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  Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn’t: rethinking the rules of the game that keep women from succeeding in business

By Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine, 272 pages, Prometheus Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-61614-174-5
  Retooling HR: using proven business tools to make better decisions about talent

By John W. Boudreau, 200 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4221-3007-0
  Workforce of One: revolutionizing talent management through customization

By Susan M. Cantrell and David Smith, 260 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN (not available)
  Training on Trial: how workplace learning must reinvent itself to remain relevant

By Jim D. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, 240 pages, AMACOM Books, 2010. ISBN 13: 978-0-8144-1464-4
  One Page Talent Management: eliminating complexity, adding value

By Marc Effron and Miriam Ort, 176 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN (not available)
  What’s Next GenX? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead, and Getting the Career You Want

By Tamara Erickson, 244 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4221-2064-4

  Workforce Solutions Review Online  
  ADP Leverages PMO to Improve Client Experience  
  By Martia Newell, NAS Implementation PMO, Automatic Data Processing and J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, ESI International  


Automatic Data Processing, Inc.  (ADP), with nearly $9 billion in revenues and about 570,000 clients, is one of the world's largest providers of business outsourcing solutions. Leveraging 60 years of experience, ADP offers the widest range of HR, payroll, tax and benefits administration solutions globally. ADP's solutions for employers provide value to companies of all types and sizes.

The Challenge
Over the last decade, ADP’s business has shifted from single service solutions, such as payroll processing or benefits administration, to multi-service solutions that include a range of human resource, benefits, talent management and payroll services being implemented simultaneously.

When client implementations involved single solutions, or even multiple solutions implemented over longer timeframes, ADP’s National Account Services (NAS) Implementation Project Management Office (PMO) was well served by project managers with significant, hands-on experience though they had little formal project management training.

As the trend toward multi-service implementations gained momentum over the past several years, ADP saw an opportunity to differentiate itself from the competition through superior project management that produced better results with higher levels of client satisfaction. To achieve this, project managers accustomed to ADP’s traditionally independent approach to delivery of each service – benefits, payroll, tax services, etc. –would need broader skills focused on integration and collaboration.

Given the complexities and risks inherent in multi-faceted projects, ADP determined that investing in maturing its project management capabilities would lead to better outcomes, most notably, higher client satisfaction and more consistency in the delivery of on-time, successful projects.

The Strategy
In 2005, ADP’s NAS PMO launched an advanced learning program to its implementation team with a focus on project management fundamentals. This initial effort proved so successful that in 2006 ADP asked its learning partner, ESI International, to assess their broader, existing project management capabilities and chart the long-term course to meet their goals. The assessment was tailored to explore specific issues identified by ADP.

Highlights of the recommendations based on the assessment included:

  • Develop project management career paths and link learning and credentials to progression along the paths,
  • Develop and drive compliance of a more formal project management methodology,
  • Provide a more robust infrastructure for project management, and
  • Promote the adoption of a project management culture throughout NAS.

The PMO leadership also wanted to promote the achievement of Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI®). The PMP® is seen as a proof point to demonstrate ADP’s superior project management capabilities to prospects and clients. Preparation to achieve PMP® certification requires thorough study, as well as an understanding of project management principles. A key focus of the overall learning program was to provide the knowledge and skills essential to pass this rigorous exam.

The Solution
After ADP’s learning partner helped ensure the PM methodology met the company’s needs and aligned with the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®) from the PMI®, courses were tailored to close skill gaps identified by the assessment. Courses were offered at ADP locations throughout the U.S., as well as online.

With the learning program moving forward, NAS began to implement other solutions to grow and support its PM capabilities, including:

  • Defining the company’s project management career and compensation paths;
  • Expanding the PM infrastructure by:
    • Providing ADP’s PM methodology, tools and templates online;
    • Enhancing project audit procedures and increasing the number of audits;
    • Piloting quality gates as part of the project governance structure;
    • Promoting additional on-demand learning tools such as webinars, workshops and reference tools; and
  • Developing and implementing a communications plan to promote project management.

