Tech & Innovation Blog

Putting Technology—and Technologists—First: Digital Transformation at ADP 


What We Do, Why ADP, Future of Work

Urvashi's Header

We strive for ADP’s products and services to be universally recognized, easy to use, and accessible anywhere.

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. 

Tech & Innovation Blog

Roll Forward: How breakthrough products are redefining ADP as a tech innovator 


Senior Leaders, Innovation, Future of Work

Roberto Masiero, SVP Innovation Labs

For ADP as a tech innovator, this is just the beginning of the journey.

Roll Forward: How breakthrough products are redefining ADP as a tech innovator 

Roberto Masiero, SVP Innovation Labs 

From my long tenure at ADP, I’ve learned that when a company gives you the latitude to move around—either within the technology space or from technology to business or sales—you get plenty of chances to reinvent yourself. And reinvention on the individual level influences the reinvention of the company as a whole, which I think we really see now with Roll™. 

Roll™ is a mobile chatbot platform that uses AI and natural language processing technologies to anticipate users’ payroll needs intelligently. It’s the first-ever DIY payroll technology, and it’s so intuitive that our clients just download it and go; a lot of them never even talk to a customer service rep. But while we designed Roll™ to seem effortless, it’s the product of years of creative work with a unified team. The idea for Roll™ was to simplify payroll and HR using a novel UX and platform. I run the Innovation Labs at ADP, where we develop new products as quickly as possible. We’re a relatively small team, around 30 people from diverse backgrounds and with no hierarchy, allowing us to pull together tightly as a group. It’s important to me to have a flat organization because the moment you create hierarchies, you create ways to point fingers. In the way we work, everyone shares responsibility.  

We came up with the product idea for Roll™ about four years ago when we were finishing up ADP Marketplace and wondering what to do next. At the time, most of our lab projects were satellite projects, adjacent offerings to our existing core services. I thought, “What if we reinvented the core?” We saw an opportunity to improve multiple facets of our payroll platform—the architecture, the design, the user experience. We had a chance to envision a whole new system. 

We fixated on this idea of events—that everything done as an action within the system should be recorded as an event. In fact, we initially named the product “E” for “events.” For example, if you hire someone, pay someone, or terminate someone, we record each action as an event. This way, we know who did what, where they did it, what time of day, and from what device. All that information taken together feeds a machine learning engine where the system gets better the more it gets used. Instead of a system with a bunch of menus, forms, and reports, we imagined a vector of events where events cause other events. We basically built the software as a workflow. 

But we didn’t stop there. We also wanted to transform the UI into something much simpler and more direct. People tend to design user experiences with a sense of engagement in mind, but that’s not what we needed here. We didn’t want people engaged; we wanted them to get the job done and exit the software. So with Roll™, the user goes straight to chat and tells the system what they need, and the software understands. If it’s to hire someone, change someone’s W-4, change a payroll schedule, the user asks, and the software guides them through the process using conversational UI. 

We also built Roll™ to function 100% on mobile. We decided the UX would use a simple chronological timeline, similar to Facebook or Twitter. Clients love having one place to go to see their activity: “Yes, I ran payroll yesterday evening,” or, “Great, that new W-4 went through.” In addition to optimizing for mobile, we also wanted a strong desktop presence. We noticed our desktop users liked to grab info from the system and transfer it to Excel spreadsheets, so we decided to give them an Excel-like UX.   

We finished Roll™ in July 2019 and got a pilot client in August. That fall, we presented the software to ADP’s executive leadership team. We got the feedback that we were sitting on something big that works for small to large corporations. But they encouraged us to focus on the smaller markets, those with one to ten employees. So we spent a couple of months designing an additional layer of software to cater to small businesses. In March 2020, we piloted Roll™ with about 50 smaller companies who all liked what we were offering, and then the executive committee told us to put Roll™ on the market and sell it as soon as possible. So we went from pilot program to full rollout in under a year, and today we’re getting dozens of new clients a day signing up for Roll. 

