Putting Technology—and Technologists—First: Digital Transformation at ADP
Urvashi Tyagi, Chief Technology Officer
ADP has always been more than a payroll company: In addition to payroll software, we also provide thousands of clients worldwide with tools that help them manage HR, benefits, time, recruiting—everything “from hire to retire,” as we say. But while ADP always leveraged technology to do our business, we have historically been a services company. Over the last several years, we’ve genuinely transformed into a technology-first, a products-first organization focused on excellent service.
For ADP, digital transformation is about serving both our clients and our internal associates. To continuously drive value for our clients, we develop the best possible tools. And to create the best possible tools, we need to provide a superior experience for our developers.
Of course, digital transformation is not a new idea at ADP. Modernizing tools and products is a business necessity for any company that wants to stay competitive. But digital transformations often happen piecemeal and in silos—and they often fail to meet their expected results. That’s why ADP embraces a holistic, enterprise-wide approach that relies on collaboration across business units and focuses on cloud technology.
Unifying Cloud Strategy
Cloud technology is vital to our future. It allows us to offer higher resilience, improved security, stability for our applications, and an improved customer experience on the client side. On the enterprise side, cloud technology allows us to access a global infrastructure, simplify our application architecture, and innovate faster, significantly reducing our time to market. So prioritizing cloud strategy is a given—but how do we determine what that strategy should be?
We strive for ADP’s products and services to be universally recognized, easy to use, and accessible anywhere. We’ve had cloud-native applications before, but previously, our developers had to make tradeoffs. That’s one of the aspects of the cloud—you have a lot of options. But that also means the cloud experience can look very different from one developer to another.
To help give our clients a seamless experience of our many products, we want everything to look and feel familiar. That means the way we modernize our technology stack and re-architect products need to be consistent as well, and that’s where a unified cloud strategy comes into play.
When I came on board in 2019, we had different cloud strategies across business units with individual DevOps teams building bespoke tooling for their developers. We decided we needed more product consistency and closer alignment on our principles of cloud strategy, for example, in terms of multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud. The way we did that was to put our best engineers in the driver’s seat.
Reducing Silos, Aligning Internally
There’s a quote I love from Dan Lyons, the author of Disrupted. He says, “If you want to be a technology company, put the technologists in charge.” That’s what we did to streamline our cloud-based DevOps processes. Technical leads from various business units came together to create a vision and build strategic and technical alignment so we could begin to consolidate. Instead of having 14 independent CI/CDs, we are on a path to two.
We took a similar approach to establish our DevSecOps tooling. In the non-Agile world, there’s a developer, a security specialist, and a System Reliability Engineer (SRE) managing the operations of running your product. With the Agile model, the developer holds all three roles because the operations engineer and the security specialist’s work is now digitized. Most tech companies use DevOps and DevSecOps as a core strategy because it allows the developer to build, secure, and deploy the code and own it—from the dev box into production. This approach leads to better quality and faster delivery.
When we began driving the change to establish enterprise-wide DevSecOps, the chief architect on my team worked with a lead developer from each of our business units, including the Global Security Office. They met weekly, sometimes daily. Each of those groups had its own DevSecOps processes already, but they came up with a unified approach that made sense. The chief architect presented a proposal to start with, and the conversation continued from there. We ended up with what we call an application security workbench. When a developer checks their code into a branch, this tool automatically runs and lets the developer see any security issues in their code and gives them guidance on how to fix them. Further integration of the tool into the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) allows developers to see security issues as they write code and address them in real-time.
Another way we collaborate internally is code sharing across the enterprise. So if you’re building an enterprise product, anybody within the company can look at your code and make changes. That significantly helps with minimizing silos, because now when a team wants to build a new capability, they make it for the whole enterprise. So if you work on enterprise, essentially, the entire company uses what you’ve created in all our products.
Continuously Driving Value with NextGen Products
When developers have an aligned approach to using NextGen tools and technology, they’re empowered to create NextGen products. To that end, our future products will all be cloud-native and embedded with AI and touchless technology. And we’ve already begun adapting some of our current-gen products to be touchless. For example, early in the pandemic, we worked quickly to make our clock-in systems touchless with facial recognition and voice commands.
We know that our business users spend 20–30% of their time looking for information, so we’re working on ways to optimize data analysis. For example, our ADP DataCloud team is a powerhouse for employee-related data. We’ve released several services focused on autonomous analytics in the last year, converting the tremendous amount of data we have into usable insights about how people work.
Another big focus for us is real-time applications, particularly real-time payroll. The acceleration of the gig economy means an increasing demand for payments that can be made instantly at the end of a shift, so creating a real-time payment ecosystem is critical. We’re also looking at blockchain for ID applications.
Ongoing Change, Ongoing Opportunities
There is never really an end to digital transformation. Once you start the work, you have to keep going. To promote continued collaboration and discourage silos, we encourage daily communication between teams, functions, and business units. We know it takes time to absorb and implement change, so we also share information repeatedly and in multiple ways.
At ADP, we recognize that change, like collaboration, is a team effort. When we present our enterprise-wide proposals, we never attach names because our software strategy, design, and development do not belong to any individual. We build off one another’s ideas, allowing us to grow and innovate as a cohesive company.
We’re on a transformation journey and committed to a holistic strategy, which means we are incrementally modernizing. As we do that, we’ll also deliver new capabilities to our clients as we re-architect existing products and update some of our highest-revenue-generating products for the cloud—as well as create new applications from scratch. The possibilities are endless!
Interested in a career in DevOps or DevSecOps?
Visit tech.adp.com to explore tech careers and to subscribe to our blog.