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Microsoft acquires LinkedIn: gig work just got a lot more real

June 14, 2016

Monday, Microsoft announced the largest acquisition in the company’s history: LinkedIn. What does the $26.2 Billion deal mean for the future of work? It’s almost certain that LinkedIn data will enhance the Office Graph. Microsoft will also gain much greater heft in the social networking space. And one can imagine interesting possibilities for the future of sales… But the core of this deal could represent a much more fundamental shift to the way we work: the end of permanent employment.

Linkedin CEO, Jeff Weiner, revealed the deal to his company, and to the world, with a post entitled: LinkedIn + Microsoft:  Changing the Way the World Works. He was not exaggerating with the title.  Weiner highlighted the deep alignment in the vision statements of the two companies:

Microsoft: Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more

LinkedIn: Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful


There are several opportunities for immediately enhancing the offerings of both companies:

1. Enriching the Office Graph and bolstering an intelligent digital workplace

Microsoft’s Office Graph is one of the most critical underlying technologies of Office 365.  Essentially, it’s a powerful database of insights about Office users: recording relationships, informational preferences and context (like what projects you’re working on, where you sit in the org chart and even what’s coming up in your calendar.)  The Graph makes use of these behavioural and contextual signals to dynamically sort, filter and prioritize information within Office in a way that is highly personal to the individual.

One of the things we hear from our customers is that the deluge of information thrown at them through email, social, the intranet, the web and other systems – at work and in their personal lives - is just impossible to keep up with. Information or cognitive overload can lead to indecisiveness, bad decisions and stress.  The situation can escalate to chronically unhealthy levels.

Today’s enterprise social networks, intranets and email tools are still largely rudimentary... like a stereo system with only one setting:  BLASTINGLY LOUD or OFF. The Office Graph is a step towards creating a digital workplace that can be dynamically tuned to an individual’s changing needs, interests and consumption habits.


Among other things, LinkedIn brings external relationships, employment history, professional strengths and learning to the Office Graph.  No other company possesses the breadth of professional data that Microsoft now has…  Like Facebook’s “Algorithmic Feed”, this data will be used to shape “The Intelligent Newsfeed”, recommendations and insights from Microsoft’s Digital Assistant – Cortana, intelligent filters for Outlook, specialized search results and content recommendations through Delve and more.


2. The world's first economic graph

LinkedIn’s broad vision is to create an economic graph that maps every company, worker, skillset, educational institution and job on the planet. Essentially this data would culminate in a digital map of the global economy. The Graph would make it possible to answer questions about key economic and workforce trends; identify business opportunities and perhaps be used for predictive modelling.

While the graph is still incomplete – LinkedIn has already used it to assess trends like the level of job hopping amid Millennials, to source pools of talent on behalf of corporations with the intent of locating new offices, to identify job skills and training opportunities for underprivileged youth in metro areas such as Toronto.

In many ways, the prosperity of companies, industries and regions relies on the ability to adapt rapidly to swirling economic forces faster than the next guy.  Both Microsoft and LinkedIn have embraced service-models of business. With Microsoft’s deep pockets, it’s possible to see how the vision of a worldwide economic graph could truly come to light and be an indispensable subscription service for every serious business on the planet.

3. Paving the way for gig work

Media and industry speculation about Microsoft’s motivation for purchasing LinkedIn is running wild – with new theories emerging literally by the minute.  Are they building an HCM?  Will this be a

Salesforce killer?  Is it a defensive move against Facebook @Work, Google for Work or to a lesser extent Slack?  Are they going to do what the universities failed to do and make continuous online learning and development a reality?

The thing is, they’ve very clearly TOLD US (or shown us) what they are doing:

They are shepherding in a future of work where the relationship between worker and employer is entirely fluid. In other words, they are disrupting full-time, permanent jobs. 

(Watch out HR department!)

Together, LinkedIn and Microsoft will create the infrastructure for the instant, on-demand workforce. Microsoft's Future Productivity Vision – a video concept that essentially describes Microsoft’s roadmap over the next 5-10 years follows the path of Kat, a futuristic gig worker… a biologist for hire and Lola, a company executive assembling an on-demand team for her next project:

Microsoft paints a picture of a frictionless experience. Kat makes herself and her work known to the world.  Lola seeks the best expertise. And Kat, upon accepting the gig, is immediately incorporated into the newly formed team with the capacity to get right-down to work. In his seminal blog post, The Rise of Dynamic Teams, Bryan Goode, senior director of Modern Collaboration at Microsoft, describes the growing contingent workforce. He predicts that by 2020, “people will increasingly use networks to form teams of experts on-demand and dynamically “swarm” around projects and then disperse to the next.”

CONTINGENT WORKFORCE DEEP-DIVE | Next-gen intranets for the gig economy

The notion that a company is a place to spend your career has been in decline for decades but I believe that this acquisition could usher in an Uber-like reality for work quite rapidly.

Welcome to the Gig Economy.

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