Thursday, June 09, 2011

Case Study: Paychex Leverages HP Tools to Streamline and Automate Application Development

Transcript of a BreifingsDirect podcast from the HP Discover 2011 show in Las Vegas on how payroll and HR services provider Paychex gains benefit from integrated application development tools.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BriefingsDirect podcast series coming to you from the HP Discover 2011 conference in Las Vegas. We're here on the Discover show floor the week of June 6 to explore some major enterprise IT solution trends and innovations making news across HP’s ecosystem of customers, partners, and developers.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and I'll be your host throughout this series of HP-sponsored Discover live discussions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Our enterprise case study today focuses on Paychex, a large provider of services to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and growing rapidly around services for HR, payroll, benefits, tax payments, and quite a few other features.

We're here with Joel Karczewski, the Director of IT at Paychex, to learn about how automation and efficiency is changing the game in how they develop and deploy their applications. Welcome.

Joel Karczewski: Good to be here today, Dana.

Over the past few years, IT has been asked to deliver more quickly, to be more responsive to our business needs, and to help drive down costs in the way in which we develop, deploy, and deliver software and services to our end customers.



Gardner: First, Joel, do you have a philosophy about application development, and has it shifted over the past few years?

Karczewski: Yes, we do. Over the past few years, IT has been asked to deliver more quickly, to be more responsive to our business needs, and to help drive down costs in the way in which we develop, deploy, and deliver software and services to our end customers.

To accomplish that, we've been focusing on automating many of the tasks in a traditional software development lifecycle as much as possible to help make sure that when they're performed manually, they're not skipped.

For example, automating from a source code check in, automating the process by which we would close out defects, that source code was resolving, automating the testing that we do when we create a new service, automating the performance testing, automating the unit testing, the code coverage, the security testing, to make sure that we're not introducing key flaws or vulnerabilities that might be exposed to our external customers.

Gardner: Tell us a bit more about Paychex. I probably didn’t do it justice, but tell me the extent of your business and also how many applications you're dealing with?

Karczewski: That’s a great question. Applications are basically just a combination of integrated services, and we've been moving forward with a strategic service-based delivery model for approximately a year and a half now. We have hundreds of services that are reused and utilized by our applications.

Payroll provider

Paychex is primarily an HR benefits and payroll provider, and our key customers are approximately 570,000 business owners and the employees that work for those business owners.

Gardner: And are they typically small businesses?

Karczewski: Small to medium. We've been focusing on the small-business owner because we believe that’s where our specialty is.

Gardner: And, automation for your customers is super important. In order for you to extend automation to them, you have to have applications that are perform well and are well-tested. Tell me why a services orientation and services delivery model is so important in your particular business.

Karczewski: We used to have customers that existed on one end of the spectrum or the other. For example, there’s the customer who wants to come to the website and do everything for himself or herself, a website with a minimal interaction with a specialist that we may have working at one of our 90-plus branches across the United States.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the type of customer that wants Paychex to do everything for them. They don’t want to do anything themselves.

We have clients who want Paychex to do some of the business tasks for them, but they want to still do some of the tasks themselves.



What we have been finding over time is that we're developing a hybrid behavioral approach. We have clients who want Paychex to do some of the business tasks for them, but they want to still do some of the tasks themselves.

In order to satisfy the one end of the spectrum or the other and everything in between, we've been moving towards a service-based strategy where we can package, bundle, price, roll out, and deliver the set of services that fit the needs of that client in a very highly personalized and customized fashion.

Gardner: It also sounds like, being in the payroll business, you're dealing with integrations across multiple organizations and financial institutions, and therefore your applications are not just in a certain silo and operating inside your four walls, but you really have to interact across dynamic and extended environment. Therefore, I should think testing, regression testing, and performance management is super important.

Karczewski: That’s correct. The more that we can automate, the more we're able to test those services in the various combinations and environments with which they need to perform, with which they need to be highly available, and with which they need to be consistent.

Gardner: How about data? I should think that this is fairly sensitive data too. We're talking about people’s paychecks, their benefits, and so forth.

Personal information


Karczewski: We have an awful lot of information that is very personal and highly confidential. For example, think about the employees that work for one of these 560,000-plus business owners. We know when they are planning to retire. We know when they move, because they are changing their addresses. We know when they get married. We know when they have a child. We know an awful lot of information about them, including where they bank, and it’s highly, highly confidential information.

