Speed control.

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More than 60 years ago, ADP started out delivering paychecks by hand. Today, the payroll company relies on an 8,000-person IT department to create a range of human-capital management products to serve its more than 600,000 global clients.

More organizations are looking for big-data analytics to manage their talent. To help build the speed necessary to beat the competition, ADP’s IT department moved to an agile approach. “That's allowing us to get innovations to market faster,” says CIO and senior vice president of product development Mike Capone.

We follow standardized practices with metrics and regular reporting. But instead of having one large project management office (PMO), we've created multiple small PMOs that each report to a development leader. Then each of those PMO leaders reports to me.

The small PMOs help us to be more agile and to track progress without spending too much time on administrative tasks.

Why did you move to an agile approach?

The transition to agile has been gradual, but it was a distinct decision. When I became CIO in 2008, the IT group was a highly decentralized organization and had been for a long time. As I started to consolidate, I discovered that each group had its own methodologies. Some used agile, some used waterfall and some had hybrids I’d never seen before.

It became evident that we needed a single approach, so about 18 months ago, we officially began transitioning to an all-agile shop.

What impact has agile had?

From the very beginning, we set a goal to improve productivity of the project teams by 30 percent through the use of agile. We measure productivity by “story points,” or how many requirements we can accomplish.

We used the number of story points we were able to get into a single sprint when we first started agile as our baseline. Then, after several sprints of using an all-agile approach, we measured again. Early on, we saw across-the-board increases of productivity by as much as 45 percent.

Does agile help with customer feedback?

Absolutely. When we were developing our big-data analytics platform, we built a prototype of the technology based on what our customers said they wanted and put it in front of them. During that initial review, we found the back-end technology worked, but once piloted customers saw the interface, they realized there were certain visualization elements they still needed.

If we had been following a waterfall method, we would have taken their requirements, come back six months later and given them something that they asked for but couldn't use. Instead, within a few weeks, we were able to course-correct.

What advice can you offer other project leaders about adopting agile?

You don't want to think about it just as an IT solution. When you move to agile, you need to involve business stakeholders much more closely in the development process, and you need to train them about how it will change the way you interact. It's easy to prepare for a new software release if it comes every 12 to 16 months, but when they're rolling out every six weeks, it takes some time for the functional groups to adapt. PM

Agile is all about generating fast results and making sure we're on the right track.




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