Time and time again, a lack of skilled workers is cited as the major barrier to business growth and future expansion in South Africa. The fourth quarter of 2012 was no different, says Grant Thornton’s International Business Report. According to the report, 47% of business owners surveyed placed the skills shortage as their top growth constraint.
While stats like these may encourage companies to revisit hiring procedures and to put measures in place to retain skilled employees at all costs, Graham Williams, MD of Stanchion Payment Systems, would suggest an alternative tack.
Particularly when the skills in question are highly specialised and mission-critical, such as managing an electronic payment environment.
This might seem counter-intuitive. Surely having customers pay for goods and services rendered is at the core of what a business does? And users would be mad to trust the management of this critical business process to anyone but a member of their own team, right? Or maybe not.
Indeed, there are several very compelling arguments for trusting a payment management service to handle this management function for user. Williams would argue this is the better way to quickly resolve any issues with minimum downtime, and to proactively sort out any potential issues before they bite the business, and profits and productivity.
In fact, core business is not about taking payments for goods and services. The core business is about providing the best goods and services – from loaves of bread to designer handbags to making customers happy and keep them coming back. However, users need peace of mind that the payment environment is extremely efficient, effective and current.
But why unnecessarily create the headache of building a team of payment solution ninjas to do everything from day-to-day maintenance and report running, to expert customisation, problem solving and trend spotting?
Not to mention keeping abreast of local and international financial regulations, for example the on-going EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) migration, and ensuring users continue to comply.
But let’s say this is done right and skills are built in-house. It’s all very well until that staff member – or more likely, critical members of the team – move on, taking their hard-won domain knowledge with them and leaving users back at square one.
Far better to entrust the management of a payment service to an expert management service, for this, and a range of additional reasons:
Access to wide skill sets – an outsourced supplier has a multitude of personality types to supply a range of skill sets to carry out a spread of tasks from the mundane but focussed daily maintenance and reporting, to highly specialised and advanced customisation, problem solving and compliance.
It’s unlikely users will find one or even two candidates who can cover this breadth of requirements. Then there’s the small matter of hanging on to them in an era where two years is considered, by employees at least, to be far too long in a single role.
Benefit from wider knowledge – a well organised management service team works across a range of clients, and each one benefits from the learnings, experience, bug fixes and trends that happen in other environments.
EMV is also a good example of this: this provides a foundation for fighting fraud and allows issuers to take charge of transactions at the point-of-sale. But using these tools to prevent fraud needs a deep understanding of the EMV standard as well as the systems within the transaction chain. Few companies have the resources to ensure complete control of the value chain.
Proactive management of a payment environment – the proactive management of a payment environment – spotting issues before they occur and preventing them – requires specific temperaments and a discrete set of processes, tools and skills.
Technical problem solvers are unlikely to be satisfied tackling the day-to-day tasks required for high-quality proactive management. Again, this points to the spread of skills users require to achieve certain business outcomes.
* Extend the value and the lifespan of an investment – with the right management, the value and lifespan of a payment switch can be dramatically extended, while decreasing the cost. But only if it is properly managed, with the right tools, processes and skill set and an eye on the future.
Outsourcing the management of a payments environment does not mean giving up complete control, however. Payments are a strategic asset which, if manipulated innovatively, can add significant competitive advantage to the business.
A payment management partner should provide users with strategic information about both payment industry trends and accessible business metrics relating to a payments environment and infrastructure capability. This is provided through a number of enabling channels including real-time mobile reporting. This will allow users to make and control the strategic decisions unique to the business case.
Nor does outsourcing mean they are going to get a one-size-fits all approach. A payment management service worth its salt will be able to incorporate any third party monitoring, reconciliation or other software users have already invested in, thus maximising investment and giving the nuanced reporting that industry requires.
It seems that South Africa’s DIY attitude is not serving companies well when they come up against skill shortages. Savvy companies realise that taking customer payments for goods and services rendered is probably not their core focus, and nor should it be.
Rather, creating the perfect goods and services for customers is the core focus, so far better to build and retain skills here, rather than in non-core, yet still highly mission-critical functions such as the management of payment switching.