June 27, 2017

Microsoft Begins Challenge to Salesforce

Since Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn three days after Christmas 2016, little has been heard from what would be Microsoft Dynamic’s bold upgrade to the CRM industry. But the picture has become much more clear since Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently gave Reuters the details of upgrades to its sales software that integrates data from LinkedIn.

As Reuters describes: The new features will comb through a salesperson’s email, calendar and LinkedIn relationships to help gauge how warm their relationship is with a potential customer. The system will recommend ways to save an at-risk deal, like calling in a co-worker who is connected to the potential customer on LinkedIn.

The enhancements, which will be available this summer, will require Microsoft Dynamics customers to also be LinkedIn customers.

Microsoft is a small player in sales software. According to research firm Gartner, the company ranks fourth – far behind Salesforce.com and other rivals Oracle Corp and SAP – with just 4.3% of the market in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Nadella, long known as a champion for the democratization of artificial intelligence (AI), said it would be a key component to Dynamics: “I want to be able to democratize AI so that any customer using these products is able to, in fact, take their own data and load it into AI for themselves.”

Microsoft’s “third cloud” is Nadella’s term for Dynamics which caters to the fields such as sales and finance. With Office 365 (work productivity and flow, email, etc.) and Azure (computing and databases) as the first two clouds, Nadella all Microsoft products utilizing a common set of business data that can be mined for new insights with artificial intelligence

“I think that’s the only way to long-term change this game, because if all we did was replace somebody else’s (sales), or (finance) application, that’s of no value, quite frankly,” he told Reuters.

With this news, it’s no surprise that Linked also announced both a new ad targeting platform (Matched Audiences) and that LinkedIn now has 500 million users.