HRExaminer Radio

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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Don Weinstein, Sr. Vice President, Product Management, ADP
Episode: 115
Air Date: September 16, 2015


Don Weinstein is Senior Vice President of Product Management for ADP. In his current role, Don is responsible for managing ADP’s portfolio of HCM products as well as directing ADP’s annual product innovation investments.

Don joined ADP in 2006 as Vice President of Corporate Strategy. He has also served as Division Vice President of Strategy and Product for ADP’s Small Business Services and Major Accounts Services divisions, where he led numerous successful new product introductions including RUN, Workforce Now and ADP Mobile Solutions.

Prior to joining ADP, Don held senior strategy roles within IBM Corporate Strategy and PriceWaterhouseCoopers Strategy and Change Consulting. He began his career in 1990 with General Electric as an Edison Engineer.

Don received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University, an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

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Begin transcript

John Sumser:                       Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner radio, I am your host John Sumser. We’re coming to you today live from beautiful downtown Occidental California. We’re about 40 miles from the wild fires and the heavens have opened and brought us rain this morning. It looks like we might gain an edge and not have to deal with the fire. Occidental, you might recall, is the birth place of innovation in the State of California. It’s where Leland Stanford did the engineering necessary to build his railroad up the coast. We’re proud to be bringing innovation back to Occidental. Today we’re going to be talking with Don Weinstein, who is the Senior Vice President of Product Management at ADP. If you listen in the background you’ll hear the sirens going for the wild fires. It’s pretty interesting to be here right now. Don how are you?

Don Weinstein:                  I’m doing great John, thanks so much for having me.

John Sumser:                       Introduce yourself to the audience. Tell us a little bit about how you got where you are.

Don Weinstein:                  Sure, absolutely. I’m actually an aerospace engineer by training. I started my career with General Electric in the satellite telecommunication business. The linkage to HR and payroll should be obvious to most folks, right? I would think. No, the reality is I had an interesting, and long and winding path to get me to where I am today, because shortly after the stint at GE, when they basically sold the satellite business and exited that industry I went back to school and got my MBA. I did a little bit of what a lot of people coming out of MBA programs do, which is try and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I got into consulting. I started out with Price Waterhouse, and that was really my first introduction to the world of human capital management. At the time, I don’t know maybe some of your listeners might remember, Price Waterhouse was in the benefits outsourcing business via acquisition of a company called Kwasha Lipton when that was an independent stand alone business. Then it got acquired into the strategy side of IBM, when IBM bought the consulting practice out of Price Waterhouse in around 2001/2002. Really at that time I started to get much deeper into it because while I was at IBM we were scaling up all kinds of business process outsourcing. Human resources, outsourcing of course also finance and accounting, and other processes.

Via my work with that team, I actually got really deep and introduced to the world of human capital management. We actually ended up signing a bunch of global deals, and partnering with ADP on the delivery of some of those deals. That was my real close introduction to ADP. I really liked the company, and the culture, and the approach to human capital management solutions, which was a much more best practices model as opposed to what I saw a lot of companies at the time … A lot of outsourcers doing at the time. Which we always affectionately refer to as your mess for less. Sure, it was give us your infrastructure and we’ll operated it for you. I could never really get my head wrapped around that side of the business.

In my opportunity to partner with ADP on some of the deals, I saw how they came in and had a structured program, and approach. I felt that was a really strong message, which is well we do this for 600,000 companies. We think we know what we’re doing and we can accommodate your needs. Let’s do it this way and give you a sense of certainty that it’s going to actually work, because I felt with so much heavy customization that was going on in the BTO world at the time, customize always sounds good in theory. Then you’re really banking on the service provider to be able to deliver that kind of customization and complexity of the service. Where the thought of a much more standardized delivery model, well maybe it’s not going to have all of the intellectual appeal of customized, it takes a lot of risk out of the equation. It certainly takes a lot of cost out of the equation.

