What the recent news of Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn means for Salesforce, and a look into what the future might hold for CRM.

LinkedIn as a CRM

LinkedIn is increasingly becoming the lead generation source of choice for many salespeople, not just recruiters. Whilst CRM goes beyond simple lead generation, at the heart of CRM is the want for a company to sell more. LinkedIn, with its clean and structured data is arguably the best source of B2B data for nearly all organizations and it is usually the first point of call for all organizations when trying to drum up business.

As a Salesforce consultant I have noticed a trend in customers asking for LinkedIn integrations and some actually expect it to be available out of the box. An integration was available not so long ago, however that changed and that was probably the first signs of LinkedIn starting to appreciate the power of the data they had on their books. Giving it away for free to Salesforce.com didn't really make much sense.

Whilst it wouldn't make much of a CRM on its own, but as a Account and Contact directory it is incredibly valuable. Which tends to be the heart and soul of any CRM. Imagine purchasing a SaaS CRM solution and getting a list of Accounts and Contacts relevant for your industry already included.

Salesforce vs Microsoft

So what does the recent news mean for the relationship between Salesforce and Microsoft. Ultimately they are both competing in the CRM world, whilst many believe that because SFDC is now much broader than simply CRM they are not direct competitors in the CRM space. Whilst I agree that Salesforce is no longer just a CRM company, but it is very rare that Salesforce is part of the ecosystem of apps for a company, without it being used for CRM. Usually business find out about Salesforce when they start looking for a CRM and at which point they will usually compare it against MS Dynamics.

Over the last couple of years Benioff has been touting the relationship between Salesforce and Microsoft, improved integrations, they use of Azure for the IoT Cloud etc. Given the recent news, I think this stance will definitely change.

Then came the news that Salesforce also made a bid to buy LinkedIn, which is unfortunate not because they lost out to Microsoft but that the news they lost out to Microsoft came out (this could be another Benioff marketing move). Benioff must have done something to annoy Mr Nadella (probably because Benioff tried to strong arm Microsoft when they tried to acquire Salesforce. Microsoft has changed gears ever since he took over. Within the developer community perceptions are shifting and over the next couple of years they will be a force to be reckoned with in the CRM space.

This is all good for users, developers and generally all involved in the cloud CRM space. Innovation at Salesforce has slowed considerably in my opinion, putting a new skin on a aging backend is not innovation in my eyes. With Nadella at the whelm we are seeing the software giant reawaken and the pace of innovation is breathtaking. A lot of the Microsoft offerings are well integrated and I have every reason to believe that LinkedIn will be integrated well. And that's bad news for Salesforce. MS Dynamics + LinkedIn = Like.