A “professional” system integration solution provider for merchants

Today we introduce you to Youhei Kanetou who works closely with merchants on the development of their systems to enable the use of PayPay payments in their websites and services. Youhei actively seeks out ways to solve problems from the perspectives of merchants, users and PayPay.

Youhei Kanetou Online Payment & Mini App Department. He works closely with merchants on the development of their systems to enable the use of PayPay payments in their websites and services.

Considering not just the technical aspects but how the system can contribute to the merchant’s profit

What does your job entail?

My job is to enable PayPay payments in merchants’ systems, such as their websites or in mini apps within the PayPay app. I provide support on the system development necessary to integrate the merchant’s own payment system or the payment gateway service that the merchant uses with PayPay’s system, as these systems can be distinctly different. The actual development is done by the development team on the merchant’s or gateways’ side, so as the platformer, we coordinate requests for our system team and to brainstorm solutions for various development related issues that arise. Internally, we call this the system integration process, and there are mainly three members on the team who take on multiple such projects at once.

Our job entails not only thinking about the technical aspects, but to also stand in the merchant’s shoes to work out how the system can best contribute to the merchant’s profit. We first actively gather all the requests the merchant has, then think about how they can be reflected in the system or whether it is technically feasible, before finally proposing the optimal solution.

What is the process leading up to the release?

Taking a mini app as an example, the department who has been negotiating with the merchant to get them onboarded with PayPay lets me know when a decision has been made for a service to be added as a mini app, at which point, the project gets assigned to my team.

After the project is assigned, I have meetings with the merchant to determine the features and specifications of the mini app. This would include, for example, whether users are to be managed by their email address, or whether a two-factor authentication to verify the users’ identity is required. I look into the feasibility after collecting such requests. Throughout the process, we also discuss how to ensure good usability for the user in the UIUX, such as the flow of screens and position of buttons. Since it isn’t us that carries out the development, what we do is more a review from different perspectives, such as whether it will cause any impact to PayPay’s system, or whether the usability has no issues.

Once the development is done, a load test is conducted both on the merchant’s system and PayPay’s system, in advance to the release. It usually takes several months until the release, during which time I maintain a very close relationship with the merchant.

Kaneto (top row, center) and a colleague of the online payment & mini app department

Thinking about the optimal system from three perspectives: the user, the merchant and PayPay

What do you focus on in particular in the daily communication with merchants to create a system?

Although there are a lot of things I keep in mind, the most important thing is to remember that it isn’t just about PayPay or just the user or just the merchant. It’s about creating the optimal and most appealing system that works for all three.

Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I focus in particular on creating a system that is easy to use for the merchant. “User-first” is what is usually considered with priority when creating a service, but if the system is not attractive to the merchant, it may end up not being used by the merchant, which means it will not reach the user. That’s why I make it a point to focus on the issues the merchant has as well as other ensuing issues that can be expected so that they can be solved.

It does go without saying though that “whether it’s convenient from the user’s perspective” and “whether it’s optimal within the PayPay app, the platform” are important perspectives when making a proposal.

Instead of looking at things from one perspective, such as “that’s against PayPay’s rules,” or “this has to be changed because the merchant says so” or “this is the only way to do it from the user’s perspective,” I always think about which of the three should come first in a particular situation and try to make suggestions based on that.

What kind of suggestions do you make?

That’s a hard question to answer (laughs). Let me see… The first thing is to propose a UIUX that ensures good usability from the user’s point of view.

The system that PayPay uses and the system the merchant uses are different, so various issues are usually exposed during the process of trying to integrate the two. I propose solutions for these issues as they come up in each phase.

An example would be – after a payment, PayPay’s system runs a particular process, let’s say process A, whereas a different process B is run on the merchant’s side in accordance with the rules of their system. The conversation will just keep going in circles if we say, “we can only do A” and they say, “we only do B,” and yet it’s not as though we can say “okay then, we’ll switch over to B from tomorrow” since it will impact the entire system, which is unrealistic from a time & cost point of view. So, rather than surrendering to one or the other’s way, I try to propose a process C that does not incur any development costs and is convenient for the user.

It feels pretty good when I’m able to come up with a proposal that’s convenient and easy to use for both the user and the merchant, plus it’s easy to develop.

I imagine it’s not easy to find the cure-all solution. How do you come up with it?