A low risk, low cost solution feels right to me. I like to say in my personal life it’s why I shop at Macy’s and I don’t get all my cloths done custom. It sounds great, but it’s expensive, and it takes a long time. To make a long story short, after having some taste and some exposure there I had the opportunity to switch and come over to join ADP about 10 years ago. I have had a great time since then. It was definitely a long and winding journey on how I started out working on satellite programs like Dish Network, and the Global GPS system, to now building HR and payroll.

John Sumser:                       You and I should some afternoon have a long conversation. I started my career in engineering as well. There are not a lot of ex-engineers in the kinds of jobs that we’re doing. It tends to be a softer crowd who are a little bit more nervous about technology, and a little bit more unaware of what it takes to actually manage technology. We could have a good conversation there. What are you doing now? You’ve been at ADP for 10 years, what’s the job and what’s it like?

Don Weinstein:                  Now I have responsibility for product management across the ADP portfolio. I ran different pieces of the product portfolio at different stints in my career. I did our small business services products. That was my first product job at ADP. It was very exciting, we rolled out a product called RUN that compete very well for small businesses. For us small businesses are companies between 1 and 50 employees. We’ve got close to half a million small business customers on that single instant single version of one product. Which is pretty cool. We think it’s probably one of the biggest cloud applications certainly in our industry.

I moved into our mid-market business, for us mid-markets are companies roughly between 50 and 1,000 employees. Rolled out a product called Workforce Now, which is doing quite well. Over 60,000 clients on it. That’s the full scope of payroll, HR, benefits, talent, and time, all in one integrated cloud based HCM application. Then for the last couple of years I’ve had responsibility for the whole portfolio. It’s an exciting job, it’s also a very tricky job, because ADP … We probably have the broadest scope in the industry. We serve clients of all sizes. As I mentioned we have thousands of companies with as few as 1 employee, up to some of the largest multi-national, global businesses in the world, with hundreds of thousands of employees across all continents.

The scope of the portfolio is pretty broad in terms of customer size. We take any size customer. In terms of geographic reach, we have client with employees in over 104 countries. Then just the functional scope. In addition to the traditional HCM staff that we were talking about – payroll, HR, benefits, talent, time – we also offer a number of what we call added value compliant services. Things like wage garnishment, full-service garnishment outsourcing, tax credit services. Lately the biggest compliance story that we’re focused on, and our clients are as well, is health care compliance. Which has been a fun problem in it’s own right.

It’s a very broad portfolio. It’s a very diverse portfolio. Which makes it a very fun job and a very challenging job at the same time due to the scope and complexity. The one thing I take away from it, which I think is unique is we look at the nature of problems that clients have in those different environments. You think about the very small business operator where our client is the proprietor of the business. That person has very little training in human capital management. The phrase human capital management doesn’t even mean anything to them. They have even less time. They are focused on running their business, they really don’t want to put a lot of time into it.

The business challenge there is to just take everything and make it incredibly simple and easy to use, almost error proof. Just here push this button and everything will be fine. Then on the other end of the spectrum we’ve got those very large complex multi-national companies that have incredibly sophisticated processes when it comes to managing their work force, their talent pools. Whether it’s scheduling, recruiting, succession planning on an incredibly diverse work force. They’ve got very sophisticated needs and are on the cutting edge of work force management, human capital management.

I always think, we’ve got these incredibly polar opposite client sets that we’re working with, with different needs. If we can find a way to take the best of the best, to think through these very cutting-edge and sophisticated scenarios about how do I manage a pool of talent? How do I future cast what the economy and what my work force 5 years out from now is going to be? Build a plan around that and do it in a way that so simple and easy to operate that even that sole proprietor, or small business owner, could manage, then we’ve really got something. Trying to take the best of the best from both ends of that spectrum is I think … It’s a challenge, but it’s also a uniquely fun one.

John Sumser:                       First of all, you’re the first person I’ve every heard describe the health care changes problem as fun. Either what ever you’re smoking is really good, or you’re on to something new and different.

Don Weinstein:                  Well, we’re engineers John, right? We’re engineers, we like to solve problems. The harder the problem the more fun it is.

