The holy grail for any business is sustainable competitive advantage. In the fast-moving payments market, where we are seeing the challenge of near-constant technology-led change, this can appear both elusive and far-fetched.

Automated end-to-end payment testing can deliver long-term competitive advantage for your business. It can also give your organization an edge at a time when a seemingly endless surge of innovations is disrupting a conspicuously conservative, high-volume, commodity business.

Clinging to a single competitive advantage is often the downfall of market leaders because they are slow to change business models that become outmoded due to changing market dynamics.

The card payments industry is ruled by volatility and uncertainty brought about by huge technological advances. Such innovations as tokenization, chip technology, geolocation services, alternative payments models and the ease-of-use of cloud technologies are bringing new challenges for incumbents and driving new payments patterns amongst customers.

Furthermore, consumer expectations for easy, retail-like payment experiences, combined with constant process innovations, have created a dynamic market with challenger technologies rife in every delivery channel.

New regulations have enabled a wider range of firms to participate in the marketplace and have eliminated the structural barriers which artificially sustained competitive advantage for many existing players.

Competition can now come from both known and unknown entities. New entrants enabled by regulatory reform and technology can enter any part of the market with what are often viewed as compelling and disruptive propositions. They may initially offer cheap substitutes to capture low-end customers, but can gradually move upmarket to win higher-end customers.  As customers can change payment habits in seconds in response to social media or other pull factors, existing payments models can be decimated overnight.

What does this mean for your payments business? Clearly, competitive advantage in an environment as dynamic as payments is inherently not sustainable. You need to rethink how you respond and adapt to increasingly frequent waves of change without knowing which iterations will last and which will quickly dissipate. You need the ability to continually adapt to new sources of competitive advantage.

How do you make sure your organization is ready to react to market changes? An agile, end-to-end test environment supports moving from wave to wave of competitive advantage.

Organizations need to re-calibrate how they respond to consumer needs and retain a competitive edge. If you can’t sustain competitive advantage in the traditional way, you need to reinvent advantage by shaping your organization to continually bring innovation and new products to market faster, more cost-effectively and at a higher quality than your competition. Success will come from meeting the needs of your customers better than anyone else.

Testing is an expensive and time-consuming part of the new product development process, but it provides an opportunity for cost leadership as you can reconfigure the New Product Development process to control cost drivers. Embedding efficient automated test and validation processes into your New Product Development cycle will allow you to build and sustain a model that delivers new competitive advantages in cost-effective ways.

Improving the overall New Product Development lifecycle can lead to differentiation because you can get better products to market faster than your competition.

Traditionally, developing and introducing new products to stay competitive led to increased overheads because of the need for compliance and supporting the product lifecycle and infield operations. Compliance acts as a brake on the process because payment scheme compliance updates take precedence over strategic product innovation. These additional burdens can impair an organization’s ability to continually innovate and remain competitive.

Making automated testing and verification a strategic part of your business is one such approach. By changing how your organization views testing and verification, and making it part of an organization-wide culture, you can create a service or product permanently focused on the quality of the consumer experience from inception to delivery.

Competitiveness in payments requires innovation, quality and speed-to-market, all of which are linked to the strength, agility and robustness of the product development process.

To improve delivery speed and quality, modern thinking on new product development considers testing to be a continuous part of the product development lifecycle, not something applied at the end of the process.

In payments, however, extensive testing is often viewed as problematic. The traditional approach requires you to emulate multiple scenarios, rely on expensive scripting and enable regression testing, which is expensive in terms of time and resources.

But an automated end-to-end approach is where an opportunity for competitive advantage is seeded. This approach allows for errors to be corrected early in the process before they become unreasonably expensive and disruptive to fix.

It enables your entire development team to access and work on the same test platform to road-test new product innovations.

An automated end-to-end test environment provides you with the capacity to fully examine and finesse every potential aspect of the process to ensure a high-quality product for the customer.

And it brings new efficiencies and savings into the entire new product development environment

Fergal Molloy is CEO of Acquirer Systems.