A great software product is easy to use and requires little or no training, says Malcolm Thorne, an ADP vice president.

He tells of how the information technology provider strove for that in developing a program for auto service technicians and advisers who use computer tablets as part of their work.

“We got to the point of zero training,” Thorne says. “We’d hand the technician an iPad and say, ‘Do your job.’ If they couldn’t, we went back to the designer. We wanted it to be that intuitive.”

A program designer should understand human behavior and optimal usage, then take it from there, Thorne says.

“Our goal is to make systems seamless,” says Steve Anenen, head of ADP Dealer Services. “We want to build intuition into the software, so the user just follows a path.”

Pursuing that goal requires considerable consultation with auto makers and dealers, he says. ADP also has partnered with a firm that specializes in observing how dealership personnel use computer products.

“We wanted to see how they do their jobs,” says Greg Meyer, ADP Dealer Services’ chief technology officer. “We measured where eyeballs were on a screen. We looked at how people navigate, and whether they hesitated. We want to drive a delightful user experience.”

He cites an example of simplifying a newer version of a particular product. “There was toggling between screens. Now, there’s a workflow.” 

A big problem at many dealerships is a high turnover of personnel. It can make the training of new employees seem endless. Easy-to-use products mitigate that.

“If you have a system that is intuitive, you reduce the amount of time spent training new employees on it,” Meyer says.

ADP is changing, Anenen says. “This is not the same ADP as a year ago. We are not focused on quick-fix technology. We want to make the user interface as simple as possible.”

The company wants to stay responsive and understand customer needs, “not the needs of six months ago, but now,” he says. “We want to be faster to market. We’re trying to build things organically. If we can build it, we will. If we can’t, we’ll partner.”

ADP brass highlights some recent products. Those include ServiceEdge, designed to expedite service department online appointments, inspections and repair orders. About 500 dealerships use it.

Credit Validation is an e-contract financing product that aids dealership finance and insurance managers, says Bob Karp, ADP’s senior vice president-North American operations and sales.

“Thirty percent of contracts have problems that slow down financing,” he says. “Contract Validation automatically determines if there’s a problem, what it is and how to fix it. Contracts are displayed on computer tablets. After customers sign them, the e-contracts are submitted to the lenders.”

Contracts get funded right the first time, “improving the customer’s experience, and improving cash flow for the dealers,” says Paul Rindone, ADP vice president-financial services. “This was many years in the making, and we’re so pleased that it is finally coming to fruition.”

Anenen heralds the advent of e-deal jackets on mobile devices. “It is a pretty significant development and the fulfillment of a vision.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com