ADP expands human resources to smartphones with Mobile Solutions app

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Ninety-four percent of mobile workers now carry smartphones and 41 percent tote tablets according to a recent survey conducted by enterprise mobility services provider iPass--moreover, an additional 34 percent of mobile professionals plan to buy a tablet sometime during the next six months. So it makes perfect sense that human resources outsourcing and payroll services giant Automatic Data Processing is moving so aggressively into the mobile space. The company, which touts roughly 550,000 corporate clients of all shapes and sizes, issued its Run payroll application late last year, following it up last month with ADP Mobile Solutions, a free human resources app supporting Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and iPad, with browser access on Android and BlackBerry devices.

The ADP Mobile Solutions app enables mobile employees to check their HR, payroll and benefits information anywhere their jobs may take them. Users may view statements from up to five previous pay periods, toggling between Net Pay and Gross Pay year-to-date, and check in on their 401(k) allocations, distribution percentages, account balances and rate of return The app also extends company news and staff directory information to the mobile platform, enabling remote employees to more efficiently interact with the home office (and vice versa).

"Mobile phones are the device you have with you all the time," says ADP vice president of enterprise application architecture Roberto Masiero. "For companies with mobile workers, like construction or trucking companies, this app is a phenomenal way to keep them engaged, and keep them feeling like they're part of the team."

Masiero spoke to FierceDeveloper about the process of building the ADP Mobile Solutions app, the virtues of HTML5 and the opportunities awaiting developers whose efforts target the enterprise.

Roberto Masiero on the evolution of ADP Mobile Solutions: We see mobile as a tremendous opportunity to provide data we host and manage to clients through a very convenient channel. We have a lot of clients with a mobile workforce--for example, in the construction business, people are on the go all the time. We want to give them different capabilities in the way that mobile provides, like geo-location and context.

We're known as a payroll company, but we do much more than that--hire-to-retire, and everything in between. We have a self-service component that our clients use today on the web, and we know exactly which services they use most, so when we started working on [ADP Mobile Solutions], we focused on the top two or three. First we looked at payroll. Understanding your earnings and deductions, or your year-to-date taxes--that information is critical, and it touches millions of people. One in every six employees in the U.S. is paid using ADP. So it was an obvious choice to reach the broadest audience out there.

Corporate directory is the second most used service in our web portal. People need to know your extension and where you're located. It makes tremendous sense to have access to that information when you're on the go. With the native app, users can download that information to the device, so even in bad coverage, that information is local--you can access your company directory even when you're disconnected.

In terms of company use, it's very important to reach your distributed workforce wherever they are, so you can broadcast news about the company--open enrollment, the year-end party, whatever it is. A big portion of the workforce is not tethered to the computer, so having that information pushed to them on their devices creates a whole new medium to engage and communicate.

ADP is very conservative in terms of what we put out there. We wanted to make sure it's secure and highly usable--we did a lot of investment on usability. When you look at the UI and the design, you see the app is very simple and no-frills. It's about getting in, getting the information you need and getting out. That's the experience on mobile: "Let me look at my paycheck and get out."

Masiero on developing for iOS: From an architecture perspective, we believe in HTML5 as a great way to approach the mobile medium. But we also built a native app for iOS because it's important to have a presence in the App Store. It's a channel we definitely need to cater to.

The Apple ecosystem doesn't have the diversification that Android and BlackBerry do. There are only three devices--the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Each has a known screen size. That makes it a much more manageable ecosystem to deal with. With Android and BlackBerry and other smartphones, there is a tremendous diversification of devices, levels of operating systems and screen sizes. But we believe we can provide an excellent experience to the user using HTML5, so we created two classes of web apps. One is for devices with strong support for HTML5, Javascript and WebKit browsers. We also have a web app that detects your device, without a single line of Javascript, and still delivers a compelling experience even on pre-modern browsers and feature phones. Everything is hyperlinks and no markup. It's almost like you have to forget all the new stuff and go back to HTML circa 1982.

Unless we see a compelling reason to do differently, our plan is to invest in HTML5. If we see a need to push our app into the other app stores, we probably will use a hybrid app--we'll wrap the HTML5 app into a native container. But we'll only do that if we notice we're not reaching customers or believe they would prefer a native experience.  

Masiero's advice for developers targeting the enterprise: The reach of mobile is the big thing, especially for companies with a lot of mobile workers, like trucking companies. The hype is on games and social right now, but I can see convergence for a lot of that. When you look at bringing the enterprise and social together, there are a lot of opportunities in there.

The key is thinking bigger. Everything will transition to mobile. People now look at email more on mobile than on the desktop. Everything will converge. Developers need to be on top of the technology--they need to be engaged. Mobility is the place to be.

Developer Workshop is a series of profiles exploring the current state of the mobile marketplace from the point of view of the software developers mapping out its future. Each profile focuses on a developer with a compelling story to tell, and offers their perspective on what the industry's doing right, what it's doing wrong and how to make it better. Check out our previous workshops on ShazamInfoMediaViigoMeet Now LiveShortcoversPint Sized MobileGeodelicSpark of Blue SoftwareTarver GamesPeople Operating TechnologyBooyahBolt CreativeThwaprMonkeyland IndustriesRocket Racing LeagueVlingoAdvanced Mobile Protection, PapayaMobile, Taptu, GameHouse, Avatron, aisle411, Crowdstory and Outfit7.