Growing importance for payments operational management systems

Retail merchants, and Payment Service Providers that serve them, are increasingly paying greater attention to the subject of operational management for their payment systems. Once the management of payment terminals was regarded as a boring back room task that focused largely on initial software rollout and device deployment, attracting little ongoing attention or investment. But according to Mark McMurtrie, Independent Payments Consultant, “industry thinking is changing with operational systems management taking higher priority”.

Terminal Management Systems (TMS)

For years device manufacturers have made available proprietary terminal management systems that allowed payment applications, running on their brand of payment terminal, to be remotely downloaded and to allow configuration settings to be updated. Supported functionality was limited though and you would have to wait years for a new product version to be released. The primary purpose of these TMS was to reduce the number of costly field engineer visits needed for installs or to resolve an in-store issue. We feel that the retail industry should be following today’s generic IT industry best practice and placing greater emphasis on offering improved centralized remote systems management and issue resolution as this both shortens issue resolution timings as well as saving significant cost.

Far more is needed today

Remote software management is no longer all that is required. Although remaining a key element of managing payment systems there are now multiple capabilities being demanded or desired. These include:

  • Insight reporting, even at transaction level detail
  • Proactive monitoring and preventative maintenance
  • Device and owner authentication
  • Asset status, tracking and inventory control, including support for P2PE chain of custody
  • Data security key management
  • Advanced performance tracking and remote diagnostic capabilities

Vendor independence

Retailers have often been reluctant to change terminal manufacturer, as this would require support for a second TMS from the new vendor. This creates operational inefficiencies, system duplication and incremental cost. To date there are no productized TMS available in the UK market that support mixed estates of devices from multiple vendors. This has left retailers with the choice of being “locked in” to a single device manufacturer or carrying the extra costs and efforts of running parallel, standalone systems. A few tried developing in-house systems however these quickly became costly to support and without a roadmap for enhanced functionality.

Greater connectivity

Payment systems form just one small component of an overall retail store IT environment. Most operations teams would love to have a next generation TMS which integrated and work seamlessly with the following:

  • EPOS application management
  • IT management for POS hardware and peripherals
  • Network management
  • Helpdesk systems

This recognises the independence of systems today and at times the difficulties in correctly identifying exactly where an issue lies. Too many payment terminals are currently being swapped out unnecessarily and returned, at great expense, for repair only to have ‘no fault found’ determined. Next generation operational management systems need to have been designed for connectivity to other IT systems, which naturally requires comprehensive and easy to use APIs.

Customer service improvement

Improved efforts on payment system operational management can lead to a direct improvement in customer service. Pre-emptive action can even avoid the customer ever being impacted. Swap-out stock of payment terminals are commonly available, however currently there are no systems that automatically trigger alerts when a ‘faulty unit’ is swapped out and then placed in the graveyard cupboard/shelf for dead equipment.

Our TMS strategy

Having heard these market demands we have committed to deliver a ‘Smart’ Terminal Management System for the benefit of merchant and service providers. This productized solution will have a modular architecture that allows merchants to use only the functions they wish. A core feature will be support of payment terminals from multiple vendors including the world’s leading two suppliers. We recognise that some users will require an easy to use graphical interface whereas others will interact with our product by integrating existing systems.

We would be pleased to chat through the issues you are facing each month managing your payment systems today and discuss how improvements could be achieved. Do get in touch.

Thursday, August 4, 2016