How Microsoft’s LinkedIn acquisition will influence the future of collaboration

Image courtesy of the LinkedIn Press Room

I‘ve been reading all the coverage and analysis of Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn, and I fall squarely into the camp of the whole deal being a data play that will help Microsoft build out their Office graph. While the LinkedIn acquisition will have a direct impact on their Dynamics CRM platform but my interest is in how LinkedIn will influence the future of Office 365 and online collaboration.

Collaboration and communications with context

I’m rounding four years working from home more or less and see the need for collaboration with more context. It’s one thing to know things about colleagues in the cubicles around you; it’s another thing to have a level of context about co-workers, contractors, and partners that might be working on the same project.
 
 For example, I just finished up a large contract and while I’ve enjoyed working part-time for the past few weeks I’m also pitching new projects, talking to recruiters, and having calls with prospective clients. I like to do my homework about people I meet with for the first time. I’m using LinkedIn even more than usual to prepare for calls and meetings. Now, if I could do this research within Office 365 or an Office application that would be something very useful to me and a key differentiator for the Office 365 platform. I was a fan of the late great Mynd Calendar because they gave me that level of access prior to meetings.
 
 The LinkedIn acquisition could also give Microsoft an edge on analytics giving Office 365 administrators even more granular insights into how their users collaborate and communicate with each other.
 
 I once wondered if there was ever such a thing as a corporate LinkedIn culture and haven’t thought about it again until I heard news of the Microsoft acquisition.There’s a dark side to all of this integration in my opinion because it’s hard enough to get workers to use a personal space on a collaboration platform and now you are asking them to maintain a robust and up to date LinkedIn profile to get the full benefit from LinkedIn data.

Changes to the document model

I got my start in the word processor and print document world to later transition into online help and PDFs finally to today’s world of wikis and content management systems. Recently, I read an article about Microsoft’s future is in decomposable documents, content based on component parts. Microsoft GigJam is an early example of Microsoft’s work in this emerging area.
 
 Access to the full spigot of LinkedIn data combined with document components could enable a reimagining of documents and collaboration that could lead to another evolution of content. Could we see the next generation of content that’s personalized based on the data from your LinkedIn profile? Such a technology could have implications for online knowledge bases, technical documentation, and a range of other online content. 
 
 The addition of LinkedIn data raises some questions with me about how it may or may not influence document and site metadata if at all.
 
 I also wonder how the Microsoft acquisition will affect the LinkedIn Publishing Platform. I had high hopes for the platform but like a lot of contributors to the platform, my posts seem to come out short in their algorithmic and content dance. While I still publish to the platform, it is more for fun these days. Would the LinkedIn Publishing Platform become more collaborative with Microsoft in charge?

Security and identity management

What nobody is speaking about yet is what influence could LinkedIn data have on the security of Office 365. Could their new found trove of professional data ever find itself as part of a security or identity management feature? Would that prove a challenge to Okta and other identity management solutions?

Final thoughts

Like a lot of you, I have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn since its launch. Looking past that, I’ve watched analytics and big data entering cloud security and project management for the past few years. Microsoft owning and integrating the full spigot of LinkedIn data into Office 365 could mean a richer collaboration experience.
 
 LinkedIn augmenting Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud applications is also going to be a game of execution for Microsoft.


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by TechBeacon, Network World, CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com, and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.