How Microsoft is moving LinkedIn's 14,000 employees from Google services to Office 365

Microsoft has been taking a slow and steady approach to integrating its 2016 LinkedIn acquisition, down to the software and services they 14,000 LinkedIn employees are using.

Microsoft officials have repeatedly said they've been careful to take a largely hands-off approach in integrating Microsoft's LinkedIn unit with the rest of the company. To many of us on the outside, it feels as if both internal and external integrations have been very slow and minimal. But it turns out there is behind-the-scenes work happening to bring LinkedIn more deeply into the Microsoft fold.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft this week published a Microsoft IT Showcase case study about how it is moving LinkedIn's 14,000 employees to Office 365. Caution is the watchword in that case study, entitled "Linking in LinkedIn: How Microsoft onboarded a social networking giant."

Microsoft's Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) unit officials acknowledge the company "needed to rethink some of our previous integration approaches," when it came to LinkedIn, which Microsoft bought in 2016 for $26.2 billion. The goal was to "balance the autonomy of LinkedIn employees" with moving them off Google services and onto Office 365.

It wasn't a simple case of Microsoft's way or the highway, in spite of the imperative to go Office 365, as the case study makes clear. Delicacy was required.

From the case study:

"To elicit a positive response, we needed to gain a deep understanding of differences in our organizational cultures and develop an approach that complemented the strengths of both organizations. We decided that was the logical starting point for helping LinkedIn employees access and use Microsoft assets in a way that best supported -- or even improved -- LinkedIn's business."

Microsoft's ultimate goals were to migrate all LinkedIn employees to Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Calendar and Teams and off Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Hangouts. Stage one started with all emails exchanged before December 2016. The next stage was to migrate all email, contacts, tasks and calendar appointments. Next up was moving LinkedIn off Hangouts and to Teams, which the case study characterizes as "a success, with a high rate of LinkedIn employee adoption."

(A bit of a related anecdote: I recently did a press call with LinkedIn which required me to use BlueJeans video conferencing, not Skype. So I'm assuming the move to Teams is still incomplete.)

"LinkedIn employees were accustomed to performing certain tasks in Google Calendar that weren't easily achieved in Outlook," CSEO officials acknowledged. "For example, with Google Calendar, LinkedIn users could easily book multiple rooms in multiple buildings at the same time. That task wasn't as simple to do in our implementation of Outlook. To ensure a consistent user experience, the LinkedIn migration team used the available APIs to create a new Outlook tool that employees can use to book multiple conference rooms."

(More on that Outlook conference-room booking capability here.)

The next challenge the CSEO integration team tackled was provisioning Office 365 apps to all LinkedIn employees, who they characterized as "passionate users of Google Docs." They wanted the simple online collaboration to which they were accustomed. Microsoft implemented a training and migration plan that included tracking user adoption and utilization to see where any potential pain points were.

Microsoft isn't done with the Office 365 migration. But it is creating a new set of best practices for how to do this with its other and future acquisitions -- including GitHub, Microsoft's acquisition of which was finalized today -- the case study said.

In other Microsoft-LinkedIn news, there was a bit of integration momentum between the two this week. Advertisers using the Bing Ads platform can now target data from LinkedIn, the ads team announced this week. The goal of this is to enable marketers to maximize their campaign spending by targeting users by company, job function and industry.