Business collaboration a hidden motivation in Microsoft, LinkedIn deal

Enterprise collaboration has never been a strong suit for LinkedIn, but that could change if Microsoft has its way. A combined LinkedIn and Microsoft could help professionals both find jobs and improve workplace productivity.

Nearly a month after Microsoft's blockbuster bid to buy LinkedIn, another reason why the companies joined forces has become more apparent: effective enterprise collaboration depends on community and tools. LinkedIn has a large, motivated community of 433 million registered users, but its business tools are lacking.

LinkedIn's weak enterprise utilities were one of many contributing factors that led the two companies to merge. Turning that weakness into strength is something only a few companies could do. Facebook, Google, Salesforce and others were also in the hunt, according to a proxy statement recently filed with the U.S. SEC, but Microsoft won the bidding war with its $26.2 billion offer.

[Related: LinkedIn makes enterprise inroads with new communication tools]

Until that point, the professional social network had missed its opportunity to become a tool for workplace productivity, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. In early 2015, LinkedIn revealed plans to simplify communication and sharing between coworkers on the site, but the effort never grew beyond a mobile app directory, called "LinkedIn Lookup."

LinkedIn weak on collaboration, strong on community

Few workers use LinkedIn to collaborate, but the idea has long seemed like a natural evolution for the social network that's best known as a place to find new jobs.

Many professionals send messages and post updates on LinkedIn, but no tools exist for workers to collaborate and complete more complicated tasks, according to Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "This is where Microsoft comes into play," he says. "LinkedIn has the community and Microsoft has the tools." Without those tools, LinkedIn's primary purpose will be to make connections, help people post their resumes and get their qualifications in front of interested companies and recruiters, according to Moorhead.

[Related: Microsoft's big bet on LinkedIn not just about data]

LinkedIn has never been viewed as a workplace collaboration tool and few businesses come to the platform to collaborate, according to TJ Keitt, a senior analyst with Forrester Research. "It's been a fine tool for certain functions within businesses to locate and communicate with prospective employees and customers," he says. "But as a tool to facilitate enterprise collaboration … not so much."

Keitt says he isn't convinced social collaboration was ever part of LinkedIn's strategy. History also hasn't been kind to other platforms that have followed that path, according to Keitt. "If the last 10 years of enterprise 2.0 has taught us anything, it's that applications vendors have had limited success trying to make social tools the core of their upsell strategy."

LinkedIn's vision (or lack thereof) for enterprise collaboration was never fully realized, but the information it has on professionals' work histories, education, interests, connections and expertise will be "vital to Microsoft's plans in the collaboration and productivity arena," Keitt says.

"What brought the companies together is clear to me," Moorhead says. "Microsoft had the tools but lacked the community and deep profiles. LinkedIn had the community and deep profiles but lacked the tools."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags LinkedIn

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Kapko

CIO (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?