As the NAS PMO moved forward on education and resources to drive a project management centric culture, it also evolved its business approach. To support the business, the PMO expanded from a few team members to more than 25 program managers who are assigned to the largest and most complex engagements. The NAS PMO also ensures all project management professionals have access to appropriate courses and have achieved, or are on a fast track to, PMP® certification.

Unlike many PMOs that focus on standards and auditing, the NAS PMO actively engages in the business and ongoing projects. Not only do project managers from each functional area monitor project implementations, the NAS PMO does as well, providing weekly coaching, if not daily. It is this active role in day-to-day project implementation that drives business and customer success.

  • For example, the NAS PMO has increased its focus on risk management. To help drive this forward an approach was taken that combined learning with active problem solving. Recently, 60 project and program managers took a risk management course. At the end of the course, participants developed a new risk management process for the NAS PMO’s Project Management Methodology. This approach of immediately applying learning and engaging the project professionals in the development process resulted in a practical, streamlined approach to an often-neglected subject.

The NAS PMO’s lessons learned process, implemented three years ago, has built continuous improvement into the PM methodology. At the end of each multi-service engagement, the PMO conducts a client survey followed by a client debrief session. Next an internal review is conducted. Finally, key lessons learned are shared and discussed among ADP stakeholders and are documented for future reference and evaluation. This multiple engagement view affords PMO leaders more informed insights, allowing them to better assess progress and make improvements.

Over the last three years ADP has seen a significant improvement in on-time, on-budget client project delivery. A few years ago, troubled projects would often find their way directly to the division president’s desk. With a solid project management structure in place, fewer escalations are needed, and issues are resolved more quickly by the right individuals at the right level of the organization. The division president is no longer the first point of escalation.

Additionally, ADP has made significant progress in many areas:

  • The number of PMP® certified project managers has increased by more than 300 percent in three years;
  • All project management related position descriptions have been updated and linked to compensation plans;
  • A learning curriculum path has been created and ongoing courses are being offered;
  • Links between credentials and career paths are being finalized;
  • All methodology tools and templates are available online;
  • On-demand learning through webinars, recorded workshops and other tools are available online;
  • Project auditing has been enhanced and the number of audits has increased;
  • Quality Gates are being pilot tested; and,
  • A communications program is in place to promote project management and a project management focused culture.

Next Steps
While ADP has achieved enormous success in a few short years, they intend to continue to grow their PM capability. Currently they are focused on conducting a second assessment to gauge success to date, as well as recalibrate the identified knowledge gaps.

Additionally, ADP plans to:

  • Continue to increase project auditing;
  • Develop a more formal coaching and mentoring methodology as well as enhance the related skills of team leaders;
  • Apply lessons learned from the Quality Gates piloting to institutionalize the process;
  • Develop and support a Community of Practice;
  • Continue to offer relevant project management courses and other learning opportunities; and,
  • Expand the learning program beyond project management professionals to strengthen the project management culture and highlight this competitive differentiation.

ADP’s success with this program has come from an ideal combination of a strong business case, a corporate culture that places a high value on client satisfaction and the right resources all complemented by an experienced learning partner who brings invaluable insight and flexes easily to meet ADP’s specific needs.


Martia H. Newell currently heads the Implementation PMO for ADP National Accounts Services. Her experience is in project and portfolio management, with emphasis on Human Resources and Financial Services. She holds a B.A. from Hollins University, Roanoke, VA and an M.B.A. from Rutgers University Graduate School of Management, New Brunswick, NJ. She can be reached at

J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, executive vice president, Product Strategy & Management, ESI International brings more than 33 years of expertise in project and program management to the refinement of ESI’s portfolio of learning programs. He works closely with ESI clients worldwide to guide the assessment, implementation and reinforcement of knowledge and skills that allow for the effective measurement and successful adoption of learning program objectives. For more information, visit

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