Microsoft’s announcement last June that they would “acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $26.2 billion” raised a great number of questions. LinkedIn remains the most widely used and most valuable professional network worldwide and has demonstrated significant growth under the leadership of Jeff Weiner. Yet, the not unsubstantial $26.2 billion that was paid – Microsoft’s most expensive acquisition – was a 49.5% premium on LinkedIn’s then-closing share price. Of the great number of questions asked, perhaps the biggest one is: how do Microsoft plan on seeing a return on this investment?

Better Connecting the Connected World

Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy was the original proponent of the ‘six degrees of separation’ concept in 1929 to depict the then-modern world allowing everything and everyone to be connected in a maximum of six steps. While Karinthy’s concept still holds some validity, his world is vastly different and outdated to today’s. He died in 1938 and, had he propounded his ideology today, he likely would have taken the stance of the world’s leading professional social network.

It’s unquestionable that professional networking has been transformed by LinkedIn. As of April 2017, they have over half a billion members, where every connection represents “an average of 400 new people you can get introduced to”. Rather than six degrees, LinkedIn deals in 1st, 2nd and 3rd-degree connections, namely people you are directly connected with (1st degree), people who are connected to your 1st-degree connections (2nd degree), and people who are connected to your 2nd-degree connections (3rd degree).

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella aims to “deliver new delightful and intelligent experiences” via the “coming together of the leading professional cloud and the leading professional network”. Still a social network, LinkedIn is not Facebook – as you are likely to see in comments in your LinkedIn news feed most days. Facebook has 1.94 billion monthly active users: nearly four times that of LinkedIn. Microsoft, though, sees great value in LinkedIn being ‘merely’ professional.

While he went as far as saying Microsoft can make “LinkedIn the social fabric for all of Office”, Nadella went on to say how “people find jobs, build skills, get work done and ultimately find success requires a connected professional world”. The integration of this leading professional network added to the power of the leading professional cloud really could be a match made in heaven.

“The Social Fabric for Office”

Office 365 is already a game-changing and market-leading SaaS solution used by 85 percent of the Fortune 500. Rather than speculating as to how they can integrate and what value that Microsoft believe LinkedIn can add, Nadella has laid out Microsoft and LinkedIn’s joint vision in a LinkedIn post from December:

“In the immediate term we will pursue a specific set of integration scenarios, for example:

  • LinkedIn identity and network in Microsoft Outlook and the Office suite
  • LinkedIn notifications within the Windows action center
  • Enabling members drafting résumés in Word to update their profiles, and discover and apply to jobs on LinkedIn
  • Extending the reach of Sponsored Content across Microsoft properties
  • Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365
  • LinkedIn Learning available across the Office 365 and Windows ecosystem
  • Developing a business news desk across our content ecosystem and
  • Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365″

Integrations and solutions such as the proposed Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365 are clear-cut wins on paper. Everyday communication and collaboration with my colleagues based both in the United Kingdom and North America are made infinitely easier through Active Directory and its own integration with Office 365. Being able to seamlessly communicate and collaborate on any device via Skype for Business, Outlook, Word and the other Office 365 tools listed above makes productivity so much more straightforward.

Furthermore, social collaboration and internal networking and communication could be improved further. For that reason, I am looking forward to seeing the impact, feature-sharing and potential integrations of LinkedIn with Yammer. Yammer is best used for company or group-wide sharing – be that for announcements or for knowledge sharing. Whether you use Yammer to speak or use Yammer to listen, it is either to communicate or to learn. Learning about your colleagues either through their knowledge sharing, their expertise and skills or even their personality is a great aspect of Yammer. With access to your colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles via Active Directory and potentially LinkedIn Learning for knowledge sharing and educating, we could well see a renaissance of Yammer.

Integrations of the Future

What will these new integrations and solutions look like in the future? Being able to book a Skype for Business meeting to pitch with a slide deck via PowerPoint (that is naturally stored in OneDrive) to a prospect on LinkedIn, while storing the meeting in your calendar in Outlook, seamlessly syncing said prospect’s LinkedIn profile into Dynamics 365 – all done via your digital assistant, Cortana. Maybe if that isn’t enough, the meeting could take place on a Surface Hub, or even virtually face-to-face via HoloLens.

Furthermore, Nadella claimed that “all the information a professional needs to be successful lives in silos”. Connecting Microsoft and LinkedIn Graphs, below, “can create more connected, intelligent and productive experiences”:

In Conclusion…

Nadella ended his initial address by declaring that he is “energized and optimistic for what we can achieve together and the journey ahead”. While it could take some time for LinkedIn to influence Microsoft’s bottom line and they see that $26.2 billion returned, LinkedIn has a great opportunity to revolutionise an already market-leading solution in Office 365 and transform business processes with Dynamics 365.