Microsoft has just announced that it will buy LinkedIn for $26 Billion. At a press conference, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft said that the deal was “key to our bold ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes.”
Obviously LinkedIn represents a major step toward cloud computing for Microsoft. No matter what operating system you use, if you use LinkedIn you are a part of a cloud-based community that exchanges information and relies of emails and documents stored on LinkedIn servers.
In effect, Microsoft is buying, for example, all of the discussions that have occured on the BPTrends LinkedIn Discussion site. BPTrends could stop using the site. If we do continue to use it, however, then our mailing list and all our discussions will now be held on Microsoft servers, somewhere. At the moment, since there is no charge for using LinkedIn, neither BPTrends or those who take part in the discussion will really notice. Our mailing list, however, will now also be in Microsoft's hands, and we may find we are getting more ads or contacts from Microsoft in the future. We'll see.
Of course, discussions are only a small part of LinkedIn. Most people use the software as a “business” version of Facebook — a place to publish information and to keep track of friends and business acquaintences. Some of these uses are business processes, although most are not so formal and aren't usually listed on a company's business architecture overview.
I was interested in Nadella's comment about “reinventing business processes.” As it is, I guess you could say that BPTrends executes a business process — Conduct a membership discussion forum — on LinkedIn. In a sense our ability to use or improve our discussion process depends on LinkedIn's underlying software. I think most of us realize that our discussion site is a lot less interesting than it was a couple of years ago, in large part because of changes that LinkedIn made that make it harder to use the discussion site. (If Microsoft doesn't manage to reverse the trend, I would expect to see LinkedIn used less in the future. (BPTrends, for example, has debated moving to a different discussion format.) Keep in mind that Microsoft bought Nokia's mobile phones division a few years ago and then wrote off the whole acquisition a year later. Historically, acquisitions fail more often than they succeed.
So, how might Microsoft leverage LinkedIn to improve business processes in your company? Obviously they can introduce new capabilities to LinkedIn, and they can link some LinkedIn features to features in the Microsoft OS environment — although that will hardly interest those of us who rely on Apple OS. Somehow Microsoft will need to think of ways in which group interactions, conducted online and stored on their servers, can help organizations be more productivity. I don't doubt that it can be done, though I wonder if acquiring LinkedIn is the best way to do it.
In any case, since BPTrends uses LinkedIn for its discussions we'll have a front row seat. We can even discuss it on our discussion group.