Despite the pending October liability shift, there are many small and mid-sized merchants and merchant service providers that are only starting to learn about the EMV standard and beginning implementation project plans.

While there are many complexities and challenges to introducing EMV chip technology for these merchants, most of them understand that implementation must start now.

There are the 10 fundamental steps and recommendations to get a solution to market in the most timely and effective way possible in the current payment acceptance environment:

Choose a migration partner. Choosing a qualified consultancy can help reduce complexities, time and resources associated with all phases of your chip implementation.It is important to choose someone who is familiar with your particular retail segment. Consultants can train your internal teams on all aspects of chip deployment, analyze the impact of chip implementation on your organization, define your project roadmap including all testing and certification requirements, provide you with the tools to conduct testing and certification, or even conduct it on your behalf.

Build a project roadmap. The roadmap will define all of your business and technical requirements to implement chip acceptance. Defining and continually reviewing the roadmap will facilitate and move your project forward. Roadmaps should contain these items at a minimum, including business review and strategy, an impact assessment/gap analysis, implementation planning and component selection, system implementation and pre-testing, connection to the acquirer/processor, certification testing and deployment

Assess acquirer relationships. The processor or acquirer should be identified and selected very early in the EMV chip implementation project. Some questions to think about with regard to acquirer relationships include How many acquirers will you interface with and what is the impact of each of the acquirer protocols? Are you going to process all of them? Do you already have relationships with some of them?

Understand Level 3 end-to-end testing and certification requirements. The EMV Migration Forum white paper, "EMV Testing and Certification White Paper: Current U.S. Payment Brand Requirements for the Acquiring Community,” provides a complete overview of the Level 3 brand testing and certification requirements.

Decide on point-of-interaction (POI) acceptance implementation and integration models. The FIME white paper gives an overview of the general types of POI systems and the impacts chip acceptance will have on each. The semi-integrated POI system is the best fit for the small-to-medium-sized merchant, as chip will introduce less complexity than it would in a fully integrated system.

Select your software solution and EMV device or peripheral. Because the new payment scope and complexity is becoming more challenging, you should consider using device-independent, off-the-shelf payment acceptance solutions instead of building your own. This can greatly reduce time and resources spent on design, implementation and testing and certification.

Adopt a generic EMV Level 2 framework. Universal EMV application frameworks for EMV devices (i.e. terminal and PIN pads) offer another way to accelerate U.S. EMV implementation projects and reduce the qualification and certification workload. They are available for the most common EMV terminal brands and enable integrators to develop their EMV application using open platform interfaces instead of using vendor specific interfaces. Maintaining one EMV SDK and Level 2 Kernel reduces the number of certifications, and allows for future-proof EMV application investments.

Design and implement. For companies who want to specialize in electronic card acceptance solutions, EMV is the ideal occasion as there is an important gap between legacy integrated payment acceptance solutions designed for the magstripe environment, and state-of-the-art EMV software solutions required to efficiently process EMV and non-EMV payments. The new solutions should take into account the retailers’ global operational requirements at the same time as providing solutions that can adapt to existing POS system architectures.

Choose a testing platform. It is necessary to use approved test tools in order to achieve Level 3 brand certification. The list of approved test tools is available from the payment brands. When weighing options, consider using an advanced test platform to automate the test tasks and reduce the most time-consuming aspects of the project. These platforms can determine applicable test cases, provide test process guidance and analyze and validate test results. They can also generate and submit test reports according to the brand’s requirements.

Preparing for Certification. After you have thoroughly tested your implementation and prior to approaching your acquirer for certification, it is a best practice to test your implementation using the payment brand test plans supported by the approved test tools discussed earlier. This is the simplest approach to minimize test issues during the terminal end-to-end certification process conducted with the acquirer.

Xavier Giandominici is a director for FIME America, and has written extensively on the subject of the EMV migration .