Microsoft Buys LinkedIn Instantly Becomes Huge CRM Player

15 Jun 2016

In the largest deal in Microsoft's history and in a move extremely counter intuitive to their previous Modus Operandi, Microsoft is buying LinkedIn for $26.2Bn. I think it is the cleverest move in I've seen in M&A in the technology business for a long time. Here's why.

Integrating LinkedIn into Skype for Business

Today I find people I want to connect with on LinkedIn and then change applications to something else to communicate with them; that might well be Skype for Business, but it might well be something else. Merging the two platforms keeps users much more tightly integrated to the Microsoft world.

LinkedIn is the Sleeping Giant of CRM

There is no question is the monster in CRM. It is both an incredibly powerful platform, and a ferocious competitor in its market. It does however have an achilles heel. If the data your business collects about your customer is poor, you get rubbish results from it. Considering how venerated the data output from is within most businesses - this issue of rubbish in, rubbish out is a huge problem.

Using LinkedIn as a CRM system is certainly suboptimal today as it clearly lacks a huge amount of the tools possesses, but it does have one huge advantage. The clients keep their data clean and complete for you automatically. For Microsoft to be in a position to merge the data from LinkedIn's 433m users with the tools in Microsoft Dynamics CRM would be an incredibly powerful business tool.

Business Process not Technology Platform

I've argued for a long time that the real power of Unified Communications is the ability to integrate communications technology with business processes. For the most part that dream has been unrealised. Most UC vendors do little more with their platforms than they did in a world of TDM technology. Users are looking for something more. A tight integration of Instant messenger, telephony, data sharing and video conferencing into a CRM and contacts platform is compelling; once you add tight document creation and distribution technologies such as those in Microsoft Office 365, it truly is game changing.

Cisco Death Struggle

Microsoft and Cisco have been fighting each other through proxy wars for many years, each is the only business the other fear. I wrote about that in a article here called, Why Cisco and Microsoft fear each other, and no one else.

Cisco had been making much of the running recently with Cisco Spark and although they still have much work to do streamlining their solution it is obvious they were making significant headway. The LinkedIn move by Microsoft is however, a game changer. Suddenly they will have access to over 400m business professionals, and a platform for a huge number of those people to easily communicate.

Whatever the appeal of Cisco Spark, won't many simply find it easier to simply go to LinkedIn, find who they want to communicate with and do so directly through that application?

I doubt Cisco are going to stand still on this. Rowan and team will be the group to watch.

What happens next?

Mergers and Acquisitions of this scale often cause other players to move in the market, and as a result I predict a number of deals. How about these as suggestions? I'd love to hear your ideas as well.

Oracle buys

Oracle badly needs to both stop eating their lunch and could use Salesforce as a buttress against Microsoft. Additionally, bringing Mark Benioff into Oracle would help Larry Ellison sleep better.

Facebook buys Zoho, Slack and Vonage

Facebook has been ramping up its business related activities recently, and to compete effectively against LinkedIn as part of Microsoft, they will need to fill a number of holes. Whether the CRM, WCC and telephony solutions they pick are the same as I'm suggesting is beyond knowing at this stage, but it seems logical that they will either develop their own, or be too much in a hurry and decide they need to get in the game immediately.

Facebook has even greater reach than LinkedIn in absolute terms, but desperately needs to ramp up its business related activities. Too many of Facebook's younger audience is fickle, moving to a new platform once it becomes "cool," and dumping older ones. Business users are much less likely to move from something all their peers are using, and the network effect is far more compelling as a result.

Amazon. Splendid isolation. But for how long?

Today Amazon is one of the big players in the IT market, but they have been remarkably quiet in the customer data and communications space. One has to wonder how long that will continue. Just think of how powerful a communications platform built into the Amazon Store might be, for example, and once that is created why stop there?


Microsoft under Satya Nadella is a completely different company than it was under Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates, much less wedded to its own platforms and more open to new ideas and new markets. Karl Marx predicted that by the end of the 20th century there would only be 6 companies in a capitalist society. He was obviously more than a little wrong on that score, but I do believe we are witnessing a bout of consolidation in the market. It's going to be an interesting time, and I suspect the market in three years from now will be barely recognizable from where we presently stand.

Typically an Excession Event happens when a new entrant into a market utterly disrupts the market by redefining what success looks like. I confidently predict plenty of that moving forward.

Simon is a contrarian. He makes a habit of being the guy who questions the orthodoxy, the guy who doesn't believe it just because the good and the great said it's true. This has not always been good for his ascent up the corporate greasy pole. However, it's been very good for his employers if they are prepared to listen.

The Book, The End of Certainty "How to thrive when playing by the rules is a losing strategy" explains why groupthink and the doing what you've always done is no longer the right move.

The Excession Events Podcast is available on iTunes and Google Play. He is also a business speaker specialising in the transformation of business models.

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