Security offers a marketing advantage for ADP

One of the main topics at this year's CSO50 conference is how security departments could reinvent themselves as business enablers.

For many security managers, struggling with tight budgets, shadow IT, and a technology landscape changing faster than anyone could keep up, that probably sounds like a pipe dream.

Not so for Trina Ford, the director of global third party assurance for ADP's global security organization.

Ford oversees three global vendor and partner programs. One, the Streamline Compliance and Risk Management program, which works with global payroll processing partners, was recently added to her management portfolio.

Streamline helps ADP serve more international markets and clients than ever before and is, in fact, doing it so well that Ford is routinely asked to sit in on sales meetings with the biggest customers.

ADP had bold expansion plans for its payroll processing service, partnering up with local companies in countries where it did not currently have a presence.

In 2008, ADP's international network of specialist payroll processing partners provided services to multinational companies in a little over 30 countries.

In 2013, ADP launched the Streamline project, adding business governance and payroll process management to its security and compliance oversight process and expanded operations to more than 85 partners -- and their subcontractors -- in 104 countries.

The security risks associated with this were substantial.

While ADP's partners are responsible for the delivery of local services, it's ADP that has the overall liability as the primary contractor for the payroll service.

The Streamline project helps ADP address these risks, and offer services in some of the world's most remote markets, with a cross-functional approach that brings together teams from not just security but information technology, compliance, payroll process management and business governance.

Partners are assessed when they first come on board, weak areas identified, and then ADP continues to work with the partners to ensure that they implement improvements.

"The payroll process management and business governance came out of the business improvement group," said Ford. "They realized that we could, and should, be doing more."

The expansion push began in 2013 with pilot projects with a select group of partners, and has grown quickly.

Ford oversees more than just the Streamline project, which focuses on the payment processing partnerships. Ford also manages two other programs -- ADP Third Party Assurance and Vendor Assurance.

"I will be involved in helping to grow and expand all the programs to ensure a holistic vendor or partner risk assurance approach," she said.

But Streamline's partnerships are particularly sensitive and mission-critical, and have much more stringent security and compliance processes as a result.

Customers appreciate the extra attention.

Clients are becoming more and more interested in security and compliance, Ford said. They want to know about ADP's oversight processes.

Ford has personally attended more than a dozen meetings with major clients. And when she or one of the colleagues can't make a meeting, her department can provide executive summaries for the clients about the controls that are in place to protect their data.

Daniel Sanchez, the program's compliance and continuity manager, also sits on client meetings.

"Between myself and another colleague, maybe we've been involved in 15 to 20 deals," he said. "Sometimes we just send by email our brochures, sometimes there are calls because they need more information. It depends on how much the client needs to know about the program."

Sanches is part of ADP's global security organization, and helped start the Streamline project together with Xavier Macarrilla, ADP's business security officer for multi-national corporations. On the business side, global network director Ian Sparrow and Digna Penha, who is responsible for client experience and continuous improvement, also helped launch and maintain the Streamline project.

One thing that ADP does not disclose is any specifics of the audits, such as areas where individual partners will be needing remediation.

"We cannot disclose the results," Sanchez said. "It's is ADP confidential. We are the ones managing the risks, so we do not disclose any specific risks that our partners may have."

But ADP can talk about how the Streamline program works, said Ford.

"They want to know how our framework is structured," she said. "Do we just assess and leave it?"

Clients particularly appreciate that there's continuous monitoring and oversight, she said.

The continuous monitoring even extends to subcontractors and applications that the partners use. ADP has to individually approve each new vendor and application that its Streamline partners use if they touch on the payroll management process.

Vendors aren't always ready and eager to transform their operations, submit to comprehensive assessments, and comply with ongoing monitoring requirements.

Typically, the heavier the requirements, the harder it is to get vendors on board.

Unexpectedly, Ford said, there was no pushback from the partners in the Streamline program.

"I was very surprised," she said. "But as a matter of fact, they wanted to partner with ADP, and they wanted to keep clients happy. They see the relationship as a real partnership. 'Tell us what we can do better.'"

And if there was a particular requirement that a partner couldn't meet?

"We would work with them to remediate," Ford said. "Or we would find compensating controls that they can put in place in the interim."

As for ADP, so for its its partners -- security became a selling point, a competitive marketing advantage.

The Streamline project demonstrates that security and compliance don't have to be a hammer, Ford said.

"We're not trying to stop them from doing business," she said. "But to enable it, and to be smart about it. We would not be comfortable or confident that we could do the business security in all these smaller countries without this program."

For their work with the Streamline project, ADP was recognized by CSO magazine as one of the security projects and initiatives that have delivered groundbreaking business value through the innovative application of risk and security concepts and technologies.

As the number and severity of data breaches continues to increase, security is likely to become a differentiator for an increasing number of companies.

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