Why a culture of quality matters

My company just recently started using ADP for processing our paychecks. So far, the core functions that ADP provides seem to work well, in that I do indeed get paid regularly. However, they have also provided us with access to their ‘web portal’ (beware of portals – they may lead to another world!) that allows me to do things like update my w-4, change my address, or download PDFs of paystubs. Recently we have also started using other ADP provided websites for other HR-related functions including recruiting and a very badly done company directory.

The developers on my team have had a great time pointing out just how bad the usability on these sites are, and mentioned it to our HR person. Our director of HR is a wonderful person, and is doing a fantastic job for us, by the way. She said that she could pass our concerns along to ADP, but that we should document some of the problems. That is where I got stuck. There were so many problems, I wasn’t sure where to start. This morning, I started.

The task at hand was to acknowledge that I had read a certain company policy. I got email from HR:

In order to meet ERISA requirements, all employees eligible for one of our plans (regardless of participation) must acknowledge receipt and understanding of the document – Plan Documents, Certificates of Coverage, Summary Plan Descriptions.

I realize this may not be the highlight of our day, but it is an extremely important step in keeping our plans compliant. 

Here are the easy steps which should only take a couple of moments.

Log on to our intranet site at www.portal.adp.com

Click on to the Resources tab – In the first column under Company Policy – follow instructions to acknowledge.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns regarding this document or logging on to the site.

Sounded easy enough. But it didn’t seem to be doing anything when I followed the instructions. Every time I clicked on the link, all I got was a PDF downloaded to my machine, and no indication that I had ‘acknowledged’ anything. So we called HR for help. Part of the problem is that the website is explicitly “Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher” only. I typically use Firefox. So I switched to IE. Still not figuring it out. After I finally got through the 4 step workflow, I decided it was time for some feedback.

Here is the email I sent back to HR.

As a general indication of the lack of quality in ADP websites, I found several bugs in the “acknowledge this policy document” workflow:

1. Step 1 is to find the correct link to click. You are presented with 2 options – a very large link to a PDF document, or a very small link ‘click here to acknowledge’. Basic web and usability guidelines say that you should use larger targets for more important operations, and that using the word ‘here’ or ‘click here’ as a link are bad practice. (see item #2 at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/designmistakes.html Jakob Nielsen is a well-known author of several books on usability.)

2. When clicking on the correct link, a page is presented that only works in Internet Explorer. Several of my co-workers don’t use Windows at all, so using Internet Explorer requires them to go to another machine.

3. When the page is presented, Internet Explorer warns that some items are the page are secure and some are not. I would call this a bug. 

4. When clicking on the correct link in Internet Explorer, the document to be acknowledged is presented, but the “acknowledge” button is hidden at the bottom.

5. After clicking the acknowledge button, a dialog is shown that has wording including a font change tag (I don’t have the exact text here, but it was something like “You have acknowledged that you have read the <font size=”4″>Policies of acknowledgment </font>….”

6. The dialog just mentioned ends with the phrase “Click OK to continue?” and the dialog has 2 buttons, OK and Cancel. It is unclear what the system would do if one pressed Cancel. 

7. The system indicates success by removing the ability to read the document you just acknowledged, rather than by listing all the company policies and indicating those that had been acknowledged and those that had not. 

This is sorta why I haven’t provided any feedback to ADP yet. There are so many problems, and my gut tells me that the company does not have a culture of quality, and any feedback I provide will do little or nothing to affect the culture. It may help in a few small areas, but the real problem is the company culture that allows things like this to ship.

If anyone from ADP happens to read my blog, I would welcome comments on what the company culture is really like. I could be wrong.

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  • Andrew

    I remember years ago the company I worked with moved from a macro’d up Spreadsheet to an intranet version of our timesheet. Our timesheet wasn’t all that complicated, but for some reason the company that created the intranet application used some sort of wizard to create it instead of actually coding it. The result was a single webpage of over 250,000 lines of code. In 2009 that would be a joke, back in 1999 when offshore sites were connected via a 64k line, it all but ground our business to a halt.

    The moral to the story? For some reason, every HR program I have ever seen has been horrible from a technical standpoint, especially useability. Frankly, I’m surprised nobody has come in and undercut the market with a good product consider most HR programs also complete bloatware that have ridiculous hardware requirements.

    Most financial and accounting software is similar in this regards, but from what I understand they are improving. The problem is, most companies feel they are paying for the importance is in the back end processes, not the entire software package.

  • ADP software is notoriously bad. From a Usability standpoint as well as all APIs for importing data into the application

    Which leads to the why of it all? Well the why is that ADP is a virtual monopoly on that stuff. ADP and PayChex are two of the biggest payroll companies in existance.

    When you have no competition you could really give a crap about experience correct ?

  • Larry

    I’d like to add that PayChex is no better. It’s atrocious. In addition to their tiny fonts, and general Firefox incompatibility, their site insists on spawning a new browser window for every click. It seems like they cobbled together their service by acquiring multiple products, so every one behaves differently and requires some kind of single-sign-on passthrough.

    Their login sequence is great. First, pick from a dropdown list indicating which service you need (FSA, retirement, etc). You’re redirected to their “redesigned login page” whereby a div which you’ve seen dozens of times before welcomes you to logging in and hides the login controls until you dismiss it. The username and password fields lose focus when you alt-tab to your password database program, so all auto-type capabilities are off the table. So you type your username, password, and pick that all-important login graphic. Next is the “Secret Question” validation. Then they insist on wasting yet another page to tell you that THIS is your login graphic, and you MUST remember it to log in next time! Well duh, I wouldn’t very well be reading this if I didn’t already recognize it. Finally, remember that dropdown from which you chose which service you wanted? Well Paychex doesn’t. So go ahead and pick from the menu and spawn yourself another browser.

  • I’m actually amazed that they have never screwed up my paychecks (knock on wood.) Maybe they’re still running of off the trusty old excel spreadsheet.

  • We’ve been using ADP for a couple years now and I can tell every time my wife goes on to submit payroll due to the bellowing “OMG Why does it do this every time!” from the other room. Just about anything other than basic workflow opertions just don’t work.

  • as an aside…I can’t use the ADP portal at all. programmer fail. quality fail. service fail. You’re absolutely right. This is why it matters.

  • The text of the dialog is:

    You have acknowledge the terms of the Plan Documents, Certificates of Coverage, Summary Plan Descriptions</FONT> polcy. Click OK to continue?