You have the chance to look at so many different systems in this job, you develop a sort of sixth sense about what’s probably going to be the best solution, like a gut feeling on what issues the merchant is probably facing, the corresponding solutions and what is required to satisfy the merchants. A lot of issues are identified throughout the whole process, from defining the requirements to the system development, but the bottom line is that I put on my merchant hat to grapple with each and every problem to get it resolved.

PayPay’s APIs are used for the development, but sometimes some minor modifications need to be made based on individual requests and problems, in which case, PayPay’s development team is involved to contemplate the specifications. Since the development team already has so many things on their plate it’s important to coordinate & persuade them to prioritize these tasks, which can be quite back-breaking (laughs).

It sounds like there’s a lot of coordinating involved.

Yes, coordinating is an important part of the job. It is my team that stands between the various parties involved including PayPay, the merchant, the client (such as the gateway service) and the users. It is our job to look at things from all those different perspectives. I find it fun to do that, and it’s rewarding when you can figure out a solution that satisfies everyone, which solves the problem.

Kaneto (below) and the boss of the online payment & mini app department

Creating a developer-friendly framework in addition to solving the problem at hand

When did you join PayPay?

July 2018. Before that I was responsible for an e-commerce site as the go-to person between the development and planning teams, providing the overall direction on system development. Before that, I worked as an engineer for about 10 years.

What do you find appealing about working at PayPay, after 2 and a half years?

I love being involved in the development of systems of many different companies, given PayPay’s broad range of merchants across various industries. It’s a great learning curve, and is also fun seeing the systems I work on being released to the world.

One more thing that’s appealing is that I can participate in reviewing the UIUX of the app as well, not just the backend, unlike in teams that provide system development support for clients in other companies. This requires a lot more effort compared to just working on the backend, but helping to create a screen that directly reaches the user is very rewarding, as well as being a great opportunity to acquire new skills.

What are your future challenges and goals at PayPay?

In addition to solving issues posed by merchants, I want to create a developer-friendly development environment so that more and more businesses and shops can integrate with PayPay.

For example, the company is currently focused on mini apps, with the aim to significantly increase the line-up of mini apps that are offered. Hiring more people on the team would do if we speed things up to, let’s say, double the velocity compared to what we’ve done so far, but PayPay is aiming for a speed that is of a completely different scale – something like 100 times faster. At that scale, the development process itself has to be updated instead of merely hiring people, so I want to work on updating the specification documents and automating processes where possible.

On the other hand, allowing the quality of our support for each merchant to drop away to accommodate more projects is something that has to be avoided, and that’s why we need to work on making a developer-friendly framework to integrate with PayPay. This is, however, something I currently don’t have enough time to work on with all the immediate tasks I need to get done.

Now that PayPay is available everywhere in Japan, I also want to contribute to making online payments more available, as well as mini apps.

Last but not least, do you have any messages to the people thinking about applying for the job opening in your team?

It’s a challenging and rewarding job for engineers who wants to expand their horizon and get involved in interacting and negotiating with clients.

Although the job is very demanding, having to stand between different teams, merchants and users, we are looking for someone who has a strong will to accomplish what they set out to do, since it’s necessary to remain firm on what has to be done while standing in other people’s shoes and addressing different situations flexibly. PayPay is still working hard on increasing the number of merchants, which means that the diversity of merchants the team handles will increase even further. If coordinating with both internal & external stakeholders while staying true to your background in engineering is what you’re looking for, here we are waiting for you to join the team!

A particular day at work for Kanetou-san

Morning Before workGet up at 5 am every morning and take a walk for about 30 minutes. Study coaching through an online course.
08:00 Start workGo through the inbox and Slack messages. Address a massive number of messages every day that arrive from various internal departments and clients. Check and revise proposals to merchants prepared by my team members.
10:00 Team MTGKnowledge sharing session on projects handled by team members.
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Internal & External MeetingsAttend meetings with various teams in the company. There are many meetings in particular with the development team, and afternoons can be jam-packed on some days. Attend weekly meetings with clients to discuss mini apps.
Finish work The exact time depends on the day. After work, dinner with the family, then play shogi (Japanese chess) or watch anime to feel refreshed.
The following positions related to this article are open. System Consultant for Merchants
Edited by: Daiki (PayPay Inside-Out Editorial Team) *Employees’ affiliations are as of the time of the interview.
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