How to Stay Relevant by Listening to Your Users: A Lesson from ADP

Graham Neray


ADP is quietly adapting its business to meet the demands of the modern consumer.

With over $10B in revenues and 600,000 clients, ADP is one of the largest business outsourcing solution providers in the world. While a slew of technology startups are disrupting established industries – from payments to taxis to healthcare – ADP focuses on innovation to maintain leadership. This strategy is driven from the top, but depends upon the bedrock of flexible data infrastructure like MongoDB to make it work.

IT As Innovator

For CIO Mike Capone, IT must be a source of innovation, and to that end he expects his team to be an integral part of product development. To facilitate this, Capone created an IT innovation lab and also holds an annual conference in which top ADP executives showcase new ideas. To ensure his team doesn’t operate in a vacuum, Capone requires members of his leadership team to spend a day and a half with customers each month.

Not surprisingly, as part of these activities ADP learned that its customers (and their end-users) wanted a better mobile experience. ADP validated this need, finding in its own survey that employee smartphone use now exceeds 50% for large and midsize companies, which mobile interest is even greater for some other demographics. Millennials, for example, may only check email occasionally on a laptop, but some have an 80% open rate on their smartphones (ADP).

So ADP began to build mobile apps. One such app, ADP Mobile Solutions, provides employees a view of all HR services – payroll, T&E, benefits and others – within a single, elegant design. The goal was to give employees the ability to view the services they care about on the device of their choice. If an employee wants to check her copay while at the doctor’s office, that should be simple, intuitive and accessible on a smartphone.

The results are staggering. Since launching over two years ago, the app has amassed over one million users across 41,000 clients. It is available in 17 countries and 23 languages, and remains one of the top 15 iOS free business apps. Systems uptime has increased and more projects are closer to timeline and budget, precipitating a rise in top and bottom lines.

All of which is great, but how has Capone’s work influenced sales? According to Capone, sales productivity has risen by 20% due to better products. Those “better products,” in turn, derive from far better data: Capone tracks everything from the number of appointments it takes to close a deal on a new product to how often the new product is sold in a given launch period.

Building Its Mobile Future On MongoDB

When designing the mobile app and the associated infrastructure, the ADP team evaluated a number of technologies and chose MongoDB for the database.

According to Jigesh Saheba, chief architect at ADP Innovation Labs, they chose it for several reasons. To ensure a pleasant user experience, the database had to be fast. It also needed to scale to support a massive user base. To live up to modern consumer standards, it had to be reliable and redundant across multiple data centers. Perhaps most importantly, the database had to be flexible and adaptable in order to support ADP’s mission for constant innovation. But it also needed to retain some of the features of relational databases – like rich querying and secondary indexing – in order to enable the feature set that the team wanted to implement.

MongoDB met all these requirements, empowering ADP to bring a mobile app to market quickly, and then iterate on it continuously. Saheba’s team is a model for startup-grade innovation in a large enterprise, combining product development and operations into a single cadre known as devops.

Not only has the team provided 100% uptime, but since launching the app, it has unearthed clever ways to listen to users and cater to their needs. For instance, by observing usage patterns in the app, the team found that when users look at a pay stub, a common next step is to compare it to the last. So they added a button to compare pay stubs in a single step. Similarly, ADP uses predictive caching to push relevant content to users – like a 401K statement – when that content is updated.

<img src="" style="width:90%";/>

Having reaped the benefits of MongoDB to deliver a personalized mobile app, ADP is now looking to implement the database across the organization. Options include a MongoDB-as-a-Service internal offering to ADP developers and a Big Data platform.

Enabling Innovation One App At A Time

To the enterprise looking to stay relevant and to prevent upstart technology companies from disrupting their businesses, consider: What are you doing to listen to your users? And how does your database infrastructure support the innovation required to respond to them?

See below for Jigesh Saheba’s interview with Silicon Angle’s The Cube.