A big part of what makes Roll™ stand out is integrating natural language processing with machine learning. We designed Roll™ to understand the mental model of our user’s meaning. We wanted the chatbot AI to talk the way people talk.  

We brought in ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird, and copywriters to advocate for the user, helping us to shape the Roll™ voice. We didn’t simply want AI to predict what our clients needed for payroll purposes––though that ability was definitely important. We wanted the voice of Roll™ to demonstrate human understanding. For example, Roll™ learned to respond more positively when addressing a new hire or giving someone a raise in pay, whereas it is more subdued when discussing termination. It’s that empathetic understanding that gives Roll™ an edge in human interaction. 

On the backend, we decided that we didn’t want to run servers, or even containers, like Docker or Kubernetes. Instead, we made every event a function. The beauty of functions is that they only exist while that function is running. So our cost of running Roll™ is extremely low. Using cloud services and this idea of functions is another way Roll™ sets itself apart.  

Of course, Roll™ didn’t come without its challenges during the development process. Fraud is something we have to consider whenever we engineer or develop a new product. But this is what I love about the Lab: We think of our challenges as opportunities to make our products better. How can we improve? How can we automate? How can we reduce the amount of burden on the system from someone trying to commit fraud? And when we meet a challenge, everyone jumps in to help. We either fail as a team, or we succeed as a team. 

I’d say we’re succeeding right now, and the beautiful thing about Roll™ is that it’s always running. We change our models to pick up on new ways clients ask for things, and every new question pulls into Roll’s knowledge and experience. So the more clients we have, the better the software becomes. It’s an unprecedented level of automation. 

A program like Roll™ can help further ADP’s digital transformation from merely a payroll company into a competitive tech company. What makes Roll™ exciting is that it almost creates its own category; it’s a technological solution no one else has. We can dominate this market and apply some of the same breakthroughs—machine learning, using functions—with other ADP products. For ADP as a tech innovator, this is just the beginning of the journey. 

Interested in a tech career at ADP?

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Tech & Innovation Blog

Advancing Your Career


Lifion, Career Journey, Leadership

Video: One Product Manager's Take on Advancing Your Career

Meet Chintan, one of our product managers in our New York City Innovation Center. He started at ADP as a Developer and since that time has grown into new roles, like his latest one as Product Manager. ADP has the ability to offer new experiences and untapped opportunities for those who want it.

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Women in STEM

Girls Can Do Anything

https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2019/08/adp-women-in-stem-profile-kanyatta-walker.aspx

 

This inspirational woman in STEM lives by a four-word personal mantra: girls can do anything.

Kanyatta Walker’s unapologetically fearless outlook began when she was only three years old. A boy cast as Santa in her preschool Christmas play did not enjoy being on stage and kept missing lines. Kanyatta offered to step in, but the teachers said she couldn’t because Santa was a boy. When it turned out none of the boys knew the lines and Kanyatta did, the first female Santa debuted in the play. The crowd loved it.

In high school, Kanyatta was interested in occupational therapy and planned to major in it in college. Then she did some aptitude tests with a good friend who wanted to join the marines. The recruiter told her she was excellent at math and could pretty much do anything she wanted – except be an engineer.

Kanyatta graduated from college with a degree in software engineering technology and has never looked back.

“I always loved math,” Kanyatta said. “My aunt was a math teacher and the way she explained it just made sense to me. I love that there is always a precise answer. But there is also always more than one way to get to that answer and lots of trouble shooting.”

Management math

She was recruited by Accenture, a multinational consulting firm, where she worked in a variety of roles from sales to program manager and development manager. By 25, she was leading a team with a significant budget. “I learned by trial and error. There was so much I did not know and I made a lot of mistakes. But I also knew that teams are a mirror of their leaders. I worked at a grocery store when I was 16. When it got busy, the managers would leave their office and come help wherever needed. After the store was bought by a chain, the new managers didn’t come out of their office to help. I learned how important it is for leaders to understand what people need and show up for their team.”

