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Roll by ADP is an unusual chat-based mobile app offering basic tools for managing payroll. It’s easy to use, works well, and could appeal to very small businesses with modest payroll needs.
ADP, one of the best-known names in the payroll world, launched its online payroll-processing service called Roll by ADP in 2021. It’s unlike anything we’ve tested before. Instead of having a self-service web portal, Roll has you use chat commands in a mobile app to do everything to manage your payroll, from setting up and maintaining data to the actual running of a payroll. There is an option to access the same information on a desktop, as we’ll explain. Using chat in this way takes some getting used to, but the app helps you along by using artificial intelligence to gain an understanding of your company and its payroll patterns.
Now in its second year, the app has new features and enhancements like simplified setup, more flexible payroll options, on-demand payroll, Spanish support, more benefits, employee time-tracking, Plaid integration, and an improved user interface. The app provides the basics of payroll processing but lacks the depth, robust feature set, and customizability of its browser-based competitors.
Comparing Roll to other online payroll services we’ve reviewed is difficult. Most payroll services have companion mobile apps that merely replicate the desktop experience. They don’t try to reinvent payroll the way Roll does. If you want a more traditional payroll-processing application, we recommend one of our Editors’ Choice winners: Gusto for small organizations with 10 or fewer employees, Rippling for small and larger businesses, and OnPay for organizations with 1–100 employees and vertical industries.
How Much Does Roll Cost
Roll’s regular price is $29 per month plus $5 per employee or contractor, which makes it one of the less expensive available options. The company offers a three-month free trial.
Most payroll applications are pricier, costing roughly $40 per month plus per-employee fees. Gusto has a version that goes for $149 per month plus $12 per employee per month. You can find cheaper options, such as Patriot Software’s Basic plan ($17 per month plus $4 per month per employee or contractor), but it requires you to file your own payroll taxes.
While Roll has a low price, it’s missing functionality you get with competing payroll services. You can’t view voluminous reports. Employee records are less comprehensive, and you don’t get extras like extensive human resources and benefits administration tools. You can’t create accrual policies for vacation and sick time. You can’t create your own earnings types, and help is limited. You also have to do everything through chat commands.
Still, Roll’s price and novel technology might appeal to payroll managers who want the most streamlined experience possible, who don’t have many employees or complex payroll needs, or who like Roll’s mobile-first approach.
What You Need to Know
Roll uses AI and tools like pattern recognition to automate your payroll tasks. For example, it dispatches an alert if your payroll run differs enough from your typical paydays. The app learns as it goes along so that eventually it sets up your to-do list based on your company’s history. It also sends notifications when tasks are due.
The app works similarly to other payroll sites in that it offers a setup process and allows you to create employee records and then invite employees to complete their profiles. It supports multiple pay schedules and unlimited payroll runs. You can edit and run a payroll, and the app pays all payroll taxes for you automatically. You can run off-cycle payrolls and easily pay out bonuses, too.
Benefits administration has improved. You can set up employee deductions and company contributions for medical and dental insurance, as well as for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and vision insurance. The list of benefits and deductions you can include on paychecks is quite long, including company Loans, critical illness insurance, long-term and short-term disability insurance, and supplemental life insurance. It’s more than what many competitors offer.
New since 2021, the app now has numerous retirement plan options, which is a big plus. Setting up retirement plans involves selecting taxation options, naming the plan, and defining employee and company contributions—just like any payroll solution would do. I found this process easy, as I did setting up and changing the details of other benefits. Like other elements of the app, the chat questions are asked in complete sentences in understandable language. This also keeps you from being distracted by other content on the screen. You’re always focused on the current question.
Companies that need robust benefits administration and human resources tools should consider Rippling, however, which isn’t much more expensive (depending on how many modules you use).
Compensation Types and Payments
Roll offers multiple compensation type options, but you can’t create your own like you can on some competing sites. The app includes regular pay, hourly or flat fee contractor, overtime, holiday premium pay, Performance Bonus, Sign-on Bonus, and Business Expenses. You can also add Shift Differential Premium Pay, Paid Community Service Time, and Paid Bereavement Time, for example.
The app supports next-day direct deposit and on-demand payroll, and it prepares W-2 forms (you have to print your own 1099s).
The only report is an Excel file you get via email after each pay period, with all payments and deductions. You can share this report with your accountant, but the app doesn’t integrate with any online accounting services yet.
Roll does offer live chat support in the app 24 hours a day on weekdays and between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on weekends. These are extraordinarily generous support hours no one else offers.
Like everything else in Roll, you go through the setup process using chat commands. Again, this method may be hard to visualize, but it works.
Roll walks you through every step required to run a payroll, including information about your company, state payroll taxes, employees, payroll frequency and first pay period, compensation, earnings types, and your payroll bank account.
New since last year is integration with Plaid, a third-party account aggregation service you can use instead of entering your bank account information in Roll.
It concludes by asking if you give ADP permission to, for example, serve as Reporting Agent and grant the company limited power of attorney to sign, pay, and file payroll taxes. You use your finger to write your signature on your phone screen. You can skip over some questions if you don’t have the information at hand, and any unfinished tasks appear on your to-do list.
How to Access Roll by ADP on Desktop
Roll displays five icons at the bottom of the screen for navigation. The first is a QR code reader. You go to roll.adp.ai website on a desktop browser and scan the code that appears in the mobile app to view Roll’s web version. It worked fine in my testing.
The browser screen replicated the chat stream on my phone and displayed dozens of links to common tasks in the right pane of the window, an option that doesn’t appear in the mobile app. You have access to the other icons’ functions from your browser, too, which makes it easier if you’re entering a lot of employee details, for example, or running a complicated payroll.
