The Daunting Challenge of Buying Career Management Software

By Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP
This article was originally posted on

​Software meant to help employees manage their careers is perhaps the most complex HR technology to buy. This segment of technology is now the fastest-growing HR software, and, unfortunately, it’s also one of the most confusing.

Deciding which software to buy is a two-sided problem. On one side, organizations consistently have lots of jobs, projects and new initiatives. Which software helps business leaders and HR professionals find the “right people” to take on these new roles, given their skills, experiences and interests? On the other side, individual employees have career goals, work interests and promotional expectations. Which career management software helps them find the “best opportunity” in the company so they feel they are growing and don’t have to look for more-challenging jobs elsewhere?

The software that is available now does one or the other, but not both, and solving this conundrum is more challenging than most software vendors think. Developers believe they can build an open career portal, give people tools to shop for jobs and perhaps provide skills assessments to determine who is “most ready” for the next position. While all this is doable (it’s not easy, but it has been done), it misses the other important issues: Is this person the right cultural fit for this job? Does the individual’s personality fit with the new team? Will this new job take her in the right long-term direction? These are all difficult questions to answer with a simple skills assessment.

Market Breakdown

First, there are tremendous “career portal” tools from enterprise resource planning vendors. Almost all the human capital management and talent management suites have these portals, where employees can shop for open positions, apply for jobs and compete with external candidates for new roles. Just opening up this internal marketplace for jobs in a transparent way is a huge win, and most companies tell me this simple change can transform their employees’ career mobility within their companies.

Second, there are companies that develop “career management” tools (e.g., Fuel 50, Ascendify, RallyTeam and others) focused on giving employees methods to self-assess their skills and interests, map these skills and interests against job profiles, and be matched with open opportunities. Originally these tools were centered on assessment and job profiles; today they are shifting to become “project and program staffing” tools, because companies have so many new teams, projects and initiatives to staff. I expect this new segment of HR software to grow rapidly in the next few years.

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