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Andy Price

Sift Media

Technology Editor

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Interview: “We certainly had an early mover advantage,” says ADP’s Steve Hardy


ADP has had a long-standing relationship with the Cloud – they launched their first cloud service in 1998, three years before the term ‘Software as a Service’ was even coined. Steve Hardy, Vice President, National and Multinational Strategy and Marketing at ADP says that this afforded the business an “early mover advantage”. In an interview with, Hardy explains how this has enabled them to develop their solutions ahead of the curve, and discusses how these types of features will drive forward HR technology.

You were doing cloud before it was cloud. Do you see this as an ‘early mover’ advantage or do you think the cloud of today is different to what you originally developed?

The cloud of today is not essentially different from the original cloud, because the fundamental benefits remain the same. ADP, like other vendors, is creating and developing features and functionality such as deep analytics, document management, semantic search and social networking to increase the value of our clients’ HR technology. In addition, to improve employee engagement and productivity, we’re leveraging new interfaces that give users an experience to rival one they might enjoy with popular consumer-facing applications – something we feel would be a big step forward for HR technology.

We launched our first cloud service in 1998 and today we’re proud to have over 300,000 clients on cloud platforms, which provide businesses seeking the agility and flexibility benefits of the cloud with the critical reassurance that the transition will go smoothly and that their data is safe. When a business is entrusting the data on its biggest investment – its people – to a service provider, this advantage cannot be overvalued.

At ADP we’re certainly feeling positive about the growing impact of the cloud, and our intention is to maintain delivering solutions that are as innovative as our first cloud offerings.

One of the key advantages to an HR approach in the cloud is real-time working – obviously some companies will still be using legacy systems or are not yet willing to move into this area of HR tech – what would you say are the key issues they will face by not embracing the real-time or cloud approach?

There are obvious challenges around the inefficiency of on-site systems, such as purchase costs, time consuming upgrade cycles, hardware, and staff training. Companies who do not take advantage of cloud based services miss new innovations – in mobile, tablet, social, and analytics – and as competitors start to benefit from these innovations it will ultimately impede their ability to be competitive. This is particularly important considering HR leaders are driven by the need to provide a great place to work. They are responsible for the perception of the employer brand and have accountability for corporate change culture. That’s difficult to achieve when you have many disconnected systems and processes and aging technologies supporting you. And yet, a recent ADP Research Institute survey found the average multinational business had more than 22 HR systems – many of which were deployed over two decades ago. That’s before the internet, never mind social media!

What new approaches do you think the development of cloud and other technology will foster in HR moving forwards – say, in the next few years, which isn’t in place now?

I believe analytics will be the new HR. Process driven tools and technologies were really an answer to the first wave of digitisation of human resource management in the 90’s when manual, paper-based systems were automated. Many applications that are in use today took those processes and put them into software applications, without any real regard for the needs of leaders, the HR professional or the employee. What we’ve inherited, therefore, are hundreds of often discrete process driven applications that bear little relevance to the user and are just downright complicated. As an example, for many businesses developing an accurate global headcount report is a long and arduous task, involving multiple people, applications, and manual processes. With Human Capital Management analytics tools, simple questions like ‘how many people do we employ’ can be  answered in an instant, allowing HR to focus on more strategic business issues.

In a lot of circles people say that the triangle of Oracle, Workday and SAP will dominate cloud HR in the next few years. Do they worry you?

No. ADP has a holistic integrated view of Human Capital Management that not only includes technology, but also addresses people and process aspects of the business. The software providers you mention are just that – software. It’s a critical part of the conversation – but unless you have a strategy to address how (the process) you will transform your HR organisation and who (the people) will do it – shiny new technology counts for nothing. Globally, we partner with many leading independent software vendors to provide our clients with agile, integrated solutions. We also have numerous clients who integrate Oracle, Workday and SAP enterprise resource planning with components of our HCM solutions.

You’re beginning to rank on ‘best workplace’ lists. Why is this? Have you taken steps to ramp up engagement/worker happiness and if so, what steps have you taken?

Ultimately, we apply the same principles to our business that we recommend to our clients. We have a global Human Capital Management strategy in place, we use our own technology, and we’re increasingly standardising processes for our 60,000 employees around the world. We’ve definitely found that alignment of people, process and technology helps drive a more cohesive culture, all focused on the needs of our 625,000 clients.

What advice would you give to companies looking to choose a professional employer organisation or payroll processor?

Outsourcing is not a one-size-fits-all solution and the right level or type of outsourcing depends on various factors. To keep an outsourcing relationship healthy, HR Directors should focus on adaptability, longevity and scalability, whilst ensuring the effectiveness of in-house HR is increased, rather than hampered. This can help to dispel common perceptions and misconceptions of relinquishing some of the HR functions of the business.

What are the biggest challenges facing multinational companies over the next ten years?

Based on our own recent research (an ADP Research Institute Study), and when I talk to business leaders around the world  we’d suggest the key challenges are recruiting and talent acquisition, training and development, employee retention, cultural differences, and regulations and compliance.

What’s next for ADP? What are your goals for the next five years?

For the next five years, our strategic priorities are focused on growth. We want to leverage our global presence to offer clients integrated HCM, benefits, payroll and Dealer Management Solutions where they geographically do business, and invest to grow and scale our market leading BPO solutions.

What will innovation in HR look like in the next two years?

The pace of innovation is accelerating, and as cloud computing continues be one of the key aspects, we will see HR technology take influence from consumer applications. However, the most important innovations will be the ones which use technology to help HR teams cultivate a happier workforce and retain the best talent.

Big Data will have a major impact on HR. Utilising predictive analytics will enable HR professionals to better anticipate changes in their organisations and to provide leadership teams with real strategic insights. Big Data can also support HR teams in increasing employees’ performance and identifying the need for analytics may also create new professions within the HR function.

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Andy Price

Technology Editor

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