As her career progressed, Kanyatta realized that there are multiple roles for leaders too. “It’s like a baseball team,” she said. “There are coaches and general managers. Coaches assemble the teams and knows who to play to bring out their best. The general manager deals with the overall strategy and choosing the right coaching staff to create the win.

“To be an effective leader, you don’t personally have to play every position. When I see something I want to do, I work to understand the underlying skills. I see how to unravel things and figure out what I know, what I need to know, and how to learn the skills I need. With core skills and ability, you can do anything.”

The desire to understand executive strategy led Kanyatta to an MBA program at Emory University while she was still working full time leading product managers, business analysts and program managers for a large telecom company. She discovered the perfect combination of math and business in her finance courses. “I can look at a company’s finances and tell you what their strategy is,” she said.

Coming to ADP

After finishing her MBA, a friend helped recruit Kanyatta to ADP in Atlanta. She was excited at the opportunity to combine her business skills with her software engineering experience. She started out as Vice President of Operations working in National Accounts on outsourcing operations. Today, Kanyatta is Vice President of Global Product and Technology – Client Product Support, where she leads teams providing product and technical support for ADP’s business units and clients.

“I love the ability to transform here. As the company is transforming, so are the opportunities for people within the company and our clients to grow. I love helping people connect the dots and see where we are going from process to technology to culture, Kanyatta said.

“I also appreciate seeing women executives at ADP and how women help each other here. I met ADP business unit presidents Debbie Dyson and Maria Black within my first six months, and they always find time and make themselves available to help others.”

Helping others succeed

Kanyatta is also committed to helping others grow and achieve their dreams. She is involved in Women in Technology International and Emory’s Executive Women of Goizueta —while also mentoring and coaching rising leaders in her role at ADP. She loves helping women figure out what they want and how to get there.

“Connecting with others can be scary, but it’s important so you can understand the playing field,” Kanyatta said. “You have to lift your head up to see and for people to see you. There’s no way for people to know how amazing you are if your head is down all the time.

“There are not many women of color in tech, so I always try to say yes when people ask me to speak. It’s important to build bridges and for younger women to see people who look like them doing the things they want to do.”

Kanyatta is quick to say that she does not do it all alone. Her husband is very supportive and encourages her to connect with others and volunteer. Together, they manage a busy family schedule with their 12 year old daughter who is playing softball on a traveling team. “I love being a softball mom and spending time with my family,” she said.

Walker family at softball field

Kanyatta, Kya and Kevin Walker enjoying time as a softball family.

Kanyatta’s advice to others

  • Be careful how you treat people because you never know who you may need or who may need you. God works through other people.
  • Be a dream giver, not a dream killer. Build authentic relationships with people. Give your perspective, but show them what it takes and how to progress instead of telling someone they can’t or shouldn’t.
  • Follow your heart and trust that it knows. Stay optimistic, be persistent and keep going. Give up the spirit of fear for the power of love.

Kanyatta Walker

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Diverse group of multicultural ADP employees

We All Want to Belong at Work

https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2019/10/we-all-want-to-belong-at-work.aspx

 

“Finding commonalities and accepting differences is the key to belonging,” said ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird.

When I started to consider belonging at work, I knew exactly who to call — ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird [MB]. Here’s some of our conversation about why belonging matters and what organizations can do to create and sustain a culture of belonging.

HB: Having a sense of belonging seems so important to how we move through the world and how we relate to our work. What is belonging?

MB: Belonging almost strikes people as poetic. It seems like a feeling, so it can resist the critical lens we need to unpack it.

People think of belonging as a psychological state, but it is actually cultural. It’s the notion of being inside or outside and relates to enacted phenomena like what the cultural norms are around us and how we compare ourselves to those norms.

Everything cultural is nested in other things and is influenced by power, resources, how things have been done in the past, and what the expectations are for the people involved.

