Excitement is in the Air – 2012 Mifos Summit Recap

This past month, we concluded our first-ever global gathering of the Mifos community at our 2012 Mifos Summit in Bangalore, India. It was a huge success with 42 people in attendance from a dozen countries including 11 Specialists,  20 microfinance practitioners, and 11 contributors and strategic partners. I was thrilled to meet community members new and old for the first time and to finally put faces to all the names/voices behind the Skype calls. I was proud to see all the interactions and camaraderie that was shared throughout the grounds of the venue in Bangalore.

First off we want to graciously thank Paul Maritz for proposing and funding the summit; without him none of it would have been possible. A big thank you as well to Cat Allman and Google’s Open Source Programs office who pitched in last minute support to allow us to offer travel scholarships to several more individuals flying in from Africa. Please also extend your gratitude to Suresh, Arun, Praveen, and Rao from Grameen Koota for hosting the summit and conducting site visits along with Nirantara. Finally, a huge thank you to Vishwas, Nayan, and Ashok from Conflux Technologies who went out of their way to ensure smooth logistics and coordinate activities on the ground in Bangalore.

mission 3,000,000,000 MariesAll in all, it was a productive (at some times hectic) summit in which we covered our primary objectives set forth in our agenda. We overcame poor WiFi, purple screen projectors, and pockets of rain to achieve our goals:

  • We collectively created a Mifos X product roadmap for 2013
  • We successfully introduced the new platform and collaboration model to developers
  • We laid the groundwork for a Specialist Program that will empower them to distribute and support Mifos X sustainably worldwide.

It was also a time to see another less serious side of the community as we had some fun down-time too. While we were limited in our time to experience Bangalore, we had some great competitions in table tennis and basketball – of which Team Poland emerged victorious.

Arun readies his serve for Somash.

Arun readies his serve for Somash.

Looking back at the summit, I’m most fond of how well it established that we are a community – we instilled that vital sense of belonging and made everyone feel that we are a part of this movement led by COSM.  For the first time, people were able to see, hear, and share in the similar experiences and efforts they all had undertaken. Specialists, MFIs, and developers alike could see the deep investment and commitment everyone has pledged towards our project.  This shared commitment and responsibility for the project renewed confidence in its success and built great optimism for where we’re headed.

A high level of energy and momentum filled the air throughout the summit. I could feel a constant buzz of energy even late into the night that was fueled by excitement and invigoration for the future and Mifos X that continues online throughout the project today.

One of the many hallway discussions at the Mifos Summit

One of the many hallway discussions at the Mifos Summit

A high level of energy and momentum filled the air throughout the summit. I could feel a constant buzz of energy even late into the night that was fueled by excitement and invigoration for the future and Mifos X that continues online throughout the project today.

We learned many lessons for improving the summit and are eager to grow this into an annual conference. We are already planning when and where to host this in 2013 so stay tuned for more info.

Product and Vision Planning Sessions

We dedicated the majority of the summit to brainstorming and laying out the vision and roadmap for Mifos X.  By having more than 3 dozen members of the community in one room for the first time, we aimed to capitalize on the diversity of backgrounds, geographies, and skillsets by bringing these ideas and perspectives together.

Kicking off the summit we hosted a session on the vision of not only our product but our entire community and the direction we should head to respond to the ever-growing demands of bringing financial services to the poor. The range of experiences shared and the advice provided, opened our eyes and gave a unifying clarity to what we wanted to achieve through both COSM and the Mifos X platform.

Some of the main takeaways were:

  • Simplicity, flexibility, cost, and local support are key differentiators amongst competition.
  • Focus – identify our target market, build from our strengths, and find success there first.
  • Client data as the focal point for all the financial and information flows in our platform.

A “prototype” of our vision started to emerge for Craig and is captured here:

Since our group was so large but we wanted everyone to participate, we structured the product roadmap discussion into three sessions. During each session there would be three concurrent groups covering a core functional area of the product.  Each was led by a subject matter expert to facilitate a smooth and thorough discussion.

Breakout Session for Mifos X Roadmap Planning

Breakout Session for Mifos X Roadmap Planning

The following day we presented the main requirements and takeways from each session and collectively prioritized the high-level roadmap for 2013.  Accounting and Reporting undoubtedly rose to the top.  We also identified some important requirements for mobile, client data, and systems integration along with key inputs on security and overall user experience for Mifos X. Visit the wiki for detailed notes from each session.

summit-roadmap-2

A substantial portion of the requirements discussed have already been built or are being built in Mifos X, so we are well on our way. With these priorities in place, we are now going to take these detailed business requirements and allocate and schedule them into a detailed roadmap for 2013 – watch JIRA for updates and get ready to help in fleshing out the detailed specs.

