Posted on | September 16, 2011 | No Comments
Given the technical problems that beset LinkedIn’s InApps launch (“Applications on LinkedIn”), it may be premature to posit a wish list for the future. But, LinkedIn has a track record of putting technology in place. They’ll overcome the beta glitches. Then, given the tight focus of the initial group of applications, we can expect them to methodically, deliberately extend the platform. Yesterday I reviewed the applications in the release. I thought three were “killer”, four were “good” and two needed to be proven-out.
Per Jeremiah Owyang, LinkedIn is focusing on: 1. Collaboration between colleagues and connections – Outside the firewall, 2. SaaS environments to further a business’s IT mission, and 3. Business applications at the request of users and platform developers.
What’s the competition focused on? Oracle Beehive seems to be focused on providing the picks and shovels for corporate intranet development including: 1. The personal workspace, 2. Process-centric collaboration, and 3. The platform for enterprise application development. Salesforce’s AppExchange has over 600 applications for the Salesforce.com platform including everything from lead generation to time tracking.
Personally, I would leave picks and shovels behind in favor of rapid application uptake. This is achieved by focusing tightly on the needs of the immediate community. Once you have 30M, 60M, 90M valuable InApp application / user instances, focus on pushing back into the enterprise. The challenge, many applications are available on the internet. So, there needs to be unique, possibly step-change, value for LinkedIn users created by bolting InApps on the platform.
Before getting to the list, it’s important to note that, as functionality is added, information is extracted. The question for the user and the service then becomes who has access to what information. In my opinion, this is the single largest problem with Facebook. It is a problem LinkedIn does not have to share. For professionals, the concept of proprietary information and sharing hierarchies is not alien. The challenge then becomes technical i.e., how do you structure profiles to accommodate a broad range of applications, use cases.
Tier One – Maximum Adoption InApps
So, here’s my “Top Ten LinkedIn Application Wish List” divided into conceptual groups:
Company- and Eco-system Communications
- Yammer – Yammer is a micro-blogging tool in which members of a network, usually a company w/ the same email domain (e.g., @companyname.com), communicate in 140 character bursts. Winner of this year’s TechCrunch 50 (TC50), this application takes the powerful, but undirected Twitter data stream and focuses it on intra-business communications.
- Skype – While not particularly useful w/in U.S. borders, I use this extensively when working with remote (read: overseas) teams. It can either be a standalone dial utility or, as it works in conjunction with content and/or workflow management tools, integrated with collaboration apps such as Huddle.
- WebEx or GoToMeeting - The knock against these presentation management applications has been 1. credential management (i.e., sending someone the login / pwd for your presentation), 2. technical glitches as there is no standard and users often have to go across providers at the diktat of the presenter, 3. cost as their subscription schemes have prohibited the occasional presenter. LinkedIn integration would almost certainly address #1 & #2. Increased volume opportunities would address #3.
- FreeConference.com – Teleconferencing apps have the same primary issues as presentation management apps save, in this case, the cost.
- Salesforce.com – With 29 million users, LinkedIn is approaching professional ubiquity. Rather than maintain separate databases, business should be able to append sales-specific information to customer and prospect profiles while managing that profile through the sales process.
- Facebook - While I haven’t figured out if LinkedIn in a “professional profile” setting on Facebook or Facebook is a “personal profile” setting on LinkedIn, the idea is the same. As the overlap between Facebook’s community and LinkedIn’s community is large and growing daily, it’s time to enable synchronization. This may be best facilitated by moving to a common identity platform such as OpenID.
Project & Program Management
- Basecamp – Business productivity tools that coordinate common projects including web-based project management. Make todo lists, share files, track time and schedule milestones.
- ConceptShare – While Huddle may argue the functionality is redundant, ConceptShare enables sharing to create, primarily, digital products. Upload, share, annotate, markup, revise,… evolve.
- Outlook integration – Installing Tripit yesterday and seeing overlap w/ colleagues today showed the power of common calledaring. While Outlook integration would let you move beyond travel, it clearly points up the need for data access levels.
- Google Calendar – Preferred calendar of digerati, we can’t leave this out.
Tier Two – Higher Value, Fewer User InApps
So, what’s next? After implementing the top 10 general purpose LinkedIn applications, the target moves to better serving niche communities and expanding access. Paradoxically, while uptake would be slower, margins would be greater reflecting higher utility. Here are some examples:
- Function-Targeted Apps – Focusing, for example, at enterprise Finance & Accounting functions and assuming that large corporations already have infrastructure, one can see opportunity for stitching together applications focused on SME’s with QuickBooks and Time & Attendance app integration. Payment services such as EFT and applications such as Paypal would follow. Why? Because both payers and payees are on the LinkedIn platform. Further, application builders will line up ten deep when you connect up the means for immediate payment.
- Industry-Targeted Apps – One example would be workflow applications for software and digital products developers. For example, Qgia enables small agencies and individual advertisers to make production-quality videos including everything from booking talent and facilities to buying rights to the music. Why on LinkedIn? Much of the talent already has LinkedIn profiles. The ability to link them to specific Qgia work products generated through and reviewed on LinkedIn provides network value.
- Access – Mobile integration was not included in the first tier given the complexity of the initial platform development. Further, this is arguably the domain of the application owner. Having said that, if LinkedIn wants to create a sustainable, platform position between application and user, it needs to standardize access protocols most likely in a Blackberry, iPhone, Symbian sequence
Tier Three – Time to Push Out (OutApps?)
Follow Facebook’s fbConnect lead and start pushing LinkedIn functionality off the site to partners to integrate with their service offerings. While this sounds counter-intuitive to traffic aggregators, doing so would serve to establish LinkedIn as the focal point, repository, book-of-record for:
- Professional bios, the currency of employment services. Reduce, at long last, resume hyperbole. While that means the average person might have to prune their resume a bit, it would also mean not losing your next position to someone who is not being truthful. Enables independent employment verification services.
- Professional association and group membership. Why wouldn’t the American Cancer Society, the Newspaper Association of America, the Richmond Rotary Club or the the Peoria PTA manage their member lists, member communications, etc. using tools provided by LinkedIn?
Peter Cashmore at Mashable proposed five LinkedIn apps, including Google Calendar, Google Docs, Basecamp, Causes and Facebook. The only one I disagree with is Google Docs as the document editor a person uses has little effect on the value of the network used to display or transmit that document.
What InApps would you add? The next post in this topic: How long will it take Microsoft or Oracle to buy LinkedIn?