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Microsoft + LinkedIn: with great innovation comes great responsibility

  • Posted on June 14, 2016

Innovation

Digital innovation – like the Microsoft LinkedIn acquisition – requires a thoughtful approach to questions of digital ethics.

Microsoft’s announcement of its intent to acquire LinkedIn was certainly an exciting way to start the week. It’s an interesting combination – the world’s largest business social network coming together with the world’s largest business technology provider. Since the news broke, we’ve seen much speculation around why Microsoft and LinkedIn have agreed to come together in the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history.

To me, it makes a lot of sense. Times are changing. Businesses need to move away from “walled gardens,” with closed platforms that prevent collaboration with outside parties, customers or – heaven forbid – competitors. As we explored in our 2016 Avanade Technology Vision, it’s time to go borderless.

Digital ecosystems and borderless platforms create opportunities for businesses to take advantage of a “mesh of interactions” that connects people, things, algorithms and other entities. This digital mesh generates more value than the sum of its parts, advancing entire industries and ecosystems, not just individual companies.

It seems the digital ecosystem is exactly what Microsoft and LinkedIn have in mind. Digital innovation unlocks its greatest value when it is data-driven, accessible (mobile and cloud), contextual and personalized. However, in order for it to accomplish all of those things, you must be tied into a digital ecosystem to access the data and context required to make interactions truly personal, available and impactful. Whether it’s bringing that context into a CRM system to make a customer interaction more personal or it’s surfacing that insight as part of Delve and Office 365 to empower an employee to make a more informed business decision, Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn has the potential to enable businesses and professionals around the world to embrace the digital workplace.

However, we also must remember that the more data we have, the more thoughtful we must be about the ways in which it is used. Innovation of any kind carries risk, which is why digital ethics is the cornerstone of the digital economy. It’s critical to consider the security, compliance and data privacy implications of these increased connections across data sources. When you look across such an expanded surface area, spanning work and personal lives, the corresponding increased risk needs to be accepted and managed.

This doesn’t mean the data can’t or shouldn’t be used; the data is incredibly valuable and unlocks new insights and business potential. However, it means you must be thoughtful about how and when you use it. Fundamentally, digital ethics is a concern about transparency, security, privacy and trust. As digital innovation enables the business to reach new heights, and connect more intimately and rapidly with customers and workers, fostering these different aspects of digital ethics is no longer optional. It is mandatory.

Here at Avanade, we look forward to working with Microsoft and LinkedIn to help our clients connect people, data and things in ways that make them more productive, efficient and able to do things never before possible – and to be thoughtful about how and when to do it.

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