Today's post is written by Aaron Robinson, an Engagement Manager at Sonoma Partners.
It’s true. Microsoft dropped a cool $26.2B to purchase LinkedIn.
Unless you have been on vacation for the last month in Vinh Hy Bay or just living in a cave, you probably already know this. At Sonoma Partners, this has been quite the buzz, filled with hope and speculation for what this means to the CRM world. It’s also personally interesting because the LinkedIn corporate offices sit in the floors directly underneath us in our Chicago office, giving us a unique perspective to their corporate culture.
These days there are a lot of things to get excited about in the world of CRM. Both Microsoft and Salesforce are continually adding to their product stack through their own product development cycles. Salesforce just launched their Spring ’16 release with enhancements to the Lightning Experience, Mobile Apps, Chatter, Analytics and more. Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM 2016 Spring Wave for online customers added Learning Path, enhanced Office 365 group collaboration, multi-entity search, a new field service module, and the first release of CRM Online Portals.
In addition to development of their stacks, both companies are always on the hunt for best of breed solutions to add to their product arsenal. Salesforce most recently acquired several companies such as SteelBrick for quote-to-cash functionality, Implisit for predictive analytics, and Demandware for enterprise cloud commerce. Microsoft has also been on the buying spree with targets such as FieldOne for field service functionality and ADXstudio for portals. Frankly, I think all of this pales in comparison to the LinkedIn acquisition.
Do you have a LinkedIn account? Do you have many colleagues that have LinkedIn accounts? Have you benefited in some way from having access to the largest self-updated business database in the world? I’m sure you answered yes to at least one of these questions, if not all three. Don’t worry, you’re in a small group of 433 million people who also subscribe to the site.
I think the most compelling part of LinkedIn is the self-updating component. I, like many users regularly update the content associated with my account – both on my own and from the occasional prod from LinkedIn to do so. LinkedIn provides other value for its member base. It updates my profile for me and notifies my network about content that I’m producing, such as this blog post. Additionally, it is pretty much the defacto tool used by recruiters (judging based on our use at Sonoma and the number of out reaches I receive each week). Their communication platform generates significant content and membership views. With such significant value as a stand-alone app, there are many possibilities for use in CRM.
Linking In CRM
Many organizations we work with have inquired, requested, and sometime even demanded LinkedIn integration to their CRM system. In most recent years (2014 on), LinkedIn closed access to their API to all outside parties except Salesforce and Microsoft. LinkedIn currently supports integration with both platforms through the use of their Sales Navigator app, however many of our clients have complained about the price of the solution (top-level team edition) on top of their CRM platform cost.
With this acquisition, the Dynamics CRM product team has to be salivating over the potential use cases of LinkedIn data in CRM. This could take the form of the current integration Dynamics online customers have with the InsideView add-on, which is available for no cost to those subscribers. This add-on enables the use and sync of InsideView data into CRM. With a similar approach to methodology and pricing, Dynamics CRM could have the same capability with contact data, which is more relevant and available in real time, than the data sourced from InsideView. As my colleague Bryson Engelen pointed out in his post, having accurate contact information and understanding the relationships between them is extremely important, especially as individuals in your network change companies and/or roles. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft even continues the relationship with InsideView, but don’t expect it to go anywhere in the immediate future. Of course we at Sonoma would like to see this applied to Salesforce as well in the interest of fairness to our customers, but I can appreciate that Microsoft may play this close to the vest as a competitive advantage. After all, I think I can say with a pretty good degree of certainly, had Salesforce been the buyer, they wouldn’t be in a sharing mood either.
It is going to be very exciting to see what comes of this acquisition, although don’t expect to see major headline shifts in the next 4-6 months. As we have seen with other Microsoft deals, it takes closer to 12-18 months for things to shake out a bit and a strategic direction and product roadmap to be determined. But with possibilities such as native contact enrichment and sync and deep relationship mapping, I can’t wait to see CRM linked in!