Will Microsoft and LinkedIn Deliver on the Promise of Social CRM

If you were an early adopter on LinkedIn, you probably got an invite from a colleague that wanted you to "join their network" without any significant justification as to what services that network provided. Early adopters like myself joined and allowed LinkedIn to access our email contacts so that they could help us grow our network.

I followed these steps about 10 years ago and didn't find value until about a year later when my laptop crashed and I lost my Microsoft Outlook contacts. How old was my last backup? Embarrassingly, too old but lucky for me, I had just integrated all my contacts on LinkedIn. From that day forward, Microsoft Outlook, Exchange, and other tools became irrelevant to manage contact as they were now always available on LinkedIn's cloud. So long as I trusted LinkedIn with my data, I didn't have to worry about backups, moving contact lists when I changed jobs, or updating information when my contacts made career moves. 

The Impact of Social Platforms on CRM

At the time, I always thought that LinkedIn would evolve to disrupt Outlook and Exchange at least for my outwardly facing messaging needs. Would Exchange be disrupted? Would Social CRM mature faster with LinkedIn and other social platforms?

The answer to date has largely been somewhat no. Many organizations enrich their contact information with data from LinkedIn and other providers. Some filter social interactions aggregated from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms into social queues in their CRM. Many stage social interactions through CRM managed workflows to capture new leads and automate marketing activities. There's a lot of social capabilities, but social platforms today are largely inputs and outputs to CRM workflows and capabilities.

Has there been a fundamental disruption to CRM or customer engagement through these platforms? It depends on the digital maturity of the industry that you operate in, but for many businesses these tools and capabilities have been largely additive, not disruptive.

Can Microsoft Disrupt CRM With LinkedIn's Data and Collaboration Capabilities?

It's interesting to guess where the Microsoft and LinkedIn marriage will go - 

  • Imagine if enterprises no longer created contacts and leads from scratch or from lists. One started developing a target customer segment by querying the LinkedIn databases.
  • What if my knowledge of a Prospect was first based on the interactions that LinkedIn gathered through its capabilities (what news I read, what groups I participate in) and then supplemented by private activities performed in CRM?
  • Will CRM adoption improve if Dynamics was driven off the UX and design paradigms developed for a consumer site like LinkedIn rather than the data driven experience it and other CRM platforms have today?  
  • What if the LinkedIn profile I see is a mashup of LinkedIn's public data with my CRM data?
  • What happens when Cortana is integrated with LinkedIn and I can ask questions likes, "Are there any of my key prospects attending today's event?"
  • What will Salesforce, Oracle, and other CRM solutions do to counter Microsoft + LinkedIn?

Interesting times...

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.