said Microsoft would invest in three interconnected goals. The second and third goals on his list were to build a more intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing.
Nadella's primary objective is to reinvent productivity and business processes. The LinkedIn acquisition strikes at the heart of this goal. A Microsoft-LinkedIn marriage could not only reinvent productivity and business processes for Microsoft customers, but also for the Redmond-based giant itself.
1. Access to Every Company's IT Decision-Makers
Your entire company's org chart is probably laid out in some fashion on LinkedIn. Think about how often your sales team scrolls through LinkedIn looking for new leads in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, they'll stumble upon a decision-maker's name, and even, miraculously, an unguarded email address. With this acquisition, Microsoft got its hands on a database of 433 million registered users, some of whom have the power and resources to turn your red quarter black. Companies like Hoovers, InfoUSA, Salesgenie, and anyone else whose main mission is to provide lead data to sales and marketing teams will now have to battle Microsoft in attracting new clients.
But that's not all: Microsoft's internal teams now have access to these names and decision-makers. Anytime Microsoft has a new service or tool that it wants to peddle to a specific industry or title, it's got a living, breathing, and real-time database it can access internally. Additionally, it can charge its competitors to access this database (because let's face it, Oracle, SAP, IBM, Amazon, Google, and all of the other tech giants' sales teams were probably scanning LinkedIn for sales leads too).
2. Access Experts via Word and PowerPoint
Regardless of your profession, you've probably been tasked with writing a report, a story, or a homework assignment that was slightly above your head. You opened up your Microsoft Office 365 package to access a Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint document, typed in a bunch of text, and then hopped over to Google to find more detailed information to reinforce your claims. Again, let's be honest: You weren't going to Bing to run this search, but you also weren't using Google Docs to create your content.
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Well, Microsoft can now build LinkedIn into its productivity suite to help you find thought leaders and experts who you can instantly message for background information and key statistics. Why run a Google search for articles by Juan Martinez, tech journalist, when you can communicate with me directly?
The way I envision this tool working is simple: You highlight a set of text: "Why would Microsoft buy LinkedIn" and you right-click on it. In addition to seeing synonyms, antonyms, and formatting options, you'll also be provided with the option to "Find Experts," or "Message Experts." Within a few minutes you'll be able to fire off an S.O.S. to the world's leading experts for rich context.
3. Create an HR Platform that Ties into Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics delivers a host of wonderful cloud-based tools for small and medium-sized businesses. It's got a customer relationship management (CRM) component, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) component, and it spans across most verticals and lines of business.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, human resources (HR) management hasn't been one of the pillars of the Dynamics suite. That means Microsoft has been on the sidelines of an industry that generates more than $5 billion in software alone. As a company trying to improve production and collaboration, this was a total vacuum.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn has done an excellent job beefing up its recruiting, enterprise training software, and HR tools, all in the hopes of turning itself into the number one stop for recruiters and job seekers. In the past five years, LinkedIn has acquired the following HR-focused companies: Careerify, Lynda.com, and Connectifier. These tools, coupled with Microsoft's Dynamics platform, can help Microsoft become the number one human resources management platform on the market.
Additionally, the ability to tie all of this data in CRM and ERP will give Microsoft users one ubiquitous platform that oversees an employee's entire lifecycle with the company. In the tool, you'll be able to recruit, track, and communicate with applicants, train them once they're hired, tie their performance data into the CRM tool, and monitor how this particular employee, or this particular type of employee impacts your business.
4. Compete with Facebook and Twitter
Sure, LinkedIn isn't the biggest social network on the planet, and it probably won't ever be. But, with Microsoft's ability to embed the LinkedIn app on all of its Surface Books, Surface tablets, phones (if they still exist), and even the Xbox and Windows 10, LinkedIn is likely to improve upon its roster of 433 million users just based on how convenient it will be to initially access the application. If Microsoft is able to convince its original equipment manufacturing partners, Dell/Lenovo/HP, to pre-install the LinkedIn app on their desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone devices, imagine what a boon that would be.
Not to mention, LinkedIn can now become to Hololens what Facebook is to Oculus, a social network that ties back to the augmented and virtual reality infrastructure. In no way am I suggesting LinkedIn is as sexy as Facebook, but LinkedIn can become the platform for sharing, discussing, and collaborating on virtual reality experiences.
5. Skype and LinkedIn Become One
Skype is already one of the most widely used videoconferencing solutions on the planet, even though you're required to know, and plug in, someone's email address or Skype username before you can begin a conversation. With a Skype-LinkedIn integration, you'll theoretically be able to message any one of your connections directly within the social network, and possibly anyone on the social network in its entirety (though I'd imagine this would be a LinkedIn Premium privilege).
Not only will you be able to create impromptu video calls, but you'll be able to do it with people for whom you wouldn't ordinarily have usernames and email addresses (provided they accept your call request). Sales teams will be able to send call requests to leads. Service teams will be able to hop onto LinkedIn to proactively offer help to Microsoft users who've been complaining on message boards (or on the LinkedIn app itself) without the user requesting help. Human resources managers will be able to instantly connect with potential recruits without having to send introductory emails. LinkedIn will become the communications hub for business.
6. All of the Above…Combined
Which brings me to my final point: All of these capabilities will live under one software ecosystem, pooling one gigantic set of data, feeding your company's intelligence, tools, and communications, holistically. Productivity, sales, service, marketing, videoconferencing, HR, thought leadership, business planning—all done within Microsoft's software architecture, fed by LinkedIn's user base and user generated data. Sounds productive.