CIO Mark Ballinger explains why Payapps.com’s application for payment solution matters to the construction industry
Payapps.com’s chief information officer (CIO) Mark Ballinger saw the potential for revolutionising payments in the construction industry. So much so, in fact, that he bought into the company shortly after meeting founder Lincoln Easton.
“I wasn’t the founder, but I liked what I saw. It was clear that both sides of the supply chain benefitted from the prototyped solution,” said Ballinger.
For Ballinger, the initial draw was that it was such a simple idea – a straightforward solution to an age old problem. It’s well known that the construction industry is behind the curve when investing in IT compared with many other industries, he points out. And as a rule, construction professionals spend less time on computers than white collar workers. So to ensure its broader adoption, any online payments system would need to be easy to use and keep the complexities of both the technology and its architecture hidden from the user.
But that wasn’t the only challenge. “Another problem was that the initial prototype lacked scalability, making it less commercially viable at that early stage,” said Ballinger. “The obvious next step was to raise capital. I then bought into the project fully by becoming the product owner. Whilst the concept was innovative it was clear that to ensure a sustainable and scalable solution that we should redevelop from the ground up, with a robust model to build on.”
A critical step was to make sure that any development allowed the solution to be device-agnostic, allowing it to work on any device, at any time and in any location. This approach meant that Payapps.com could simply work where construction professionals are – on building sites. So Mark and his team designed the interfaces on a mobile-first basis, and only once they’d done that did they look at using the additional real estate that other devices, such as laptops, would provide.
“This was especially important given our international aspirations. Eighteen to 24 months ago, Australia was predominantly using iOS, but it’s different elsewhere. Other markets are predominantly Android, for example,” he says.
“We needed something very simple, and it didn’t need to look particularly cute,” Ballinger goes on to say. Where looks did matter was in terms of usability and the idea was that the system would be low-maintenance for users – just log on, on any device and that’s that.
The notion of simplicity also applies to the development itself.
“We had some support from Amazon’s architects. This helped us design a flexible infrastructure with the scalability we were looking for. They have a sponsorship programme ‘Accelerate’ – and this gave us some free credits while we were getting the product established. I love their stuff. It gives us scalability without having to make unnecessary investments in our own infrastructure,” he said.
Using the Amazon cloud platform meant that collaboration could be baked into the system, where other solutions are limited to use within a single company. This chimes with the collaborative nature of both the construction industry and of its supply chains.
“We are in the niche of what we call financial collaboration,” says Ballinger. “There are huge numbers of subcontractors working in the construction industry, and yet up to now our systems haven’t reflected that reality.”
With Payapps.com, the aggravation and complexity are removed from the application for payment and valuation processing – transactions are no longer double- or even triple-handled. A shared platform that updates in real time puts everyone on the same page, delivering true transparency and supports collaboration.
By doing away with the messiness and inefficiencies of current manual application for payment processes, Payapps.com brings true leadership to construction—and the recognition is coming, says Ballinger.
“When you’re meeting potential customers you can see that everyone just gets it. We’re definitely getting real traction here in Australia. And we now have live sites in the UK, where there is strong interest, with other major contractors currently reviewing or piloting the solution. It’s a global problem that we’re addressing. Different territories may refer to the process in different ways, (Australians refer to applications for payment as claims, for example), but the common theme is that no matter what territory you work in people see the major pain points.”
Ballinger’s role has propelled him to the top of Australia’s CIO list, but he says it’s really about the company and product, not him.
“It’s great publicity for the company,” he said.
“The stuff we do is incredibly cool. It reflects on the incredibly good team that we’ve put together. It’s my job to keep them focused. So I’m a good generalist—I know enough about a lot of things. Managing is really about priorities. The cost of development versus the best team. ‘Customer needs’ versus ‘What prospects want’. So you can’t go too far one way or the other. I try to get the best balance of ‘bang for buck.’ I manage expectations and competing priorities.”
Ballinger has an eye for the intersection of technology, finance and construction, so the future looks bright for construction professionals that want to use technologies to make life easier for everyone – real leadership in construction.
“The construction industry is playing catch-up on technology. There will always be macroeconomic difficulties, and construction always seems to suffer first. The challenge is getting systems to integrate so there’s no scattergun of solutions, and instead you can really streamline your business processes.”
- Payapps.com sees technology as the best way to free up construction professionals to focus on the business.
- A collaborative industry like construction needs collaborative solutions, and today’s technologies make that possible like never before.
- Payapps.com builds simple solutions, concealing underlying complexities from construction professionals, who just want to log on and get the job done.