For as long as we can remember, dynasties have expanded their empires through strategic marriages. A modern-day version of this tradition just happened when Microsoft put a $26 billion ring on Linkedin's eligible finger.
You could say that Linkedin was a lucky bride because the groom paid a hefty premium for a company that recently took a scary nose dive with its share price from $250 in November to $108 in February. Microsoft paid $26 billion for a business that does $3 billion in revenues.
There's a good reason why Microsoft pulled out all the stops because together they will literally change the way the world 'works'.
I don't want to turn this into an exhaustive financial analysis of the deal. The reason for this is because a) you've probably been reading the same articles as I have and b) I don't think I am qualified to do this because I am kind of naive about these things.
But if you are up for it, here is a great resource that does an awesome job at tying the whole story together. Worth paying attention to is the podcast and the presentation both companies filed with the SEC.
What I can offer today is a glimpse into how this union will 'change the way the world works':
Let's start with the obvious:
'Office' is the operational interface for most of the world's professionals. Linkedin is the most established social network for all those professionals. What this means is that Linkedin will empower this operational environment to become an interwoven, intelligent direct network of global professionals.
In other words, Microsoft is going to be so much more than tools and Linkedin will transcend very much beyond being a directory of professionals.
Here's what the immediate future may look like:
You are writing up a text in a word and based on the keywords you use there will be suggestions about relevant articles and links posted on the Linkedin network. Or what about when you are struggling to get your point across in a powerpoint slide? Linkedin's slideshare may come to the rescue by showing you slides from others with similar keywords that are getting people's attention.
The message: in order to raise visibility about your expertise, you will need to start producing and publishing relevant content.
This is how Jeff Weiner, Linkedin's CEO puts it "Giving Sponsored Content customers the ability to reach Microsoft users anywhere across the Microsoft ecosystem, unlocking significant untapped inventory."
C'est claire, n'est ce pas?
Imagine you are looking up the contact details of a service provider in Outlook. While you are doing so, Outlook may suggest other professionals just like the person you are about to contact. The suggestions may even be ranked by the number of profile views these people get.
The Message: Unless you want to become invisible, you need to get to work on your profile. Now may be a great time to check out my short video on how to get your Linkedin profile up to speed ;-)
Just in time learning
My favourite topic! Imagine you are trying to figure out how to write an engaging outreach email. It is very likely that Linkedin will pop up to suggest a crash course on writing compelling introduction emails. This content could be sourced from Linkedin's network or from its native education platform called 'Lynda'. They call this concept 'Just in time learning'
The message: the most effective marketing will take the shape of educational content. When are you going to start packaging your knowledge into consumable educational content? Hint: if you don't know where to start, just reply to me because that is what I do for a living!
Next generation CRM
Gone are the days of forcing everyone to put business cards into that damn CRM system because your MS Office will be directly connected to the linkedin network. No more external plugins. The world is all yours...
Linkedin has more than 400 million users, if you think it is crowded and noisy today, just wait until the 1.2 billion MS Office users get nudged into the network. I think it is going to be quite overwhelming so I wouldn't surprised if we'll see some sort of reputation scoring system to discourage all the shameless 'leg-humping' we see on Linkedin today...
The message: It will pay to learn how to master proper professional social network etiquette!
Also, Salesforce.com must really be kicking itself right now!
Sales & Marketing
If you think your sales manager is micro-manager, you are going to flip out on the social selling that comes as a result of this union. The 'Sales Navigator' will act as your over-achieving agent by finding deals for you, it will also be your coach by providing you with real-time feedback on how you are doing as well as your drill sergeant who will have you doing lots of push-ups if you dare to fall behind.
The message: seriously now, focus on perfecting your online relationship skills because business opportunities will start dropping onto your screen like Tetris blocks!
Again, micro-management has now entered its golden age. George Orwell, wherever his soul may be, is celebrating because your employer will now be able to analyse your every single move. But maybe I'm being a bit too sarcastic about this. This visibility will also allow businesses to better understand how to manage and allocate talent. HR will never be the same again!
The message: forget the annual review. Embrace a world where your KPIs will behave more like stock price tickers!
Microsoft is deep into artificial intelligence (more about that in a minute). It also has 'Cortana', a digital personal assistant. Cortana helps you find things on your PC, manage your calendar, track packages, find files, chat with you, and even tell jokes. The more you use Cortana, the more personalized your experience will be.
With Linkedin, Cortana is really putting itself in a position to fire your personal assistant and ask you for a raise because Cortana will know everything about your entire professional network to connect dots on your behalf so you can stay a few steps ahead of the game. We will love Cortana because she will help us get focused and hate her because she will make us work like animals!
The message: I don't know really, but you may want to consider mastering mindfulness or something like that.
So, what will the kids look like?
What is featured above is all about the possessions this new couple will fit into their new home when the honeymoon is over. But when there is a marriage, you wonder what the offspring may look like. Here's my guess:
Apart from getting into the professional social network game, Microsoft has been working hard to be ahead of the curve in both virtual reality and artificial intelligence. So let me lay out the genes that are going to get mixed here:
Skype + Virtual Reality + Artificial Intelligence* + Social Network + Talent Management + Just in time Education + Scheduling + Cortana.
So before we know it, our friend Cortana is going to start filling up our diaries with virtual meetings so we can connect with our ideal business counterparts. Just before the meeting, 'she' will probably also go through the trouble of providing us with a power briefing and maybe also throw in a quick training session relevant to the subject we are about to discuss. Hell, she may even be whispering in our ear during the entire meeting.
Wherever this goes, I sure do hope we will get to customize our virtual assistant to make it look like someone who's company we can enjoy. Personally, I might choose Yoda as mine, what about you?
*Mircosoft recently introduced us to 'Tay', their teenage AI persona but had to indefinitely lock her up in her bedroom because after only 1 day on twitter, she turned out to be a xenophobic, foul-mouthed little devil
I think there is one important element missing: Video.
It is about time that Youtube got a serious competitor plus it would make sense for 'Linkinsoft' or 'MicroLinked' to get its own platform for professionals. So... will Christmas come early for Vimeo?
In conclusion, this merger is a big deal. I've been saying for some time now that our destiny is to merge with our technology and I think that is exactly what we are looking at right now.
Let me end with an adapted quote by the unforgettable Mr. Spock
"Its business Jim, but not as we know it"