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Managing the Development of a Merchant Portal and Payment Platform for a Financial Services Firm

Financial Services | Application Development, Managed Services

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TEKsystems was engaged to provide off-site development of a merchant portal and open payment platform designed to support commerce among international buyers and sellers.

Founded in 2005, the client provides payment processing solutions for consumers, merchants and issuers in the United States. The client is a subsidiary of a global payment, travel and expense management provider.

The high adoption rates of smartphones and tablets over the last few years have led to a shift in e-commerce marketing and consumer outreach. Consumers prefer to access information beyond traditional computer webpages, and retailers have responded by building technology to meet customer demand, such as mobile pages and mobile applications. In addition to providing advanced online portals and integrating social media elements to make shopping easier for customers, merchants are also building out their payment platforms. Open payment platforms provide a secure, flexible mechanism for consumers to manage funds via bank-issued credit or debit cards or with designated payment cards. Merchants link to these platforms to receive payments at point-of-sale or upon payment invoice and consumers manage their accounts online or through their smartphones. 
Net, Oracle PL/SQL, Manual testing

While organizations understand the value of providing mobile applications, payment platforms and other enhancements, many are unsure where to begin or how to accomplish their goals. The client’s parent company, a global payment provider, needed our client to build a payment and commerce platform, enabling consumers to spend, send and receive money online, person to person, via a mobile phone or with merchants who accept the parent company’s credit card. The project required the development of a merchant portal, including the management of registration account maintenance, platform security and reporting.

The client faced several challenges in completing the project:

  • Additional resources. The client did not have the bandwidth internally to support the forecasted development needs of the new platform and needed experienced support with expertise in C# .Net development. Space was limited in the client’s Florida location and the client neededa near-shore partner to provide support in the same time zone.
  • Flexibility. The client wanted a partner to serve as an extension of their existing team and take full responsibility for the deliverables of the project, including the ability to ramp up quickly as project needs dictated.
  • Methodology. The client operated under a Waterfall model for software design, so past projects flowed through a structured, sequential process that only allowed progress to the next step once the current step was completed. Under this model, each phase must be completed before the next phase can begin and changes in the process can often result in having to start over entirely. This process was cumbersome and time-consuming for the client. Therefore, the client needed to identify other methodologies to achieve their initiative’s goals.

The client selected TEKsystems due to our ability to provide quality resources with the required technical expertise and a flexible model that could adapt over time as the project moved through the phases of the engagement. TEKsystems provided an experienced Microsoft/Oracle development team to handle responsibility for the full life cycle development of the client’s payment processing system. To meet the client’s need for local or near-shore engagement and to alleviate time zone disparities, TEKsystems proposed managing resources on-site in Florida and in TEKsystems Montreal Solution Center (MSC) in Montreal, Quebec. Space was limited in Florida, so additional resources were based out of the Montreal. The MSC allowed TEKsystems to provide a near-shore solution in the same time zone to supplement the local team.

In order to assist the client in managing the expectations from the parent company, TEKsystems deployed three development sub-teams who could work collaboratively or independently as the project dictated. These teams consisted of an on-site business analyst and team lead as well as software developers and QA analysts based in Montreal. A full-time engagement manager provided oversight of all resources. TEKsystems also guided the client through a transition from Waterfall to Agile methodology. The client internally decided to explore an Agile approach, and TEKsystems was engaged to present an Agile process and educate the client. Agile approaches work in timed cycles known as sprints, and project priorities are re-evaluated and adjusted as required at the end of each cycle. The Agile method also requires a high level of communication, collaboration and continuous feedback.

Using our proprietary TEKnique™ methodology— an iterative, Agile development approach, TEKsystems conducted a thorough analysis of the client’s technical and functional requirements and worked with the client to prioritize requirements into software releases. This approach allowed TEKsystems to respond faster to changes requested by the client, integrate with the client’s team, and discover and manage issues quickly.

TEKsystems successfully supported the client’s development needs by quickly ramping up and ramping down as volume dictated. Our testers conducted a thorough, independent analysis of the client’s code, resulting in a defect rate of less than 1 percent when returned to the client. The high quality of TEKsystems’ work positioned us as a valued partner and led to increased visibility within the client organization and opportunity to assist with client with more strategic priorities, such as a gaming project. The merchant portal was completed on time and under budget.

TEKsystems identified several critical components to the success of the outsourcing engagement and the transition from a Waterfall to an Agile development methodology:

  • Relationships. TEKsystems had an existing relationship with the client’s vice president of applications development, as a result of providing previous staff augmentation services for the client’s development needs. This client contact at the client hired a manager of applications development, who also had prior experience working with TEKsystems and was familiar with TEKsystems’ processes and standards of quality. Both of these client contacts championed TEKsystems and served as a collaborator throughout the engagement, ensuring both parties communicated and worked together to achieve project success.
  • Communication. Initiating a transition from Waterfall to Agile development requires effective communication and detailed planning. TEKsystems held in-person meetings to explain the plan for change and ensure all parties understood the new process. TEKsystems also helped the client manage expectations from the parent company on the application’s timelines and milestones.
  • Flexibility. TEKsystems was engaged to help the client based on the client’s current needs, whether that meant finding a near-shore solution for development support or assisting the client move to an Agile development process. In situations with so much change and uncertainty, TEKsystems found it valuable to set expectations early in the process and define the terms of flexibility.
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