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How We Power the Hybrid Workplace with Microsoft Azure

March 03, 2021
 
Paychex leverages cloud technology like Microsoft Azure to power its own work environments and the services that its customers rely on.

One year ago, the way that so many of us do our jobs changed radically and seemingly overnight. Many who spent their 9-to-5 in the workplace were tasked with setting up new desks in their living spaces. For some, that was a designated home office; others grabbed a spot at the kitchen table next to their homeschooling children.

While some of us have returned to full-time cubicle life, still more workers are partially or entirely remote. I know firsthand that this flexibility in our professional lives wouldn’t exist without the right technology.

My team at Paychex handles time and attendance products, and we’ve been in the same position as our customers. By using cloud technology like Microsoft Azure, we power not only our own work environments but the services that our customers rely on as well.

As a senior manager in the software engineering division at Paychex, my job is to create a software factory that best supports our business strategy. Our clients want to do business from anywhere, any time, and our software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions provide that capability. The features we use in Microsoft Azure support our solutions and our extremely high-quality standards, while also enabling us to rapidly innovate and develop new tools for our customers.

A few years ago, Paychex made the decision to migrate our robust suite of apps, including our Paychex Flex® Time product, to the cloud. We chose Microsoft Azure because of the elasticity that it provides for high-variance workloads.

Even a minute of downtime on our end could potentially affect thousands of businesses and their employees. The elasticity in Azure gives us more compute resources precisely when we need them, which is when our customers need them, too.

A traditional hosted environment, with on-premise servers, can make it difficult to meet client demand at peak times. Flex Time sees more than three million distinct punches for a staggering 13 million time cards on any given day. Most of those punches occur at the top of every hour, when the majority of employees start or end their shifts. Even a minute of downtime on our end could potentially affect thousands of businesses and their employees. The elasticity in Azure gives us more compute resources precisely when we need them, which is when our customers need them, too.

Working in the cloud doesn’t just mean handling business as usual. We’re also looking to the future and innovating by rolling out new features to our customers in two-week sprints. Most recently, with the help of Azure Service Bus, we enhanced our notification experience, allowing client employees and admins to receive notifications in the form most convenient for them: email, text, push notification, or in-app message. This way, employees know things like whether their time off was approved, their time card has been approved or changed, or if they were able to switch shifts with someone.

Additionally, we’re getting more out of the cloud with tools for machine learning and artificial intelligence. We use features like Azure LUIS to power our chatbot, Paychex Flex Assistant, to bring customers the answers they need when they need them. We’re also looking to the future with machine learning and AI to learn more about how customers use our products. With our five decades of industry experience, Paychex has a mountain of data that we can analyze to bring greater insights to our customers. By leveraging this wealth of information, Paychex can help its clients gain a better understanding of their businesses and their operations.

This week marks the virtual Microsoft Ignite conference, where leaders in cloud come together to share best practices and innovations. Our engineers love attending events like Microsoft Ignite. They always come back with new ideas to help us solve the challenges we face and are re-energized by the new features they learn about during the sessions. We love to discuss these ideas and incorporate them into future solutions. We sometimes even get to make connections with the Microsoft engineers who work on the products we use, which can be a valuable relationship for us. With the past year giving us so many virtual cloud events, we’re watching from home to learn about advances in machine learning and AI services, cloud security, and automation.

The working world has certainly changed over the past year. For many businesses, work-from-home capabilities are here to stay — whether full-time or in conjunction with time spent in the office. At Paychex, we know how important it is to work from anywhere because we’re doing the same thing. My team is here to support all of our customers, no matter where they’re clocking in. Learn more about IT career opportunities at Paychex today.

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Dustin Kester

Dustin Kester is a director of product development at Paychex where he leads an organization that creates enterprise-level, client-facing SaaS applications enabled by the Microsoft Azure cloud. He has leadership experience in integrating acquisitions, managing distributed teams, offshore management, agile transformations, and cloud migrations. Dustin has been in product development at Paychex since 2013. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and a Strategic Management Executive Certificate from RIT’s Saunders College of Business. Connect with Dustin on LinkedIn.