John Sumser:                       I couldn’t agree more. As I listen to you I noticed that the level of complexity in the services you provide is staggering. It makes me think about the general explosion of technology in a jar and what that means for the future of the discipline. Why don’t you talk a little bit about that. You probably have a pretty interesting idea about the volume of applications, and the challenges associated with getting it all done inside of HR.

Don Weinstein:                  It’s a great question, because the problem that we think about a lot and we try to put ourselves in our clients shoes, and try to think about the problem from their perspective as well. Really we’ve seen a couple of interesting, almost diametrically opposed trends happening in our industry. On the one hand we’ve seen a fair amount of vendor consolidation. We saw the first wave of individual talent point solution providers consolidating down into these integrated talent suites. Then the second wave is you had the talent suite providers getting gobbled up by what I’ll call the integrated HCM players. I consider ADP to be one of those, where we do provide a fair amount of solution to our client.

The flip side though is while the first wave of start-ups has been acquired, it’s not like people have stopped innovating. If any thing else, I think because of the waves … Now I’m speculating a little bit, but I believe that the wave of M&A activity that we’ve seen in our industry has actually proven to be attractive to people who want to start businesses. More importantly, to the VC funds who would fund them, because now they see a lot of capital coming into our space. They are predisposed to actually spend and invest more. That’s resulted in just an explosion, and a proliferation of innovative new vendors and start-ups, and new applications coming to the market. Again, we see these cost trends that at the surface don’t make any sense, but if you dig deeper they do.

That is that on the one hand while we’ve had this big wave of vendor consolidation delivering more and more integrated suites. While that’s been happening, at the same time the number of point solutions available in the market has increased. Probably the third trend now is that all these solutions are moving to the cloud. That makes adoption and experimentation so much easier, because if in the past if I was running HR for a company and I wanted to try a new product, a new technology, I’d have to run that through my IT Department. They’re first, second, and third answers would be no, no, and no. Now I don’t have to go through IT, I can just go to the cloud and I can download it and try it for myself. I think because of the increase in interest in our space from entrepreneurs and their VC backers, and the availability of the cloud, there’s been this proliferation of new technologies.

We did some research ourselves and found that … We just went out and surveyed a large number of clients. As you know we have a lot of clients, not just our own, but other companies in the market. We just asked a very simple question, “How many different applications are you running in your HR Department.” The average was 38 different applications for HR, which sounds like a big number on the one hand, and it’s increasing. It’s continuing to increase. It sounds like a big number, but then you think about it and say well look at ADP we run … I believe we have the biggest portfolio in the industry. Just in terms of we do more stuff than anybody else does. As I said, I’m just HR and payroll, but we get into things like garnishments, and tax credits, and debit cards, a lot of stuff.

Yet there’s still a huge amount of things we don’t do. We don’t do engagement service. We don’t to skills assessment. We don’t do employee perks. We don’t do social rewards and recognition. We don’t do outplacement. There’s a lot of stuff that the biggest vendor doesn’t do. It’s funny, a lot of people, ourselves included, we use a lot of vendors. We talk about yeah it’s a one stop shop, well it’s a one stop shop if you take a vendor lens, but if we take the client lens the client says well it’s a one stop shop for what you do, but then I have to make 37 other stops for the stuff that you don’t do.

It is an exciting time in our space, because it’s so easy for innovative vendors to #1 get funding, #2 to get infrastructure because they can just to to AWS, Amazon web services, and get a very scalable kind of infrastructure, and get to market. It’s very low cost and low risk for clients to start to experiment with some of these technologies. I think we’re only at the beginning of the trend, because if I could … One other thing that we’re seeing right now is in addition to the cloud driving more adoption of enterprise technologies, the other is this movement towards mobile. In a lot of companies the predominant trend has been towards what they call BYOD, which is bring your own device.

Just as the cloud has loosened up the grip of the IT Department on the enterprise portfolio stack … Once you get to a BYOD, bring your own device, environment, if it’s my device then I can download any app I want on to it, can’t I? If I go to the app store, and I’m talking about me as an employee of the company now, and I want to start downloading some free enterprise personal productivity software that will help me do my job better because it looked cool. First of all, nobody could stop me even if they wanted to, but I don’t think they can because it’s my device, and it’s my apps, and now I’m bringing them to work. I need to connect those in to the rest of the enterprise infrastructure.