Kids can feel like they don’t belong because of their clothes. New employees can feel like they don’t belong because of the jargon used in the organization. I’m a social scientist surrounded by tech people and it’s not surprising that my sense of belonging is tested from time to time. Ultimately, I’m privileged to feel I’m part of something bigger than myself.

HB: What makes a culture of belonging? It seems like belonging is relational. It’s partly how I perceive the circumstances and culture, how people already in that culture see it, and what’s actually going on regardless of our individual perceptions and opinions.

MB: There are so many ways to feel like you don’t belong — socially, economically, intellectually, emotionally. It’s that sense of other. To make sense of it, we can look at othering, break it down, and pick it apart to see what’s happening. We identify the discreet instances where someone feels alienated and read the cultural cues about what is happening. This gives us information about the culture.

There is no universal recipe for what makes a healthy culture. There are many good and right ways to do things.

It partly has to do with a culture’s view of the individual and how the individual should relate to others. In the United States, belonging often evokes family, but we also have strong cultural values in individuality and being recognized and valued as an individual. In other cultures, a sense of harmony is highly valued and working toward common goals is more important than individual achievement.

A culture of belonging fundamentally has to do with common goals and values, respect for each other, and a sense of our shared humanity.

HB: How can we help people feel like they belong at work?

MB: We want workplaces where people feel like they can be themselves, but are also working with others to do the work. It’s less about fitting in and more about complementing. There has to be room for difference. It’s like an orchestra where the manager is the conductor and we have all these different instruments playing different parts in the same piece of music. We don’t want just the violins or the tubas. We need all the different sounds, rhythms and harmonies.

Belonging at work starts with leaders modeling the values and behavior for their teams. Is it comfortable to embody those values? Sometimes that means being vulnerable and asking for help.

I recently gave a big speech to a large group of people in a setting where I felt anxious. Walking up to the stage, I decided to tell the audience that and ask for help. So I explained how I was feeling and asked them to tell me, “It’s okay, Martha!” It was great, so I asked them to do it again. And they did! I felt so much better and they were all on my team at that point, because I was vulnerable and asked them to help me in a way they could.

In cultures of belonging, it’s okay to be honest about what’s going on, even if it’s that you don’t feel included.

HB: What are some specific things that managers or leaders can do to foster belonging at work?

MB: At the organizational level, it’s essential to ensure that the values of the organization exist at every level and in every manager without exception. It’s also important to consider how to structure teams and make sure they can communicate effectively, based on where and how people work.

At the team level, good manager training is key. Managers need skills in working with teams, allowing for different views, and figuring out how to handle disagreements and how decisions get made. When people can weigh in on something, there is a sense of being in it together.

It’s important to see each other as people, not work roles. Connecting in person and outside of work makes a difference. We need to tell and know each other’s stories and create opportunities for sharing. Have lunch, have informal video meetings where everyone gets to tell something about themselves. I was in a meeting recently where we all told the story of our names. I learned a lot and felt like the people who heard my story knew me a little better, too.

We need more awareness and cultural consciousness by design. People are fundamentally creative and want to learn. We all have different experiences and different lives.

Finding commonalities and accepting those differences is the key to belonging.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Together, we unite for real justice.


Black Lives Matter, Diversity & Inclusion, Leadership

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ADP affirms racial inequality is detrimental to our associates, our clients, and to the communities we serve. We recognize that leading through this crisis is a journey. Our goal is to impact lasting change through our actions.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Innovating from Within: Leaders from ADP’s Studio 55 on Taking Chances and the Power of Shared Values


HR Technology, Innovation, Pasadena

an ethnically diverse group of men and women from ADP

Imagine transforming a decades-old services company into a technology company ready to serve 1 in 6 Americans. Chris Lavender, Senior Director of Application Development, and Mike Ruangutai, VP, Product Development, had a chance to do just that as part of ADP’s innovation center, Studio 55.