Gardner: I have a good sense now of some of your requirements, the fact that you have got many applications, you're services oriented, and you've got these important requirements around performance, security, privacy, and so forth. How did you come at the solution to being able to produce, deliver, and maintain applications with these requirements satisfied?

Karczewski: We took a step back and took a look at our software delivery lifecycle. We looked at areas that are potentially not as value-add, areas of our software delivery lifecycle that would cause an individual developer, a tester, or a project manager, to be manually taking care of tasks with which they are not that familiar.

For example, a developer knows how to write software. A developer doesn’t always know how to exercise our quality center or our defect tracking system, changing the ownership, changing statuses, and updating multiple repositories just to get his or her work done.

So, we took a look at tasks that cause latency in our software delivery lifecycle and we focused on automating those tasks.

A developer knows how to write software. A developer doesn’t always know how to exercise our quality center or our defect tracking system.



Gardner: It sounds like you're also quite comfortable with software as a service (SaaS) and on-premises. Is that the case? Are you a hybrid consumer of application lifecycle management services?

Karczewski: Yes, and we're moving more into that space on a daily basis.

Gardner: Tell me specifically what HP products you're using and which ones you have in your sights for some future development and testing?

Karczewski: We're using a host of HP products today. For example, in order to achieve automated functional testing, we're utilizing Quality Center (QC) in combination with Quick Test Professional (QTP). In order to do our performance testing, pre-production, we utilize. Post-production, we're beginning to look an awful lot at Real Use Monitor (RUM), and we're looking to interface RUM with ArcSight, so that when we do have an availability issue, and it is a performance issue for one of our users anywhere, utilizing our services, we're able to identify it quickly and identify the root cause.

Metrics of success


Gardner: Are there any metrics of success that you can point to in terms of moving into these products and applying the automation, ways that you can measure the impact of these particular solutions?

Karczewski: We've begun looking at that. For example, we're looking at the number of testing hours that it takes a manual tester to spin through a regression suite and we compare that with literally no time at all to schedule a regression test suite run. We're computing the number of hours that we're saving in the testing arena. We're computing the number of lines of software that a developer creates today in hopes that we'll be able to show the productivity gains that we're realizing from automation.

Gardner: So, it does sound like you're interested in more visibility and grasping the metrics of how applications are performing throughout their life cycle.

HP recently announced the IT Performance Suite and an Executive Scorecard to try to help folks move towards that higher level of visibility. Any thoughts about whether that's something that would fit into your needs and/or have you had a chance to look that over at all?

We're very interested in tying those KPIs, those metrics, and those indicators together with the Executive Scorecard.



Karczewski: We're very interested in looking at that. We're also very interested in tying the scorecard of the builds that we're doing in the construction and the development arena. We're very interested in tying those KPIs, those metrics, and those indicators together with the Executive Scorecard. There's a lot of interest there.

Gardner: I always like to try to give examples. It’s one thing to tell, but it’s even nicer to show. Do you have any examples of an actual development activity recently that you can point to and walk us through how you've done it, what the methodology is, using some of these products and services and developing the efficiencies and the reliability that you require?

Karczewski: Well, we did one thing, which is very new to us, but we hope to mainstream this in the future,. For the very first time, we employed an external organization from the cloud. We utilized LoadRunner and did a performance test directly against our production systems.

Why did we do that? Well, it’s a very huge challenge for us to build, support, and maintain many testing environments. In order to get a very accurate read on performance and load and how our production systems performed, we picked a peak off-time period, we got together with an external cloud testing firm and they utilized LoadRunner to do performance tests. We watched the capacity of our databases, the capacity of our servers, the capacity of our network, and the capacity of our storage systems, as they throttled the volume forward.

We plan to do more of that as a final checkout, when we deliver new services into our production environment.

Gardner: Well, great. We've been learning about how development and lifecycle management is important for Paychex. It’s a human resources and payroll services company based in Rochester, N.Y. I want to thank our guest. We've been talking with Joel Karczewski. He is the Director of IT at Paychex. Thank you.

Karczewski: Thank you.

Gardner: And thanks to our audience for joining this special BriefingsDirect podcast coming to you from the HP Discover 2011 Conference in Las Vegas. We're here on the show floor and we're going to be talking about more HP news and finding more case studies to delve into.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this series of user experience discussions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BreifingsDirect podcast from the HP Discover 2011 show in Las Vegas on how payroll and HR services provider Paychex gains benefit from application development tools. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.

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