Thursday, 20 October 2016 09:30

The Implications of the LinkedIn Acquisition by Microsoft

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When I originally wrote the Freemium blog that was posted on our site, the thought crossed my mind about what the LinkedIn acquisition by Microsoft could mean for our industry. It was the sheer volume of data — on each of us — that could be mined, which makes you ponder the possibilities. 

Deep down, I’ve always believed that the strategy behind LinkedIn’s original purchase of Lynda.com was that together, they could have achieved a what may be considered an unfair advantage as a training provider. After all, They would know so much about each of our careers and experience. It was all there — possible education gaps, career direction, current career level, etc. But it didn’t happen. And now, Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Co-Founder & Executive Chairman, exclaimed at the Sun Valley CEO Summit that AI and machine learning will affect more than just the manufacturing sector, it will affect those in professional spheres.

Microsoft makes its own move, bringing with them a deep knowledge of machine learning, AI, Big Data, and data mining, and all of a sudden, here sits a partner that can take advantage of that enormous asset. The potential to take each of our profiles, analyze them, and then recommend what training we might want to take, what networks we could take advantage of, and even more is all sitting there. 

And it all started with the Freemium model which created tremendous value because of what we all willingly contributed to it for free. It’s like Wikipedia’s value. And what’s in it for us to have shared all of this information? As long as all of us can use the crowd-sourced data for free, find interesting groups to belong to, discover like-minded individuals, and possibly get our credentials in front of someone who might think we were a good match for a position opening, it has great value to each of us. 

It’s when people want to dive deeper, like in the case of recruiters and sales reps looking for prospects, that this model can easily be monetized. People will pay for extending their search and email solicitations, or even to view data in certain ways. Imagine the value of running a sales conference in a metropolitan area and then being able to see all of the sales people in that area. Or maybe it’s a specific training event for instructional designers.

The next step along my marketing and sales journey is to advertise to the target audience. The marketing capability is a huge potential that not even LinkedIn has taken advantage of fully. To me, it would have been of great value to see an “Events In Your Area” newsletter that gets customized for each of us.

So will this mining and interpreting of data happen? I suspect not right away. But here’s what lingers in my mind. Microsoft owns Dynamics — a competitor to Salesforce.com. Imagine what could be extracted from LinkedIn about prospects. Microsoft also owns Yammer — a competitor to Facebook and other social networks, but a network that competes at a more professional level. And then there’s our world where Microsoft is trying to play a stronger and stronger role. It includes Microsoft Classroom for the K-12 arena, and then LMS365 Cloud, Learning Management for Office 365 for the rest of the market. 

However, in all of these cases, Microsoft isn’t the market leader.  Does that point to systemic weaknesses in their organizational fabric and management? Is there not sufficient autonomy to let people execute? Are their moves over-scrutinized by regulators?

We’ll probably never know from the outside looking in, but I’m also thinking that they won’t be as nimble when it comes to achieving this outcome. That’s especially true because they have to first assimilate all of these new cultures into their own.  But consider the potential. It’s all there, waiting for Microsoft to execute the plan.

— Joe DiDonato is Elearning! Magazine’s Editor-at-Large. He has served as CLO for Oracle and Countrywide, as well as CEO of many learning technology firms.

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