Next Steps

  • Complete priorities 1, 2, 3 which were already well-incorporated in the 2012 Mifos X product plan.
  • Input requirements into issue tracker & solicit detailed use cases/specs from community.
  • Schedule and allocate resources for these features across 2013 roadmap.

summit opening

We then broke out into parallel tracks with Keith and John leading the developers and technically-oriented attendees and Craig and Ed leading the Specialists and business-oriented attendees.

Developer Sessions

Keith and John hosted a number of sessions to introduce the new Mifos X platform and its underlying  architecture and design as well as the development framework for which we’ll lead a community-driven development model in 2013. In total two dozen of our techies participated in the following sessions:

  • Mifos X Introduction (technical overview, nuts & bolts of architecture, hands-on building of App through API)
  • Orientation on our Collaboration Model (GitHub, setting up environment, discussion on processes/challenges)
Techies during a developer tutorial session.

Techies during a developer tutorial session.

The main takeaways from these sessions were:

1. We laid the foundation for bringing in the next layer of external developers onto Mifos X by

  • Establishing the GitHub-based collaboration model we will use for development going forward – fork/pull method for all contributions (both paid/unpaid)
  • Reducing the barriers of people using the tools, accessing the code, asking for help
    • Pulled in some minor code commits from Natu and Udai during summit.
    • Developers from MFIs such as Ismail from enda, George from Al Majmoua, Praveen from GK are starting to develop.

2. We showed in a hands-on manner the benefits of Mifos X & chosen architecture by

  • Demonstrating core areas of the platform and how they’re approached through the API.
  • Connecting the business requirements discussed in roadmap planning sessions with how easily these could be built through the API in Mifos X.
Enjoying the Indian cuisine

Enjoying the Indian cuisine

Next Steps

  1. Onboard developers from larger MFIs & Specialists with simple development tasks
  2. Publicize the collaboration infrastructure for new developers
  3. Conduct a regular online developer meetup focused on Mifos X development topics.

Specialist Sessions

Craig and Ed hosted several sessions with the rest of the attendees made up of Specialists, strategic partners, and MFIs (Mifos and non-Mifos users).  We identified the business and project management challenges faced so we could build out the Specialist Program. We validated the core strategy of COSM, the fundamental role Specialists play, and the areas where we can add the most value.  These sessions included a discussion on implementation best practices, an introduction of our Specialist program, and a roundtable on challenges promoting Mifos and where COSM can leverage its strengths the most.

Please refer to the Specialist session notes for more but here are the main points that emerged:

  • Need for education and overall awareness of the market about Mifos
  • Stronger online presence to highlight our successes and showcase customer references.
  • Recognition, validation, and endorsement of active qualified Mifos Specialists.
  • Importance of strategic relationships with local influencers like funders and national associations.
  • Many opportunities in the marketplace and a willingness to pay for this certification, awareness, endorsement, and training.

Even during the summit itself, new opportunities were blossoming as several Specialists were able to strike new support agreements with MFIs they’d yet to meet in person until now.  New Specialists are emerging and MFIs themselves have a strong willingness to purchase training for their IT staff.

Next Steps

  • Launch the initial Specialist Program to recognize current group of active Specialists.
  • Improve websites for SEO, awareness and selling Mifos as a solution through our Specialists.
  • Begin top-down demand generation by deepening relationships with existing local influencers.
Mifos Developers Unite – Lukasz, Udai, and Michal

Mifos Developers Unite – Lukasz, Udai, and Michal

Community Sessions

To tie it all together, we discussed how the community could better collaborate and stay connected post-summit. We decided to move forward with proposing and adopting both a code of conduct and Community Council made up of Regional Community Leads.  These Regional Community Leads will be the local champions for Mifos and COSM in their region, expanding our global virtual community into a local and physical one. They will be entasked with evangelizing the initiative and ensuring that members of the community collaborate and come together in-person for events. A strong level of interest was shown and we’ve got several promising candidates to take on these roles in each of the regions.

Community Coming Together – look at those awesome shirts!

Community Coming Together – look at those awesome shirts!

Next Steps

  • Publish the community code of conduct.
  • Select regional community leads (Community Council) and provide them with needed tools.

Site Visits

Cheery faces welcomed us at the center meeting

Cheery faces welcomed us at the center meeting

On Day 3, we headed out to Tumkur, a town a couple hours outside of Bangalore to visit a Grameen Koota center meeting as well as a branch office for both Grameen Koota and Nirantara.  For many of the attendees like our developers, it was their first time seeing Mifos in operation – a perfect chance to finally see what they’ve been coding being used! Others took this time to see how processes differ from MFI to MFI and country to country.  The pictures speak for themselves so check them out.
Praveen explaining documents reviewed during center meeting

Praveen explaining documents reviewed during center meetingPraveen explaining documents reviewed during center meeting

Center Meeting of GK borrowers in Tumkur

Center Meeting of GK borrowers in Tumkur

Packing into a GK branch office to check out operations

Packing into a GK branch office to check out operations

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 46 = 54