ADP: IT Innovation in Hard Times Pays Off

By Peter High  |  Posted 02-15-2011

ADP: IT Innovation in Hard Times Pays Off

When Mike Capone became ADP's first corporate-wide CIO in July 2008, he worked from the outset to be sure that IT was considered a strategic weapon within the arsenal of the corporation.

As someone who grew up on the business-side of ADP (prior to taking on his current role, he had been general manager global HR/payroll outsourcing ), Capone had been a user of IT. He knew he could speak with his new partners outside of IT with a degree of understanding and empathy that a traditional CIO might lack. Only a few months into his post, the economy was decimated. Based on Capone's moves, IT was not the cost cutting target that it became in many other organizations, where IT was viewed as a mere support organization.

Like many CIOs, Capone focused his team's attention on optimizing costs during the economic downturn, to ensure that his department was doing its part when the company needed it to run lean. That said, he was wary not to have the entire team focused exclusively on cost-saving activities. Early in 2009, Capone identified a group of his best performers and future department leaders, and had them focus on new innovations.

While working with ADP's customer relationship management team -- and in direct conversations with customers and business colleagues -- Capone's team recognized a growing demand for mobile solutions in the HR/Payroll outsourcing world. ADP had not had much experience in mobile. However, the company recognized a pent-up demand for mobile tools and saw this as an opportunity to develop meaningful innovation. At the same time, these initiaves provided some of the best and brightest members of the IT team with an interesting and highly visible assignment.

Mobile Platforms for Payroll

Admittedly, there was a dearth of market data on mobile platforms in the payroll space. Most of the solutions that had been developed to date were small offerings by small competitors. Once the decision was made to invest in a mobile payroll platform, there were two options to potentially pursue: a "me-too" solution that mimicked competitors, or a quantum leap forward. Working closely with the product group, the team elected to go for the latter, developing a full-featured mobile application to run payroll.

The results to date have been outstanding. In the first 90 days, customers downloaded the new platform for their mobile devices 13,000 times, according to Capone. Now, the mobile payroll platform is something that all new small business customers have the option of selecting when they enroll, and 60% of them have chosen to do so to date.

What's more, by focusing a portion of the organization on innovation even during the economic downturn, ADP is well suited to continue those efforts to an even greater extent as we're poised for economic recovery.

Peter High is president of Metis Strategy, a boutique IT-strategy consultancy based in Washington, DC.  A contributor to CIO Insight, Peter is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the podcast, The Forum on World Class IT. He can be reached at peter.high@metisstrategy.com.