I personally believe we’re just at the dawn of this era and we’ll see a lot more proliferation of innovative applications, and of sub-pockets of adoption happening out there in the corporate world that the corporate center isn’t even going to know about. People will just be using their own device and their own software. I’ll give you a very simple example outside of our space here in human capital, but we have a lot of partners that we do business with. Me as just an employee of the company I found out our existing partner management software really wasn’t getting it done for me. I did a simple web search, found a few different vendors who were rated high in different analysts reviews. Each one of them had a 90-day free trial. I just went and did the free trial with three different versions, picked the one that I liked, paid for it with my corporate credit card, and now I’m running it. Don’t tell my IT Department, I’ll get in trouble.

John Sumser:                       Why don’t we pick up there and use this as the segue to a bit of a big data conversation. What are the problems that the company has when it works the way that you just described? Is it becomes impossible to gather all the data that the company is producing? The proliferation of personal choice in technology decisions for the company prevents the company from being able to understand who it is. There doesn’t appear to be a solution there. This is happening at the same time that really interesting strides are being made with the ability of companies to utilize the data they can gather, and can control, to improve the financial and deliverable performance of the company. How do you imagine that sorting out?

Don Weinstein:                  It’s a great question. I think it’s probably the biggest problem that we’re going to face as this trend plays out. More like an unintended consequence, right? We’ve obviously got some thoughts around that. On the one hand you don’t want to stop innovation. You can’t stop innovation. It’s going to happen. Just as we see it happening in people’s personal lives, this desire, it’s almost innate to experiment with new applications. Find new apps, and find ones that work. You can’t control it and people are going to do it. I think the flip side is rather than trying to stand in front of it, and let the tide of technology wash over you, and get caught up in it, is to embrace it.

I do think the solution, and what our focus here has been really is two-fold. One is you have to have a system of records somewhere. There has to be the one core repository of data and information. Our focus has been two-fold. One is with an application we call our data cloud here, that feeds off of our core payroll and HR system of record. We find that to be the most pristine data that exists anywhere in the enterprise. It’s reasonably complete. It’s a complete enough set to have a core record there, and it’s always up to date because if it’s wrong somebody is going to yell and tell you that it’s wrong. It’s never wrong because it’s got statutory implications associated with it. Even if there is an error in a point in time you always go back and correct it because you have to.

We have that core kernel of pristine system of record data that’s coming out of the payroll and HR environment. Then what we’ve done is we launched this new market place. We call it the ADP market place. You can find it out there on the web. It’s, and we’ve got a number of partners that we’re working with. We’ve actually go 41 partners who put applications on our market place. We’ve got over 300 more in our pipeline who we are working with. The idea behind the market place … It’s really two-fold. It’s a place where you can go and search for, and discover, and find exciting, innovative new applications to solve different problems in our industry. The beauty of it is, the partners that we’re working with in our app market place are all integrating with ADP. We’ve actually published over 2400 different APIs, application programming interfaces.

John Sumser:                       2400? Could you say that again? 2400 APIs?

Don Weinstein:                  Yeah, 2400 APIs. If you think about, again, the scope of what we do – payroll, HR, benefits, time and labor management, talent. All aspects of talent management, not just talent acquisition, compensation, performance, etc. There’s a lot of data out there. We started writing APIs several years ago just to facilitate internal communication across our product suite. Then we exposed some of that out externally. What we found is to be very effective and very efficient we need to make those more granular. Ultimately the vision would be almost any single individual field in one of our applications could be readable or writable via a web services API call. That’s got huge implications, both for system performance, because the more granular you make the API you’re not trying to stuff a huge amount of data through the pipe. It will happen very quickly in real time.

