Mobile Commerce

New Year’s (Technology) Resolutions

In the world of payments and commerce, it’s arguable that 2015 will quickly dissipate in the rearview mirror as a result of the fast pace in technology innovation and adoption that was established during the year. That continued acceleration is creating massive disruption across all industries, says James Barrese, CTO and SVP of Payments at PayPal.

In a recent conversation with PYMNTS, Barrese laid out some tech-focused “resolutions,” as it were, that businesses need to embrace in order to be a part of the future, rather than a distant memory.


PYMNTS: How can the role of technology be elevated within a company and used to drive innovation?

JB: By making technology a strategic business asset.

Today every company is a technology company. Technology is driving businesses forward and completely changing business models. Look at how it’s transformed the music industry, the automotive industry, even the entertainment industry. It’s at the center of everyday items like thermostats, refrigerators and smoke alarms. Who would have thought 10 years ago that we’d be where we are today?

But we are here, and to stay ahead every company needs to make technology a strategic asset. IDC Research predicts that by the end of 2017, two-thirds of the CEOs of Global 2000 Enterprises will have “Digital Transformation” at the center of their corporate strategy.

If you’re a technology leader at your company, get yourself a seat at the table to demonstrate how you enable and support the company’s vision and business strategy. Simply put, in order to truly innovate you must have fluid lines of communication with executive leadership, so you can bring forward innovative ideas that deliver competitive advantages and drive the business forward, while also gaining outside-in perspective and buy-in to support your team’s work.


PYMNTS: What do you mean by “outside-in perspective?”

JB: It’s about knowing where your customers are, and being able to meet them there.

Having a seat at the table gives you the advantage of learning from others, such as those on your strategy, finance, marketing and sales teams. They’ve often got rich data on the market, the competition, and your customers – all of which can provide invaluable insight for innovation. For example, you need to know where your customers are so you can build to meet their needs. One of the best examples of this is mobile.

Everyone is on mobile now. In fact, it’s had the fastest mass adoption in history. With more than 7.2 billion mobile devices in the world, there are more phones than people on this planet now. Furthermore, analysts report that by 2020, 70 percent of world’s population will have smartphones. Mobile has changed every aspect of how we live: how we interact with each other, conduct business and tackle everyday tasks. We’re reliant on fast, secure accessibility wherever we are. We expect it and feel inconvenienced when we don’t have it, which is why it’s crucial to meet our customers there.

Ask yourself, are you mobile first? Are your mobile teams bigger than your Web teams? If not, why not? And while today it’s mobile, tomorrow it will be something else.


PYMNTS: What can companies do to keep pace with those changes — which, as you point out, are not always predictable?

JB: To be competitive, you’ve got to move fast and be ready to pivot even faster to survive. Essentially, businesses have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

To keep up with today’s accelerated pace of change, you’re not always going to have all the answers and you have to be willing to make some big bets. That means embracing new technologies before they are the tried and true: You have to take risks to innovate. Today’s CTOs and CIOs must be constantly investing in new technologies to reap big benefits and drive greater efficiencies for even better innovative outcomes.

This means looking at new opportunities with 3rd Platform (3P) technologies like cloud, big data and cognitive computing. IDC Research predicts that by 2020 we’ll see adoption of key 3P technologies, and the rollout of digital transformation initiatives double or triple – with some elements expanding tenfold, one hundred-fold, and even ten thousand-fold.


PYMNTS: What in your experience at PayPal has contributed to your view of the importance of technology in the overall growth of a business?

JB: Every day at PayPal, we’re faced with the need for our innovation to keep pace with our scale and growth. We disrupted traditional approaches and have been reinventing our core infrastructure from the ground up.

As you can imagine, it’s an enormous project but well worth it, because our internal private cloud, based on OpenStack, provides us with the foundation necessary to innovate, so we can quickly deliver next-gen products and services to our customers. The same goes for containerization, a technology that’s generating a mass amount of buzz now, but something our developers embraced early on.


PYMNTS: On the cusp of the New Year, what strategy would you recommend to companies that they can implement immediately?

JB: Start looking at the industry’s hot new technologies and map them against your business needs now. This will help you align yourself with the business, and empower your teams to innovate better and faster.

As technologists, it’s in our nature to reimagine, create, invent and modernize. And our customers are hungry for the next big thing. Resolve to make 2016 the year you put yourself in the driver’s seat. Use these resolutions to challenge yourself – push the boundaries to dream up new, next-gen concepts that transform the world we live in today and up the game for tomorrow.


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