By The Business Solutions Network
ISVs still needing to address EMV can make the process easier by following this advice.
By the time this issue has reached your mailbox, we’re six months past the EMV liability shift that occurred in October 2015. For many ISVs, there’s still work to be done concerning EMV integrations. For many merchants, there still exists the need to address EMV within their stores. In the months preceding the liability shift, there came to market a bunch of solutions with promises to quickly address EMV for ISVs and their retail customers. But what does “quick” really mean? And what makes an integration “easy?” What should an ISV seek in an integration partner? To answer these questions and more, I sought the advice of two experts in the field of payments.
The Ideal EMV Partner
According to Jeremy Gumbley, CTO of Creditcall, the most important question an ISV should ask its potential partner is how many EMV processor certifications (also known as Level 3) are available for the solution today. “This question is significant because these certifications can take up to nine months to complete,” he says. “With the lines for processor certification overflowing with the spike in demand, off-the-shelf, ready-to-go certifications are incredibly important.”
Another important point, he says, is the choice of PIN pads that are available and how easy the solution is to integrate. Ensure the solution includes strong transaction security via point to point encryption (P2PE) technology. Also, ask what experience the partner has with EMV. For instance, is the USA their first experience with EMV? Finally, terminal management system (TMS) support is critical to keep PIN pads up to date with new firmware and EMV configuration.
On this last point, Terry Zeigler, president and CEO of Datacap Systems, says the number one issue that ISVs should understand is that EMV is not just another feature that they can simply add and then move on. “The reality of EMV is that it requires constant updates and enhancements to maintain compliance,” he says. “For example, as PIN pads become obsolete and new pads are released, they need to be added to the payment interface, recertified, and additionally maintained.” With this in mind, it’s extremely important for an ISV to look for a partner with long and deep experience in all types of payments including specifically EMV.
Like Gumbley, Zeigler says if the prospective partner hasn’t previously been involved in EMV systems abroad (Canada, Europe, etc.), an ISV should be wary. However, he also says ISVs should be certain that their partners have staying power and a reputation for evolving to meet the changing market requirements. Additionally, it’s important for whatever solution an ISV selects to have multiple client side interfaces so the ISV can support a wide variety of operating systems and evolving cloud services interfaces. Finally, he says, the ISV should look for partners that have close relationships with a wide variety of processors and acquirers, not only at the technology level, but also at the business level. This guarantees higher levels of support and offers opportunities for synergistic pricing, product delivery, and compensation relationships between ISVs and processors.
To make the process go as smoothly as possible, Zeigler also says you should expect your payment partner to provide very timely access to their development support specialists and engineers when necessary. “You should also expect your payment partner to deliver accurate and understandable integration documents and on-line test platforms so your developers can do consistent testing throughout the development process at your schedule and convenience,” he says.
The Time Frame For EMV Integration
As mentioned, many vendors tout a fast path to integration, but what does that really mean to you? Zeigler points out that there are three basic types of EMV integration — full direct integration to the processor, integration to a third-party middleware/gateway solution, and semi-integrated to stand-beside terminals. Each has advantages and disadvantages and the upfront development cost varies by processor and the various capabilities supported.
With that caveat, he says semi-integration is the easiest approach and could be done in a couple days. However, he warns of two serious issues. “First, that couple days is multiplied by each terminal for each processor, turning a full EMV support agenda into many weeks of development,” he says. “But you should also expect to have separate receipts for the payment [on terminal] and the purchase [on POS system], which may be totally unacceptable to the merchant and consumer.
“ISVs shouldn’t be swayed by the term ‘easy integration’ without understanding how robust and fl exible the command interface is for the ever-evolving payment requirements.”
Terry Zeigler, president and CEO, Datacap Systems
From a middleware/ gateway perspective, Zeigler says ISVs should expect to spend a couple weeks to integrate, which should shield the ISV from any PIN pad development and certification. “In this case, it winds up being a single integration to many processors and many PIN pads,” he says.
For an ISV totally new to EMV development, Zeigler says they should expect to spend eight months to a year to do a direct processor integration, which requires not only the host processor certification, but also certification to each card brand (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Discover, JCB, etc.). “For ISVs with EMV experience, that timeline could drop to six to eight months, assuming they can get timely cooperation from the processor based on any significant potential business they’d bring. But that integration is for one PIN pad. Each additional device has to be developed and recertified to the host and each card brand.
Can EMV Integration Be Easy?
With claims of easy integrations, ISVs have to wonder if it’s just marketing speak or truth. While we don’t want to accuse anyone of lying, it does seem best to be cautious about the level of difficulty and amount of work involved. Gumbley says some vendors claim easy integration but leave the burden of understanding the complexities of EMV to the developer. “It’s always worth asking if a full evaluation version is available that will support a test integration,” he says, adding that during the integration process it is vital to work with a partner who provides very responsive and technically comprehensive support.
Zeigler says part of the challenge is understanding the level of functional support that is being proposed by the partner. “Many of the advertised ‘easy integrations’ cover nothing but a simple sale transaction,” he reveals. “But to have a salable solution, you have to do many transaction types including sales, returns, voids, adjustments, tips, etc.” He continues by saying that some partners propose that an ISV support only credit card transactions. But, again, to have a saleable solution, most ISVs need to support many payment types including credit, debit, EBT, gift card, loyalty, etc. “These are just the bare bones functional decision points,” he adds. “My guess is that the various command interfaces are relatively comparable in terms of ease of integration, but the richness of the transaction/payment type set combined with the simplicity and flexibility of the API are the real differentiating factors as it relates to the term ‘easy integration’. ISVs shouldn’t be swayed by the term ‘easy integration’ without understanding how robust and flexible the command interface is for the ever-evolving payment requirements. Again, look for a partner with long-term experience.”
How To Speed Up The Integration Process
To make an EMV integration go as quickly and smoothly as possible, Gumbley says ISVs should build in time upfront to find out information on the aforementioned questions and advice. This will help avoid months of unplanned waiting (e.g., for a required certification) or unplanned costs (e.g., shifting unnecessary burden to your development team).
Zeigler urges you to choose the right payment partner wisely so that you don’t wind up having to re-do or revisit the work that you’ve done initially because it is no longer relevant, transferrable, or scalable to the next processor/ device requirement. Once that decision is made, dedicate the resources necessary to respond timely to each development checkpoint. Do all this, and you’ll be on your way to an EMV integration. How quick and easy will depend on your needs.