Why the Microsoft purchase of LinkedIn is a devastating blow to Cubicle Warriors

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Jun 15

The surprise announcement of Microsoft purchasing LinkedIn is being praised by a lot of pundits as an excellent strategic choice for Microsoft’s effort to further its goal of being the best choice for company infrastructure.

And with good reason. LinkedIn provides a much better social graph than the more Facebook-like Yammer, purchased for so many billions of dollars ago. Why does Microsoft think this is such a great purchase? Here are some points from The Verge, quoting some of Satya Nadella’s internal emails:

  • LinkedIn provides Microsoft with immediate access to more than 433 million members and a solid social graph that, thanks to its professional nature, is matched closely with the software and services Microsoft provides.
  • “This combination will make it possible for new experiences such as a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete,” says Nadella.
  • LinkedIn will be the central professional profile that will be surfaced in apps like Outlook, Skype, Office, and even Windows itself. Microsoft wants to turn LinkedIn profiles into a central identity, and the newsfeed into an intelligent stream of data that will connect professionals to each other through shared meeting, notes, and email activity.
  • In addition, LinkedIn provides Sales Navigator and that tool, combined with Microsoft’s CRM tools, becomes a powerful sales suite for sales people. Think of spamming (er, sending) presentations to possible leads via Microsoft PowerPoint, Outlook, and LinkedIn’s contact information.

LinkedIn, with it’s professional appeal as a place to build your profile, helps you network, and helps you find jobs (and be found for jobs) was its greatest strength. Microsoft now wants to take that strength and place it inside Microsoft products and services.

For Cubicle Warriors, this is a big step back

LinkedIn was the professional’s playground. Build a profile that made sense. Expand on your resume. Keep in contact with former coworkers. Network into potential companies by talking with the people who work there through your contacts. Enable recruiters to find you when looking for jobs. Join groups of like-minded individuals to build your business network.

Will all of that still be there? Most likely.

But. And you knew there was a “but,” right?

  • That professional world is now a professional Microsoft world, pointed to help their business interests, not yours
  • Your profile, according to Microsoft, now becomes the default profile on Outlook — all internal to your company. Do you really want your resume or something close to it out there as your default company profile? Most likely not.
  • Companies, for legitimate privacy reasons, will lock down what can be used by LinkedIn in their environment. Do you really think a regulated company (like a medical facility) will allow you to casually connect to another person found via LinkedIn in another medical facility to talk through a problem? No.
  • And think about how much proprietary information would float out into the world if we were allowed to talk with other professionals via LinkedIn from our corporate offices. Won’t happen.
  • Then figure out how to search for jobs on what’s left of LinkedIn — when your company has access to all of the information on the Corporate LinkedIn profiles. Can they see changes? Updates? Changes in your headline (searching for a new position, for example…)?

This is just the beginning

Some tout that this is the beginning of Microsoft enabling the consumer side of the business instead of the corporation. After all, LinkedIn is much more about the person instead of the company.

Carried to its logical conclusion, Microsoft would want to own the professional experience across jobs, companies, and corporations — while bypassing the corporations they currently selling to. Think about your profile carrying across different companies as you change jobs because the central profile is the LinkedIn profile in a Microsoft shop.

I’m not sure companies would be into that — talent is hard to keep as it is and companies like the control. Would they be willing to cede identity management to Microsoft? Do we want our profile being the ubiquitous identity we carry in our professional lives from company to company?

For sure, we will have to watch what happens. But I’m ready to pull my LinkedIn profile the minute I sniff Microsoft integrating LinkedIn to anything that looks like identity management in a company. My identity is mine and I’ll use it where I please.

Oh, and how are we to network to find new jobs without LinkedIn? There are a few options, but searching for a job has just gotten more difficult.