Big Data Profile: Mike Capone, ADP

We sat down with Mike Capone, senior VP and CIO at HR software provider ADP, to discuss career decisions, analytics trends and more.

Ellis Booker, Technology Journalist

January 2, 2013

6 Min Read

 Michael Capone, CIO, Automatic Data Processing

Michael Capone, CIO, Automatic Data Processing

Michael Capone, CIO, Automatic Data Processing

With approximately 600,000 clients worldwide and more than $10 billion in annual revenues, ADP provides human resource, payroll, tax and benefits administration solutions. It is one of the world's largest business-to-business software providers. In 2011, ADP ranked 7th on the InformationWeek 500 list of the most innovative business Technology organizations and ranked highest among human capital management and business process outsourcing solution providers. It was on the InformationWeek 500 again in 2012.

Mike Capone, a 24-year veteran of ADP, is the company's senior VP for product development and chief information officer.

Name: Mike Capone

Tenure at current job: 4.5 years

Size of IT group: 8,000

Career accomplishment of which I'm most proud: When I took on the role [of CIO], it was highly decentralized, with a lot of the R&D functions pushed into the operating units. Over the last three or four years, I've been fortunate enough to be able to consolidate those organizations.

Decision I wish I could do over: I left IT for a while to run a large P&L. [Capone was senior vice president and general manager of ADP GlobalView, a multilingual, multicurrency human resources outsourcing solution.] I did that after 15 or 16 years in IT. I'd had a couple of other opportunities to do that earlier in my career, and I passed on them. And I wish I'd done it earlier. It was one of the greatest experiences I've had, and I don't think I could do the job I'm doing today without having had that experience.

Most important career influencer: My father was one of the very first people ever to hold the title of CIO. He started out an accountant at Standard Oil. They gave an aptitude test to see if he could be a programmer -- they'd bought this IBM mainframe and didn't know what to do with it. He scored really high, moved his way up as a programmer, and ultimately moved to J.C. Penney and became CIO there. When I was getting ready to go to college, he said, "You know what, you can major in whatever you want to major in, but I want you to get a computer science degree also. I think you'll be highly employable if you do that." I'd say that's about as good an influence as you can have.

Current top initiatives: Building social capabilities into our product set for our end users. Continuing the trend with mobility, ensuring all our new development is focused on mobile endpoints. [Big data] and mining analytics, not only to be more effective in our business and our processes, but also to provide value to our clients.

Most disruptive force in my industry: Big data and analytics. We've forever been the best transaction-processing company in our space. In the last couple of years, technology has evolved to where it's a lot easier to process a lot of unstructured data. Our clients, typically HR practitioners, are looking for metrics to drive their business at their fingertips and become more competitive. So we're seeing a lot of innovation in that space, and we obviously want to be out in front of that.

We've come to market with analytics in current products, visualization and dashboards to manage a workforce. What we're going to market with [beta testing in December and general availability this spring] is analyzing your HR data, but also benchmarks. Aggregated information across our base. Imagine your company with the ability to benchmark your company, your hiring practices, your compensation with other companies in your industry and your geography.

One thing I'm looking to do better: Agility. The market is moving faster and faster. The ability to drive agility, to bring products to market faster.

What I've learned about getting the most out of a team: You have to invest [them] in the outcome. My perspective changed and opened up when I was running a global outsourcing business. Clients like Intel, Cisco, JPMorgan, Microsoft and Apple -- obviously very innovative companies. When I got back to IT and product development, I noticed there wasn't an emotional connection to products or a first-hand view of the outcomes. So my team now is focused on living and breathing what the client's living and breathing. Everybody goes on sales calls, everybody listens to client service calls, everybody goes out and meets clients. That is the most motivating thing that we've ever done.

What I look for in an employee: We got away from narrow technology hiring and are now very much into hiring for aptitude, knowing that technologies shift.

Most common reason IT projects go wrong: Inspect what you expect. Very often management gets focused on project plans and paper reviews of things. In today's world, the market is moving so fast, what you start out building... you may not have a need for a year later. We've moved to six-week cycles. We look at touching and feeling the products every six weeks.

[And] you've got to be able to pull the plug. As long as you have a generally good track record, you should have the courage to go to the boss -- in my case, the CEO -- and say, "We have to stop spending good money after bad."

A promising technology: Open source has really taken hold, giving CIOs choices. With big data, you have traditional players but also open source. So you're not locked into one vendor.

Most overrated IT movement: Big data will solve a lot of problems. But the hype is kind of outpacing the actual impact.

What I want from tech vendors: There's a huge amount of inconsistency in vendor approaches. Price isn't out biggest driver. We actually pay more for certain products when we know that the vendor has the right approach. "Be part of our strategy," I tell vendors. "Structure your contracts in a way that your success is our success." If [we're] not successful, they shouldn't make tons of money off of us.

Mike Capone At A Glance Education: Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from Dickinson College and an MBA in Finance from Pace University. Person I'd most like to have lunch with: Thomas Jefferson. First job: My first job was as a paperboy. My first paycheck was a [summer] construction job at the World Financial center in New York City, laying down steel so they could pour the concrete. If I weren't involved in IT: I'm on the boards of four different nonprofits, two healthcare and two universities. I'd love to be the CEO of a nonprofit.

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About the Author(s)

Ellis Booker

Technology Journalist

Ellis Booker has held senior editorial posts at a number of A-list IT publications, including UBM's InternetWeek, Mecklermedia's Web Week, and IDG's Computerworld. At Computerworld, he led Internet and electronic commerce coverage in the early days of the web and was responsible for creating its weekly Internet Page. Most recently, he was editor-in-chief of Crain Communication Inc.’s BtoB, the only magazine devoted to covering the intersection of business strategy and business marketing. He ran BtoB, as well as its sister title Media Business, for a decade. He is based in Evanston, Ill.

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