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Payment Operations in the Era of Omni

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Over the past decade, we have seen significant progress toward making our payments and commerce experiences frictionless, intuitive, and secure. Embedded payment buttons, cashierless checkouts, silent security, point of sale lending, real-time transfers and no-hassle returns are just a few examples of innovative features that have radically changed how we transact.

You may remember, not too long ago, having to go into the convenience store at the gas station to have your card authorized so that you could use one of the pumps. Today, in many gas stations, owners of smart vehicles can drive in, fill gas and drive out without even carrying a credit or debit card in their wallets.

Hyperscale and edge computing, next-generation wireless, artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT, among others, make it possible to initiate, decide, process and secure complex payments from anywhere, in milliseconds.

Select players have chosen to specialize in niche segments of the payments value chain. Transaction acquisition and processing, account tokenization, data security, fraud prediction and prevention, customer behavior analysis, risk, compliance, privacy, biometrics, wallets—each of these have become subindustries, where extreme competition is fueling continuous innovation and investments in new capabilities.

Partly because of these enablers, and partly due to the complex nature of the payments ecosystem, product and platform partnerships have never been more prevalent. For example, Apple and Goldman Sachs joined forces to launch the Apple Card—a mobile-first payment account. Mastercard and GrabPay are about to launch a numberless card in Singapore. And Commonwealth Bank of Australia has co-invested in a joint venture with Klarna to accelerate their buy-now, pay-later product in Australia and New Zealand.

These factors make it possible to assemble products and experiences by stitching together a wide range of new technologies and capabilities—giving birth to a new generation of business models and, with them, a whole new set of transaction flows and patterns.

Outside of the evident impacts on customer experience, nowhere have these changes been felt more than in payment operations. Historically, Ops has been a somewhat predictable function—calculations based on the number of clients and transactions that inform required servicing capacity. But with the emergence of new types of transaction patterns, many of which are enabled by a combination of proprietary and external capabilities, solving payments operations for interconnected ecosystems has become a multidimensional challenge.

While operating efficiency, quality and customer satisfaction continue to be critical metrics for operations, empowering the business to rapidly innovate and becoming an integral part of the experience and value proposition have become equally important. As such, it is crucial to go beyond traditional levers like automation, and truly design an operational foundation that can exponentially grow, in both scale and scope.

For operations to keep up with the pace of innovation in payments, it is critical to take an engineering-driven and platform-based approach to what has, historically, been a process and people-centric problem. When operations processes are dissected into their most granular functions (validating information in an application, resetting a server certificate, updating a database), they can be reassembled through a cognitive digital core that is capable of processing every operational event through a library of automation flows.

Foundational flows can be designed in advance to set up new operations quickly and new, bespoke flows can be rapidly composed as the cognitive core discovers new transaction types, patterns and exceptions. By combining engineering and process expertise with the insights derived by the core, flows can be continuously adjusted and optimized to achieve key metrics, such as self-resolve rates and anticipatory issue prevention.

Invariably, certain events will require human intervention. When this is the case, the digital core will swarm out required tasks to the resource(s) that are best equipped to address them. This could mean connecting a client in distress to an emotionally akin agent somewhere around the world or ensuring that the most proficient engineer is pulled in to address a specific system failure.

Whether dealing with business operations, customer service, or applications and infrastructure operations, combining the engineering-led model with intelligent resource swarming leads to the creation of flatter, globally distributed and highly integrated operations networks that can solve bespoke and complex events at scale. This is particularly helpful when supporting operations that are delivered by multiple parties, like in the case of platform partnerships and the rapidly growing consortium-based payments networks.

As more payment enterprises embrace the ecosystem model, we will continue to see a shift toward composable and dynamic operations flows supported by an engineering-first approach and a smart digital core. This trend will be further accelerated by the virtualization of the talent supply chain and the prevalence of work-from-home arrangements resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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