by Peter High, published on Forbes
Automatic Data Processing (ADP) has long had a history of being a conservative company, and that conservatism has served it well since its founding in 1949. As the company grew beyond $10 billion in revenue in recent years, it recognized that it needed to reinvigorate the company with a new sense of purpose relative to innovation.
The result was the establishment of the ADP Innovation Lab in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Some 15 miles east of ADP headquarters in Roseland, New Jersey, the Innovation Lab would be staffed differently, encouraged to used different processes, and have a different style of work environment.
Keith Fulton is the Chief Technology Officer of ADP, and the head of the ADP Innovation Lab. In this interview, he discusses the mission of the Lab, the results it has garnered, the impact it has had back at ADP headquarters, and a variety of other topics.
Peter High: Keith Fulton, I thought we would begin with the charter of the ADP Innovation Lab. If you can take a moment and talk about the genesis of the idea: why was it determined that ADP needed one, and why here in New York City?
Keith Fulton: For some time now, we have been focusing on innovation as a company and pushing it in a broad way. But, the management team felt that we needed to accelerate our efforts. So, we set out to create an environment that fosters creativity, is more collaborative and open, and facilitates us bringing innovative products and features to market faster. We actually started our first lab at our headquarters in Roseland, NJ. In order to attract more top talent, we “doubled down” and built our second lab in an area [Chelsea, in the heart of Midtown] where the right skill sets were in a higher concentration. The top media companies are here; it’s an amazing venture capital and startup scene; and the top visual design and creative firms are a subway ride away. Recently, we opened another location in the growing tech corridor in Pasadena, CA.
High: Let’s talk about those special skill sets, special mindsets and even differences in terms of processes they are using relative to the traditional product development (or IT) organization in Roseland. Can you talk a bit about some of those differences?
Fulton: Sure, we will start with skill sets. By interpreting our mission as saying “we want to build consumer-grade applications with best-in-class user experiences,” we arenot thinking about building just another ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] system. Our users are consumers. They expect a high-quality experience, like they get from leading technology companies. So, we set out to hire a different kind of developer, from the very beginning.