Microsoft: The Next Innovator in Talent Management Systems?

June 14th, 2018

Last week, Microsoft acquired GitHub, a software development / code-sharing platform with a community of 28 million developers, for $7.5 billion.

Beyond all the obvious “synergistic benefits,” there are some less apparent but, for our talent management space, much more intriguing potential opportunities, which lead me to ask:

Does Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, when combined with LinkedIn, herald the era of a new type of talent management system?

Stay with me on this one.

As this article points out so well, Microsoft now owns two vertical networks (LinkedIn: professionals (generally speaking); GitHub: software developers). Using LinkedIn data today, an organization could have insight into people’s networks (so who knows whom), the skills / knowledge of the people in those networks (so who knows what), and what people are learning in those networks (so who is learning what, via Lynda’s online learning capabilities). If you look at GitHub, there are even better insights on someone’s skills (as the network assesses developers’ code, versus the generic endorsements of someone’s skills on LinkedIn) and the types of projects they work on. Further, GitHub is used to actually get work done – which means that any learning recommendations, communication suggestions, etc. could actually be done in the flow of work.

So, what could this new type of talent management system look like? Gone would be the days of talent management systems acquiring data from other places about employees’ knowledge, skills, and connections – and requiring people to go to that separate system to “manage” people. Rather, this next generation of systems would likely be fully integrated into those other systems (e.g., LinkedIn and GitHub) that people already work in. The existing talent management data is what would be “sucked in” to those new systems. I would imagine this new technology would include new features such as:

  • More credentialing (à la the approach currently being pioneered at Degreed) to better understand who truly has what skills and to what extent
  • More tools to enable people to signal their reputation more clearly (badging, blogging, upvoting, etc.) and career intentions (prioritized skills / knowledge to acquire next, desired next career steps, willingness to move, etc.)
  • Greater ability to combine feedback on work product (e.g., code, for GitHub) with other performance enablement activities(pulling together that information for check-ins, integrated learning)
  • Deeper network insights to understand skills and knowledge across an organization, information flows, points of collaborative overload, succession readiness, etc.
  • A hundred other features that we haven’t been dreamed up yet, plus many of the ones already in existing talent management systems…

This new combination of data and capabilities would enable a much deeper understanding of people, information, the network, and how work is getting done. Further, this new system could enable personalized and curated learning in the flow of work, provide feedback on work in the moment, and enable people to have better and more timely conversations about the work, people’s capabilities, and their career trajectories. Is this not the nirvana that talent management systems have been trying to achieve for more than a decade?

The good folks over at Starr Conspiracy point out in this thoughtful report that the talent management systems market is ripe for disruption and posit that either the incumbents must innovate or the myriad new employee engagement providers will add capability to expand more effectively into the talent management space. This combination of acquisitions points to a third way forward: that non-talent management-centric software systems may come together in interesting ways to re-envision what talent management systems will be in the future.

Of course, none of this is to say that building the next-generation talent management system is Microsoft’s intent (quite unlikely), that the vision I’ve laid out will come to pass (even more unlikely, especially given how bad people are at predicting the future), or that the existing talent management systems will become obsolete in the near future (nigh impossible). But this set of acquisitions should get everyone’s mind moving on the value proposition of talent management systems in the future and how we should all be thinking about them differently.

What do you think? We will be kicking off a new talent management systems report later this month, so would love to hear your thoughts.

In particular, if you’re a talent management system vendor, let’s make sure we talk soon! If you’re a talent management system buyer, let me know what is on your mind in terms of what you’re looking for in future systems. I can be reached at stacia at

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any companies mentioned and no plans to initiate any positions. We have no information beyond what is publicly available on Microsoft’s intentions and are not receiving compensation for this post.
Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst