Microsoft & Linkedin – Heaven or nightmare? Is this disruptive change from the big behemoths? Over the last few days, there has been increased talk about the decision for Microsoft to bid for LinkedIn. What could a blend of Microsoft & LinkedIn really achieve?
Background to the media comments on Microsoft & LinkedIn
Microsoft have been quoted as overpaying for the purchase of LinkedIn (again)
That LinkedIn is past its sell-by-date and on the decline
That Microsoft has a reputation of failing to integrate its purchases to gain maximum benefit and leverage (eg Yammer)
Last week I wrote “Has Microsoft just killed the HR software & CRM market?“, but how does this fit in the market place?
Is this purchase by Microsoft of LinkedIn in sheer craziness or pure genius?
Just over a year ago LinkedIn started making lots of changes (See LinkedIn or LinkedOut) that started to reduce the value of LinkedIn to many of its regular users. It started reducing the ability of group owners to manage and lead groups. It started reducing the engagement and proactivity of members in discussions, all under the excuse of “reducing email at user requests”. In short LinkedIn start to commit corporate suicide. It seemed from the outside that LinkedIn was losing the plot. Losing the very reasons why people were on the site regularly. Many, many previously thriving communities were being reported as ghost towns. That interaction has all but ceased. That many group owners were looking to relocate their communities to more stable platforms like Facebook Groups.
It appears that lots of changes were being made to appease the markets perception on what LI should be, not what it was.
If there changes WERE made due to external pressure, then there is a CHANCE that with new paymasters, the agenda is changing. For Microsoft will be less interested in the revenue it generates (there have been lots of reports of the lack of real profits that Li makes). But what MS will value is the relationships, and the connectedness the platform and integration COULD bring.
There be genius in the hills
Some 12 months ago I started looking at alternatives to LinkedIn for my community groups. With Yammer a part of the office 365 suite, and soon to be on every business person’s desktop within 5 years, to me Yammer was an obvious choice. For what many do not realise about Yammer is that it could be both a secure internal collaboration tool and an external network or community.
I have approach many people inside MS to explore this. Yammer was missing just a few features to allow it to be a LinkedIn killer almost overnight. No other company has the possibility of building such a powerful community and customer base without people realising.
There is a BUT. Yammer was missing some key features. It still is missing those features:
- The option of having a public/ private profile
- Multiple accounts/ emails that could interact with different groups – ie portability of connections outside the org, when you leave
- The option of keeping in touch with people when you leave a company
Linkedin brings all these things.
Built and bought to fail
Microsoft has a great track record of failing to fully integrate and grow services it builds. Yammer, Skype and many others. Sure behind the great enterprise doors there is increased integration. But to the outside world these great standalone tools are just that.
Can Microsoft pull of the integration of a lifetime to enable them to monopolise what LI can bring to their systems, or will it be another also ran?
The small are getting smaller
Go to any software show and there are vendors selling to global businesses. The big are getting bigger. Oracle & SAP and others are fighting for slices of the action. What all of the big providers, with the exception of sage, seem to have ignored is that the world is getting smaller.
Today over 80% of the UK workforce is employed in businesses that employ less than 100 people. This trend has been on the increase since the late 1990s. These firms cannot afford big systems. But this is where the real GDP is created.
What they can afford though is £10/ $10 per employee per month for IT. For a cloud version of O365. Fully manages email, SharePoint etc. Now throw in a fully managed recruitment and collaboration platform – LinkedIn. Tie that to MS Dynamics and other enterprise tools, and every small business has access to an LMS (Lynda) and all the details they need about customers and suppliers in the B2B space. Microsoft do not need to make money out of LinkedIn. They need to use it as a strategic advantage. Personally I do not Like the closed nature of Lynda, but people that use it seem to like it. I personally feel it is overpriced for the enterprise market. I prefer Coursera or Udemy.
Microsoft & Linkedin
IF – and it’s a MASSIVE If, MS can integrate LI fully to the office suite and beyond. Get the group communities buzzing (drop emails notifications and have skype or yammer style notifications and people will be engaged. The communities will grow, and MS is at the centre of business.
This could be the most disruptive model to hit the business world for a very long time
The data that MS can harness could make Facebook and Google look like second class citizens. The take-up of google business apps has been quick, but not quick enough to stop MS owning the small business market place.
If MS are not greedy, but clever and integrate with vision, they have the power to change the way we do business, run our businesses, recruit people and sell our products and services.
Is the Microsoft & Linkedin pairing a match made in heaven or a process doomed to failure? Are MS up for the challenge? Are the visionaries looking at the possibilities of the bottom line? – you can only focus on one.
Finally some other posts on Using Linkedin for effective business: