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ADP’s Next-Generation Platforms Have Arrived


This past week ADP held its annual analyst day event at its innovation lab in Chelsea, NY, where its executive leadership provided updates on the progress of its latest portfolio of next-generation HR and payroll solutions. The event was noticeably more crowded than in previous years, not only from a strong analyst community turnout but also from the growing ADP product leadership team, which is indicative of its focus and commitment to developing next-generation technology products.

Commitment to HR technology & innovation

If you weren’t already aware, ADP is serious about becoming an HR technology company, and to that end has quietly made significant investments in advancing its cloud HR and payroll platform capabilities in recent years.  According to their FY 2018 annual report, it allocated $1bn (up from $863m in FY17) toward systems development, maintenance, and purchases of new software and software licenses.

Its commitment to technology and innovation was further emphasized earlier this year when ADP launched a new branding campaign, introducing a new tagline and mantra of “always designing for people”, underscoring its focus on designing solutions that enable a “better way of working” to support organizations and their human capital to reach their full potential.

Recent investments aside, ADP has a legacy of innovation in the HR space, from inventing payroll outsourcing, and delivering the first payroll automation, to the introduction of the first mobile HCM app (ADP Mobile), and the first app marketplace (ADP Marketplace). Looking toward the future, CEO Carlos Rodriquez emphasized that ADP is "all-in on HCM, and on becoming a technology company".

Over the past three years, ADP has been developing two new "next-generation" cloud platforms: a highly extensible, AI/ML and predictive analytic embedded HCM platform called ADP Next Gen HCM which has been purpose-built for the dynamic team structures rapidly evolving in workplace today, and  a new policy-based, event-driven payroll engine which is capable of supporting both traditional employees and freelance gig workers.

ADP has made substantial progress bringing both platforms to life and has been piloting each over the past year, and is now live with a select group of early adopters like Golds Gym which just went live on ADP Next Gen HCM this past month. ADP reached its goal of 15-25 North American-based clients live on Lifion by the end of FY’19 (July), with plans to reach as many as 75 in FY’20. Further, it expects its next-generation payroll engine to be supporting a “few hundred” clients by the end of FY'20. 

Driving adoption

With its next-generation platforms now in place and ready for primetime, ADP’s challenge will be driving adoption for its new HCM technology. Its first challenge will be targeting and convincing new clients to consider ADP Next Gen HCM over other well-known HCM platforms in the marketplace. Further, it has the mammoth task of convincing its  ~810k existing clients to consider migrating to ADP Next Gen HCM as well.

However, as it continues to add early adopters and enable transformational outcomes that drive referenceable clients, adoption should follow; at the event, ADP announced it had already signed a new ADP Next Gen HCM client (its largest to date) for a North American transportation company with ~65k employees.

ADP is also leaning on the design of ADP Next Gen HCM to differentiate the platform and drive adoption; first, with what ADP calls “extreme personalization” enabled through an “AI anywhere” approach leveraging AI/ML and NLP, and underpinned by the depth of the ADP Data Cloud, for a prescriptive and predictive user experience throughout the platform. Next, ADP plans to enable clients to comingle external business data with HCM data for deriving holistic workforce analytic insights.

To personalize the experience further, ADP is betting on "mini-apps" enabled through its flexible, low-code architecture and design. ADP has empowered clients to build apps and tools to expand their capabilities to fit their unique needs and HR environment.  ADP demonstrated the ease of configuration for its mini-apps, which incorporates a drag-and-drop style experience. ADP currently has ~115 mini-apps in production and growing rapidly, with plans to expand this to third-parties longer term.

While ADP has been keenly focused on advancing its platform technology in recent years, its HR and payroll services remain at the heart of its offering and brand, and will need to play a significant role in driving adoption for its new platforms. I expect adoption for ADP Next Gen HCM to initially be driven from new HR services clients seeking both modern next-generation technology as well as a managed services engagement. 

With a comprehensive HR services portfolio that spans the entire employee lifecycle and can support clients through a single vendor solution, enabled by next-generation platforms and paired with one of the deepest and most robust sets of human capital management data in the world, ADP is poised to gain momentum with HCM technology buyers, and I expect will likely exceed its adoption goals in FY’20.

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