Also there’s an important data privacy and security element to it. Which is if you a client, or if you want to authorize one of your third party vendors to get a piece of information, I want to give you just what you need and no more. The partners are saying don’t give me anything I don’t need. I don’t want that data. I don’t want the liability that goes along with it. Because we take data privacy and data security very seriously, we write our APIs to be extremely granular. To only move the minimal amount of data that’s required. That’s why you need a large number of them, but yeah we’ve written up 2400 APIs. We’re going to keep going until our [inaudible 00:25:26] state vision. We’ll see if we get there. It’s like every single field of every single application can be readable or writable via a web services call.

The idea of that is our partners, who are working with us, are leveraging our web services, taking up our data, reading it, writing it back into our system of record, or into our data cloud. Then if you’re a client who’s using ADP and you go and say look, I’m interested in … Again, let me pick on something that we probably don’t do. We don’t do skills assessments. We’re not in that business today. You’ve got to go and say hey I want to do skills assessment. Let me go find somebody who can do that, but if I’m using ADP as my system of record why don’t I just go to the ADP market place. We’ve got a number of them there.

If I pick one off the market place I know that it’s pre-integrated with my system of record. Therefore it’s going to solve that data integration challenge John that you rightfully point out as probably the biggest problem that, if left unchecked or unsolved for, will take this wonderful proliferation of innovations apps that we see happening in our market. I’m really excited about it, but if we don’t solve for it, and I say we have to embrace it, solve for it, not pretend like it’s not going to happen. All that data that is being generated could turn into a Tower of Babel.

John Sumser:                       There is another whole half hour on this next little question, and we’ve got about a minute. When I hear 2400 APIs, I go your not going to be able to steal customer service reps from Verizon to solve the customers problem associated with this next wave of technology. How do you get this level of innovation out through your distribution channels? That must be just crazy.

Don Weinstein:                  Yeah, that is a good question. I wouldn’t claim that we’ve completely cracked the code on it just yet. Right now we’re probably over supporting it by having engineers directly involved in providing support to the clients. In addition to the partners, of course, we also have clients coming in and leveraging the exact same infrastructure if they want to move data from HCM into other parts of their enterprise application environment. The most common use case would be finance and accounting. If I want to move HR data into finance so I can have employee accounts in my finance systems, or I want to move finance data into HR. Then if I have here’s a head count let me grab revenue and now I can look at a simple metric like revenue per FTE in an HR dashboard. The capability to do that exists. Right now we’re still supporting that at a developer to developer level. I know we’ve got a long journey ahead of us to get to the point where the entire service and support organization is there.

I’ll just link back to something you said earlier at the start of our conversation, John, which was not a ton of engineers are in our industry in general and certainly inside the client organizations. I think some of that will just change and evolve naturally over time. As these types of capabilities become more and more prevalent, then the skills required will become much more technical in nature. I have a theory that the transformation will happen in HR, not dissimilar from what we saw happening in marketing maybe over the last 5 to 10 years. You go back 10 years ago and most people in marketing were communications folks. People who were good writers, good communicators, good visual designers. We even have a ton of [quant 00:29:45] people in the marketing organization. Now you look at a typical marketing organization today we’ve got data base marketers. We’ve got statisticians. We’ve got data scientists and engineers running all over the place. I think that’s an interesting metaphor for what could, and in my opinion probably will happen to the future of HR.

John Sumser:                       That will be great. In our next conversation there’s a lot of ground to cover. I’m looking forward to it. We’ve exhausted our time. Would you reintroduce yourself and let people in the audience know how they might get a hold of you?

Don Weinstein:                  Sure, absolutely. Don Weinsten, head of product management for ADP. You can find me on Twitter @donweinstein1, or of course on LinkedIn as well.

John Sumser:                       Great. Thanks so much Don. It was an engaging treat to get to spend a little bit of time with you. I’m sure people will be interested to learn more about ADP and it’s massive technical assault on the market place. Thanks for being here this morning. I really appreciate it.

Don Weinstein:                  My pleasure.

John Sumser:                       You’ve been listening to HR Examiner Radio. We’ve been talking with Don Weinstein, who is the Senior VP of Product Management at ADP. I want to thank you for tuning in to this thing this morning. I hope you have a really great day. Thank you very much.

End transcript

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