The deal is done. But the giant challenge of melding two very different services is far from over, writes Marcelino Elosua
A few months ago, I drafted an article that analyzed Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn. The article outlined Microsoft’s motivation behind the purchase, as well as a few challenges the two companies need to overcome in order for the integration of all components – Microsoft’s tools and LinkedIn’s network and content – to be successful. With the $26.2 billion purchase recently completed, it is time to revisit my initial analysis.
Microsoft’s vision behind purchasing LinkedIn was to create a more full-service product suite tailored toward businesses and professionals. Microsoft is a ‘tools’ company, and today’s marketplace demands streamlined access to tools, content and professional networks. So, the purchase made sense, since LinkedIn has content and the world’s largest professional network. But with two massive companies and the undeniable need to integrate, have Microsoft and LinkedIn successfully identified synergies, and developed an integration plan that will best fit their users’ needs?
A look at the acquisition
Now that all regulatory approvals have been obtained and the purchase is finalized, Microsoft and LinkedIn have outlined their integration plan. The plan includes integrating LinkedIn’s identity, including networking features – like notifications, profile updates and job recommendations – directly into Windows, Outlook and the Office Suite. From a content perspective, LinkedIn Learning will also be integrated into Windows and Office 365, and there are talks of expanding reach of sponsored content across other Microsoft properties.
Throughout the course of the next year, it will be interesting to see how these integrations resonate with Microsoft and LinkedIn audiences. Will additional notifications be beneficial or seen as a nuisance by Microsoft’s users? Will content need to be more contextually tailored based on industry or niche to increase engagement? Time will tell, but the overall goal of the integration is clear: to help transform the way professionals work and interact with one another.
Opportunities in the wake of the digital economy
In a recent note published on LinkedIn, Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, reconfirmed that his company’s main priority with the purchase of LinkedIn is to “accelerate LinkedIn’s growth by adding value for every LinkedIn member”. That being said, he states that the larger opportunity lies in helping to make sure everyone benefits from opportunities that arise in the wake of the digital economy.
Nadella isn’t the only one who realizes this opportunity. With the rise of the digital economy comes motivation from entrepreneurs and business leaders to invent – or reinvent – business-related technological solutions. And all seem to share a common goal, like that of Microsoft and LinkedIn: To equip professionals with the solutions needed to redefine the way people work and interact.
In a sea of options, the solutions that will build and maintain the most momentum are the ones that combine multiple capabilities into a centralized location, all tailored to fit specific needs of individuals. In the example of Microsoft and LinkedIn, I previously posed the question: With two mature companies, would the task of integrating tools, content and network be easier achieved by companies starting from scratch?
To answer the question, I think so. When it comes to content and network – which LinkedIn excels at – and tools – Microsoft’s sweet spot – a platform that can combine all three together from inception has the ability to completely customize user experience, rather than having to reinvent it. Some customization advantages of a platform that combines all three facets from inception include:
- Business content can be precisely selected. With LinkedIn, ‘native’ content consists of Lynda.com’s videos, and videos are difficult to quote and share partially, while books and articles are much easier to interact with. This is why having a diversified pool of content from various publishers is key. And, by building a complete business content library from the ground up, different criteria can be taken into account from the beginning to ensure the library is diversified. Libraries can be built using assets that include many languages, different media formats, and content that speaks to specific industries or topics. With access to this type of customized library, platform members have more opportunity to select and engage with the content that best fits their learning needs.
- The platform can be built on the premise of engagement. This means that members have the opportunity to engage with the technology, starting from when they create their login. For example, members who invest time in building a profile, selecting industry topics most relevant to them, commenting on and sharing content, and joining groups will reap the most benefits. All of the opportunities to engage increase member loyalty and act as a barrier to entry for competitors.
- The platform can open new avenues for networking, feedback and collaboration. With curated content and the ability to upload original works, members can prepare customized, quality materials for training and content marketing purposes. Additionally, collaborative tools make it easy for professionals and experts to interact with one another, share ideas and develop new business concepts. These interactions can take place in public or private groups, and they give participants opportunities to showcase thought leadership or build their personal brand.
Creating a system from scratch that successfully combines curated content with a professional network and collaborative tools all in one platform – rather than trying to integrate tools from one platform, and content and network from another – has ample opportunity to make its mark among professionals. I look forward to seeing the outcome of the Microsoft/LinkedIn integrations. And I look forward to the emergence of additional technologies as the digital economy strengthens.
Marcelino Elosua is founder and chief executive of BlueBottleBiz, a collaborative learning platform for business professionals. LID Publishing, the publisher of Dialogue, is related to Knowledge in Action, the owner of the BlueBottleBiz platform. Elosua serves as founder and chief executive for both entities.