The small, dynamic team powers every part of ADP’s offerings—from payroll to compliance—and is ushering in a new technology platform to serve more than 800,000 ADP customers across the globe. The teammates discuss the impact of their work, their shared love of music, and how strong collaboration will power the future.

*****

When Chris Lavender first got a call about joining ADP, back in 2017, it didn’t seem like the obvious choice. After starting his career in music, he’d spent six years as a developer, engineering manager, and CTO at small and medium-sized startups—a far cry from a 70-year-old company with more than 59,000 employees.

“The stakes were really interesting to me,” he remembers. “I get excited about solving problems that have a massive impact. When you’re that big, though, transitioning from a service company to a technology company is like trying to turn a giant ship. You definitely can’t do it alone.”

Chris considered the opportunity at ADP because he already knew several people on the team—including Mike Ruangutai, who first reached out. The two had worked together several years prior, at a medical billing startup called Kareo, and had stayed in touch ever since. Now, Mike is VP of Product Development at ADP and one of several former Kareo employees working for Studio 55, ADP Pasadena’s in-house innovation incubator helping support the company’s transition to tech. Mike had joined the company a few months earlier, and, like Chris, he’d been well aware of both the challenges and the opportunities facing the team.

“From an engineering perspective, ADP is the perfect petri dish. We have enough resources to experiment with new technologies and build our ideal ecosystem without worrying that any decision we make could be a company-killer,” Mike explains. “And because it didn’t start as a tech company, there’s plenty of fertile ground. There are lots of decisions yet to be made.”

As for the challenges? “Inertia,” Mike says. “Everyone has agreed this is the right move, but that doesn’t make it easy.” When he and Chris started talking, some of the team’s technology was decades old, and many of its practices and processes were in dire need of updating. To make the transition, they needed more people like Chris. “Chris is a unicorn. He’s a great technologist, but also a great leader,” Mike says. “To build an exceptional technology company, that’s who you want on your team.”

Leap of faith

Months earlier, when Mike was deciding to join ADP, he’d asked former Kareo colleagues who’d already done so for their unvarnished view of the company. “I asked them, ‘What are you seeing?’ ‘What do you hope to achieve?’” Now, he set out to answer the same questions for Chris.

“Mike and I have always had a really open, frank relationship, so I knew I could trust him to give me the full picture,” Chris says. “There was no sugarcoating whatsoever.”

And the same was true when Chris met with Mike Plonski, ADP’s SVP of Product Development and the head of Studio 55. “We spent more than an hour together, and he was not messing around—it was almost like he was trying to convince me not to take the job,” Chris laughs. “He wanted to make sure I didn’t have some glossy view of things. That transparency was super attractive.”

So with a clear view of the work he’d be doing—and the support he’d have in the process—Chris decided to accept the position.

“It was a leap of faith. I lived really far away at the time, so I had a serious commute at first,” he says. “But I knew Mike and I worked well together, the footprint was huge, and the problems were really interesting to me. From a technical perspective alone, government compliance is a famously tough nut to crack. On top of that, we needed to change the processes, the flows, the culture. We needed a complete mindset shift.”

Playing in tune

Nearly three years later, Mike says Chris has helped lead the Studio 55 team through just such a shift. “The energy is palpable. There’s a ton of collaboration,” he says. “Teams walk across the aisle to talk with one another; they have lunch together; they problem-solve together.”

One key component has been a shared set of values. “I’ll say it until the cows come home, but it’s really important to me: The team comes first,” Mike says. “We have to help each other be successful—and that includes leaders. It’s our job to set the context, support our team, and then get out of the way.”

