President of Ceridian Dayforce David Ossip was destined to innovate.
By Brent Skinner
Typical profiles of successful entrepreneurs include what is by now a cliché: Their passion for innovation burnt within them from a young age. As toddlers, they used Legos to invent and create. Such building blocks allowed spirited entrepreneurs to act on their visions, and through leadership and devotion, they have succeeded in creating something no one else could have fathomed.
But David Ossip didn’t always know that he would become an entrepreneur. That said, a solid case could be made that he should have known. The president of Ceridian Dayforce has a nose for innovation, the essential ingredient of all entrepreneurial pursuits. And, as if by nature, he fell into his career by simply recognizing a company’s missing need and developing a solution that would create a system of efficiency. Ever since, he has spotted and seized opportunity after opportunity to innovate.
Upon ruling out a career in medicine, and after dabbling in accounting “for about 15 minutes,” Ossip says, “I ended up with a job at one of the big banks, and I didn’t really have anything to do. So after about two weeks, I looked over in the next cubicle, and I asked what the guy was working on. He was trying to extract data from a spreadsheet and place it into a database. He’d been trying to do so for a few weeks, maybe a couple months, and he thought it would be a few more months before he was finished. So I suggested that he just do a block copy and paste into the database, which worked quite nicely.”
The bank promptly moved Ossip to a special project that found him determining who the bank’s profitable customers were, based off mainframe data. “My job was to extract the data and place it into a database, which was a rather monotonous task. So I suggested to the bank that they allow me to write an application to automate all this, but given that they’d spent millions of dollars working out the manual processes, they were quite happy already.”
This type of attitude keeps organizations from evolving in their use of business technology: Large investments in existing processes lead to inertia, which sets in and stifles innovation no matter how clunky existing processes may be. “So I read an article about how you could basically write a framework that would do what the bank was attempting to do, but a lot more efficiently,” says Ossip. “I then borrowed a computer in a computer lab. I wrote the basics of an application, resigned from the bank, and returned to their offices in order to present the idea to them as a system I’d like to sell. Surprisingly, they actually went for it.”
And, at the age of about 21, Ossip fell into entrepreneurship by selling his first high-tech application.
“It was a combination of working with a big organization, seeing an inefficient and rather manual process, and envisioning a way that technology could be used to greatly streamline the process,” says Ossip. “And, by the same token, it was about being confident and aggressive enough to make the decision to try to build something and then try to sell it with the value proposition to save the organization a lot of time and money.”
In other words, entrepreneurship is salesmanship, too.
Ossip went on to Harvard Business School to earn his MBA and his experience spans more than 20 years, with several company acquisitions along the way. Of note, he founded Business Machine Interfaces (BMI), an organization that delivered time and attendance and security access solutions. Clients on BMI’s roster included Siemens, Michelin, Toyota, SquareD, and Black and Decker. Amano Corporation of Japan bought BMI in 1997. Next on his list was Workbrain, an organization that delivered an innovative workforce management solution for large enterprises. Workbrain was sold to Infor Global Solutions in 2007 in a multimillion-dollar deal.
Inflections of Technology
To inspire his innovations, Ossip looks for what he calls inflections in technology. When changes in technology occur, opportunities present themselves to transform entrenched routines in workflow and to drive tremendous savings and efficiencies. And an opportunity is there to sell. “If the cost savings and the benefits to the organization are great enough,” says Ossip, “that will encourage them to switch from the way they were doing things before and the product they were using to the new way of doing it to get the cost savings and benefits.”
The changes in the technology can be fundamental, such as today’s migrations from the premises to the cloud and from desktops to mobile computing devices. One such inflection of technology transforming efficiencies is inspiring Ossip’s work with Ceridian Dayforce. In 2009, Ossip founded Dayforce, a workforce management tool that combines time, attendance, and payroll in ways its competition couldn’t. In April of 2012, Ceridian finalized the acquisition of Dayforce, retaining Ossip to form a division within Ceridian called Ceridian Dayforce. At the helm of Ceridian Dayforce, he has led a team to launch Ceridian’s new, comprehensive SaaS application, Dayforce HCM (see sidebar for more details).
Words of Wisdom
Ossip encourages young entrepreneurs to find strong mentors and pay attention to their wisdom. “I was fortunate. My father was a successful entrepreneur, and I was able to gain a lot of insight from him. A lot of that insight comes down to this: It takes a long time to get going, but once it gets going, it happens a lot quicker than you think it’s going to.”
In entrepreneurship, the methodical tortoise beats the overly excited hare. Ossip’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to play the long game and to have an objective in mind beyond the attainment of wealth. “I always look at entrepreneurship as a profession, not a one-time deal to get wealthy,” he says. “Wealth shouldn’t be the ultimate goal.” Like most entrepreneurs with a passion for their vision, Ossip is dedicated to and continually thinking about his craft.
Dayforce Meets Ceridian Dayforce
“When you talk to any payroll person, what they really want is access to their data,” says David Ossip, president of Ceridian Dayforce, the division within Ceridian whose solution, Dayforce HCM, provides that access to data quickly and seamlessly. The objective is to transform administrators’ and employees’ experience in dealing with the tedious processes, and Ceridian and Ossip are indeed achieving that goal.
How Ceridian Dayforce separates itself from other applications is by removing the integration of individual databases. Instead, time, attendance, payroll, and benefits all reside under the same system. It’s a single application with one database and one rule engine.
And because time, attendance, and payroll all reside under one system in Dayforce HCM, employees are able to see their earnings in real-time—at any point during the pay period, with an accurate read on what they’ve earned up to that point, tax and benefits factored in. Another example is the elimination of tasks necessarily redundant in integrated systems; users of Dayforce HCM need enter information (like change of address) only once. This minimizes employee fatigue, and the inherent efficiencies free HR administrators to spend more time improving their daily workflow and adding higher, strategic value to the organization.
Prior to the acquisition, Ceridian and Dayforce started out by partnering. In 2011, Ceridian made a minority investment in Dayforce; from that point on “we began acting as one organization,” Ossip says. “We had a sharing of resources, information, technology, and intellectual property. So, when the acquisition itself was completed [in April 2012], there weren’t any substantial changes to the organization.”
Coinciding with the continuing development of Dayforce HCM under the auspices of Ceridian Dayforce, several hundred subject-matter experts and implementation consultants with deep knowledge of payroll, benefits, and workforce management have migrated from the Ceridian side to Ossip’s team, and “it’s really gone very nicely.”
The sales department has also scaled the learning curve adeptly. “I was pleasantly surprised on the sales side,” says Ossip. “When we first introduced the solution to Ceridian’s sales group, in the first 10 months they were about four times over quota. I thought that it would have taken quite a bit longer for them to switch to selling a cloud solution.”
Culturally, the impact on Ceridian has been profound and positive. “I am impressed with how well Ceridian CEO Stuart Harvey has used this acquisition to infuse Ceridian with an entrepreneurial, innovative spirit,” says Ossip. “If you actually look at the cultural change, it’s been really dramatic. You take a company that was created in 1932 and combine it with one created in 2009: They’re obviously going to be different types of cultures. Ceridian has transformed itself into an innovative organization, much more aggressive in the marketplace. I think that the employees are having a lot more fun, and they’re a lot more intense.”