Teamwork Fueled Braintree’s Bill Payment Tech. Here’s How.

To deliver an in-demand solution, Braintree team members embraced ambitious cross-functional collaboration.
February 24, 2021

At the end of 2018, Braintree observed that it had processed around 6 billion transactions that year — a figure that seemingly underscored the high demand of the fast-expanding payments sector.

As the space grew over time, though, the team at the Chicago-based organization said that it saw demand emerge for a service that would facilitate bill payment and processing. Addressing that need — which ultimately culminated in a solution called Bill Pay — prompted the Chicago-based organization and the entities of its parent company, PayPal, to look internally.

“We got together as a group across Braintree, PayPal, Hyperwallet and Venmo to ask: How can we take the best of our products, knit them together and solve some of these problems in a unique way?” Bill Pay Lead Product Manager Jackie Koesters, who was involved in the project since its inception, said.

 

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As Koesters’ colleague and Bill Pay Engineering Lead Preeti Lovekar contextualized, the resulting effort required singularly new levels of collaboration.

“Bill Pay was the first-ever solution that was trying to knit all of these entities of PayPal together,” Lovekar said. “Previously, there was some coordination, but it wasn’t as comprehensive.”

First conceived in late 2018, the development and rollout of Bill Pay commenced the following year. To execute the project, Lovekar and Koesters adopted a “three in a box” model between their product and engineering teams and the organization’s project management office, which served as a helpful rudder to steer efforts when collaborating with colleagues across Venmo, Hyperwallet and PayPal at a global scale.

As the duo told Built In Chicago, not only did the teams need to work harmoniously to achieve a shared vision, but they had to ensure that any technological choices didn’t compromise other pieces of the sprawling PayPal ecosystem.
 

How can we take the best of our products, knit them together and solve some of these problems in a unique way?”

 

Tell us more about Bill Pay and what gave rise to its creation.

Koesters: When you go to pay your gas, electric or other types of bills, those Bill Pay partners are the ones that are managing that. We work with partners to make it easy for billers to accept online payments. With Bill Pay, partners really wanted to modernize it. They wanted the wallet. They wanted Apple Pay, they want Google Pay, they want to pay with PayPal, they want to pay with Venmo. We had a unique offering where we could offer all of those payment methods to them.

Let’s say I’m processing with another provider. I may have to go to one provider for credit cards, go directly to American Express for American Express, and so forth. What we say is: Come to us, we’ll simplify it. It’s one integration. You onboard your merchants once, and we can send one payout to these merchants. We really simplified that process — whereas, before, they were having to go to many different providers to get all the payment methods that we were offering.

 

Behind the Scenes

“Our primary user is the partner. The partner then takes our technology to the biller. The biller then takes our technology to the consumer. As a consumer, you may not be aware of it, but you’re using our technology when you’re paying the bill,” Koesters said of Bill Pay.

 

Were there any new technologies that the engineering team used in order to bring this to fruition?

Koesters: When we started looking at the problems that we needed to solve with Bill Pay, what we realized is that, together, we — Braintree, PayPal, Hyperwallet and Venmo — could solve these problems. It was an effort to unify these solutions to ultimately solve bill-paying problems.

Lovekar: In our technical stack, we layered the Bill Pay solution on top of what we already had. Bill Pay brings together a lot of different adjacencies from PayPal, stitched together with their core competencies, to form the solution that we offer.

While we might not have brought in completely new chunks in terms of a technology stack, every team involved in this effort has had to think differently about scale, resiliency and how we can make the system more flexible so that we can account for these new set of challenges.

I think it’s an even more interesting challenge to modify the existing system to be able to meet the new needs, versus bringing in a whole new tech stack and starting from scratch. Sometimes, it’s harder to do that on an existing system, which has already been baked in — you don’t want to change something because it might affect other things.
 

Bill Pay was the first-ever solution that was trying to knit all of these entities of PayPal together.”

 

What sort of challenges arose in the process of developing Bill Pay?

Koesters: We had different code bases written in different languages. We had to figure out how to get them all to work together to solve the customer’s needs. What was really cool about it was that we worked with people all over the world to make this possible. We learned things about other parts of our businesses that we were not aware of prior to engaging in this. It was an exciting adventure.

Lovekar: All of these systems were built at different times with different priorities and different needs. It can often be hard to try and make them all work together. Given that PayPal is a huge organization, it might take a little while to figure out what the right system is to change in order to meet a certain need, make sure that everything aligns and that we don’t break anything that’s existing.
 

 

What was the scope of teams you worked with, and what collaboration did that require?

Koesters: We learned early that we had to get a common language of what it meant when we said certain terms. We had to be very crisp on the problems that we were trying to solve and not make assumptions. Additionally, we had weekly check-ins across all the divisions to make sure that we were all marching toward the same deadlines to be able to launch this product. We made sure that we pulled in the right people to make sure that the launch went smoothly, which required representation across all the divisions.

Lovekar: This initiative really pushed us to break down silos. We had to understand that when we refer to something, the word for it on the other side might be something else, so we learned to be able to speak each other’s language and understand more about the other systems. It’s opened up a whole different world of people that I now know and have built relationships with.
 

We worked with people all over the world to make this possible.”

 

What do you think the future holds for Bill Pay?

Lovekar: Something that’s already being pursued with some of our partners is to have a consumer side of Bill Pay. Certain Bill Pay partners are very interested in bringing together better experiences for the end users (people like us who just want to pay their bills) and the billers.

Koesters: The biggest thing is thinking about alternative payment methods and how we can continue to bring options to the market to pay their bills. We’re not your traditional credit card provider or credit card processing provider. We bring unique payment methods to the market. I think that will continue to broaden as we continue to expand this offering.

 

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