For Chris and Mike, that leadership style is informed, in part, by another shared value: their love of making music. Mike studied studio jazz guitar in college; Chris holds a master’s degree in composition, improvisation, and technology, and he also spent a year performing with the Blue Man Group. “Composition and software engineering have so much in common,” Chris says. “You’re creating in the abstract and bringing that into the real world. It’s the same muscle.”

a small group of men holding various musical instruments

Mike, too, sees the parallels. “An engineering sprint or scrum is like the drumbeat, the tempo. Then everything else layers on top of that—our product ideas are the licks and motifs we experiment with; the technologies we use are the notes. And just like you need brass here and strings there, you need different groups of engineers. Watching a team come together on a project is like watching a group of musicians adapting, feeling the groove.”

They’ve found some other kindred spirits on the Studio 55 team, as well—enough to put together a weekly after-work jam session. “We’re super informal, no audition,” says Chris. “It’s just a good way to exercise our brains and use them in a different way.”

Moving the needle

That brainpower will no doubt come in handy over the months and years ahead, as Mike, Chris, and their colleagues continue to work through the challenges that face their team and the rest of ADP. “There’s still some work that needs to be done across the company—we watch carefully for any evidence of silos forming, for example, and strive to get ahead of that,” Mike says. “But Chris and the rest of the leadership team have really moved the needle. Now it’s about nurturing that headway and leveling it up even further.”

Chris agrees. “We’re still turning the ship, but it’s definitely happening. We’ve made insane progress in just a couple of years,” he says. “We have teams working cross-functionally, communicating, getting problems solved—and doing it efficiently, without staying up all night or working on weekends. It’s been really gratifying to see.”

Learn more about ADP’s Studio55 in Pasadena.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Three tips for successfully managing a global virtual team


Leadership Tips, Virtual Teams

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to manage a global virtual team?

digital clocks display times in Los Angeles, New York, London, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg

Well, even if you didn’t imagine it three months ago, thanks to Pandemic 2020, even onsite teams are now led remotely. Your team members might as well be in another country because the tech and techniques are the same. Welcome to virtual team leadership. I’ll share a few things that have worked for me.

I’m a Director of Product Development for ADP’s GlobalView solution, a Global Payroll Engine that supports 42 countries in a single environment. In this role, I lead a team of Country Solution Managers for the Americas region with team members located in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and the U.S., so lots of time zones and cultural richness.

Today, the world is getting smaller as companies are getting more global. ADP isn’t an exception, but rather a pioneer in global business. Matrix organizations like ADP are considerably more advanced and efficient. They have structures for core functions like finance, technology, sales, etc., concentrated in places where they can provide efficiency and allow resources to scale down for global optimization. ADP actively recruits in over 26 countries, with the largest concentrations in maybe 10 of them.

So, how best to approach managing in a global virtual environment?

Be sensitive and fair. Managing a multicultural team can be challenging and require you to adapt your managerial style in a way to create an engaged and productive team. Some unexpected challenges you may not realize is that as a multi-country manager, you may need to navigate between multiple HRIS and time management systems, compensation policies, and sometimes various languages and cultural understanding. It’s important to be sensitive and fair when dealing with time zones. Finding the right time for a global team meeting is critical. When it’s 8:00 AM in New Jersey, it’s already 6:00 PM in Hyderabad, India, and 10:00 PM in Sydney, Australia. As a manager, I find pursuing balance essential so that no associates feel unfairly treated, and they stay incented to participate actively and contribute in meetings.

Make time and keep a pulse on the action. Our StandOut product is the best tool I’ve found to manage remote teams. I’m not a sales guy, and I’m not pitching anything, but I truly believe it. It helps me keep track of engagements and progress on projects while encouraging my direct reports to tell me what they “loved” this week versus what they “loathed.” The weekly frequency keeps the dialogue open so that I’m having 52 conversations a year with my people. It provides me as a leader with an easy-to-use platform and personalized tips and concepts for me to leverage with each associate based on their strengths. But, in my opinion, one of the most important tools I use when managing a remote team is the “One on One” session. Every week I make sure that I have at least one meeting with each of my team members. These sessions supplement what I see in StandOut. They’re not just to check on each individual’s progress but to have candid conversations to build trust and personal connection.