Navigating the Experience
Navigating the Experience
The other icons let you navigate the app by taking you to your company profile, chat stream, employee records, and your Timeline, which is something of an audit trail that shows past actions, tasks, and notifications.
Roll is very good at responding to commands it understands. It returns responses quickly (except sometimes when it’s calculating payroll) and its conversations are intelligible. When it doesn’t understand a request, it says something like, “It’s not clear to me what you want to do. Please tell me again in a different way.”
You can respond to queries in a variety of ways. Sometimes, Roll displays options in its signature purple horizontal bars. For example, you might choose between 05/20 Payroll and Off-Cycle Payment or Give Me More Options and I Have the Funds. You just click one to select and advance. Other times, you have to click an up arrow (or Enter) to move on, or select OK or Continue.
A few times, I ran across a list of options that appeared in very faint type. They would light up when I clicked on them, but other times, they were hard to read. Throughout testing, though, I always knew what I needed to do to move the conversation along.
There’s no Cancel or Back button in the chat, but anytime you find yourself in a conversation stream you want to exit, you can tap the three dots to pause, cancel, or continue a conversation. It worked fine for me. I was able to bail out of processes I didn’t want to continue. If I needed to look something up in the employee records while I was in the middle of something, for example, I could just click the icon to get it and return to the chat stream, which was in the exact place I left it.
Entering Employee Data, Other Commands
Roll allows you to create a record for each employee or contractor, but its format is not nearly as robust as that of the competition. You can indicate who they report to and whether they get paid by direct deposit or check. Your records also contain title and compensation, a history of the positions they’ve held, and basic contact details. You enter the worker’s Social Security number, birth date, gender, start date, and employment status (such as employee or contractor). You can view abbreviated versions of these records once you’ve completed them.
The app’s setup process doesn’t include absolutely every detail you may need when you’re working in another area, like setting up a retirement plan. But that’s easy enough to get. For example, I had to type “Birthdate [Name]” and “View [Name] W-4” at different times. You can also edit details individually by entering, for example, Change [an employee’s] position. The app provides an individual timeline for the changes that have been made to each employee’s record. Nice, and unusual.
Here are some examples of commands Roll’s chat function understands:
- Hire Alex
- Terminate Alex
- Give Alex a raise
- Change Alex’s job title
- Run payroll
- Change payroll
- Update my company tax withholding
- Change Alex’s W-4
- Update retirement plan
I don’t know how robust Roll’s recognition ability is, but it seems very capable. I intentionally misspelled some words and entered commands such as Log oput (instead of Log out). In my tests, the app always understood me well enough to return the correct response.
Because Roll has such a simple structure and limited options, payroll runs go fast. You just enter Run Payroll. Once you’ve established what kind of payroll you want to process and verified the pay period and pay date, the app displays a list of your employees and contractors. Roll now allows workers to punch in and out through an employee app, which simplifies the payroll process tremendously if you have hourly staff.
I had already run a payroll, so the same number of hours worked for each individual was already filled in. You can change these values by clicking on them and entering the new ones. The same screen displays each worker’s hourly pay or salary as well as their gross pay for the current pay run. The More option under each employee offers the option to enter additional earnings types like Holiday Premium Pay, a Performance Bonus, or Business Expenses. Roll let me change the pay rate and payment method here.
After I clicked Continue, Roll displayed a list of all employees selected along with their gross pay. It took about 30 seconds for the payroll to calculate for the nine employees. The app then showed the deadline for processing the payroll as well as the total payroll cost, the amount ADP would withdraw, and the total for checks to be printed by me. Clicking the down arrow next to each employee’s name revealed a pay stub containing pay and deductions. At this point, you can click the Make Changes button to go back to the screen displaying hours. After I clicked Continue again, the app told me what checks I had to write—Roll also reminded me on the day they needed to be printed.
When I clicked OK, the app told me what ADP would withdraw and when. I could either click the Give Me More Options (skip some employees, only fund taxes, or skip the payroll) or I Have The Funds. I opted to skip an employee. After I selected the employee, the new cash requirement amount appeared. I had the chance to review all the paychecks again before submitting the payroll. Payrolls are available to review in the Timeline section, where you can enter Change Payroll if you need to edit anything before the deadline. The whole process took just a couple of minutes.
Occasionally, both during the payroll process and other times, too much data displays to fit on one screen. Or there’s some text at the top blocking the main content. It’s a good idea to scroll up and see if you missed anything.
Viewing Historical Data
Roll doesn’t have preformatted reports you customize and run, like competitors do. If you enter “Run report,” you’re advised to go to your Timeline and scroll down to the Payroll Register notification for the pay period you want to review. You can access your quarterly tax report by typing “Quarterly report.” And you can say “I need my W-2s” or “I need my 1099s” to get those forms.
Moving Right Along
The initial version of Roll was designed for very small businesses with very modest payroll needs. New features and enhancements since last year make it an option for more small businesses than before. The app is unique and certainly the most innovative payroll solution we’ve seen, and we anticipate ADP will continue to add features and flexibility as it grows.
In the meantime, businesses that need more features and want to work on the desktop can turn to more traditional options. Three stand out above the rest: OnPay, Gusto, and Rippling. All are Editors’ Choice winners this year because of their functionality, usability, and customizability. OnPay can service vertical industries well and companies employing 100 or more workers. Gusto is the best choice for very small businesses. Rippling can support larger companies, though its pricing is comparable with other small business payroll solutions (depending on how many modules you use), and it could be a good choice for a small business that expects to grow.