Be empathetic. Empathy and trying to understand what an associate is going through, especially when they have difficult moments, are key to a successful team. After all, engaged employees are essential to having happy clients.

Chris Acostendai is a Vice President of Product Development at ADP.

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Women in STEM

From Art to Tech

Margot Dear’s advice to creative people interested in tech: Be curious and ask great design questions, but also always figure out how to explain your value.

When Margot Dear decided she wanted to learn French, she got on a bus in Vancouver and moved to Montreal. It took three days to get there, but that was part of the adventure.

C’est une aventure depuis.

It’s been an adventure ever since.

From Art to Tech

She loved Montreal and decided to go to university there, where she studied art history and studio art. After college, she also learned graphic design and opened up her own design firm for print, graphics and independent film design.

Around that time, Margot realized that art was going digital, so she focused her efforts on computer digital design. She also began working on web design. While she was learning, one of her favorite tricks was to hide her mouse so she would be forced to find another way to get the same result. She has been bridging the gap between the logic and structure of computers and the art and experiences of people ever since.

Understanding Design, Tech, and Relationships

When a friend invited her to come to London — “Because things are happening here!” her friend exclaimed — Margot left her web design position and moved to the U.K. She was able to get a work permit there because her grandfather was a British citizen, and she immediately started working as a freelance graphic and web designer.

She first worked to create online tools for a finance company, then she helped the British Post Office develop their online portal. The Royal Mail needed someone who understood both technology and design to create a central portal while managing relationships across distinct postal brands: Royal Mail, Post Office and Parcel Post. This was a pivotal position for Margot, as her role became less hands-on and more managerial, which meant that understanding people would be a key skill.

After the project was complete, LexisNexis recruited Margot to develop an online presence for their products and services outside the United States. This involved working with teams around the world from many disciplines, including academics, library science, taxonomy, tech, art and design. Margot says, with a laugh, “It was hard to recruit the creative team, because tax and legal compliance is not exactly sexy. But fortunately, complex problems attract great people.”

Coming to ADP

After about 10 years in London, Margot and her husband moved to the United States, where she joined Citrix to work on the Go to Meeting/Go to My PC interface. A friend there began working for ADP and told her about an opening at the ADP Innovation Center in Pasadena, California.

When she went for the interview, the Innovation Center was just starting, and the meeting was in empty office building. Despite the “Sopranos moment,” Margot found that they were so passionate about their work in design and UX that she decided to move to L.A. and take the job.

Now, Margot is the Senior Director of User Experience for Compliance Solutions at the Innovation Center, where she continues to focus on the connections between people, tech and work. In a recent talk at Enterprise UX, she explained: “Delivering products is not enough. We must also communicate the needs of our audiences, the value of our practices and the unique skills we bring to the enterprise table.”

She loves the Innovation Center and the opportunities to connect with others through the meetups and hackathons they hold there. Margot also appreciates the opportunities and challenges of constantly answering new questions and solving new issues. She especially enjoys going into the field and researching with customers to better understand how to design software interfaces in support of their work.

“Our work is getting into the hands of customers and we get to see what happens,” Margot says. “It’s exciting to see a large company invest in UX as an important part of their technology.”

Creating Value

Along the way, Margot has learned a lot about working with people and managing teams. “Give people enough time, space and trust to do great work,” she says. She has found that this is especially important when working with creative people.

“Roadmaps are linear. Creativity is nonlinear,” Margot says.

As a leader, Margot also had to figure out how to explain the value of the creative work she and her team were doing so they would have the resources they needed. This also helped senior leadership understand what they were getting for their investment in UX. Margot and her team are currently exploring how to measure and quantify the value that UX brings to both ADP and its customers by regularly measuring and reporting these metrics to stakeholders across the organization.

Margot has the following advice for creative people interested in tech: be curious. Ask great design questions, but also always figure out how to explain your value.

Parce que vous le valez bien.

Because you’re worth it.