Posts

Aligning Volunteer Passion with User Pain

4549865709_0c58f4c739_bHead on over to the Community for Open Source Microfinance blog for a post on how we’re trying to help channel the passion and talents of our volunteers to solve the needs and pains of our users. We recently published the process for requesting new features and voting on suggestions to make their way into the product roadmap.  The product roadmap is what guides our volunteer contributors and we want it be user-driven so they can provide new features that directly meet your business requirements. Our Community Feature Requests Dashboard captures all feature requests that have come in and provides a visual glimpse of how the product management team prioritizes your feedback.

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Announcing the Margaret H Release

Following the transition of Mifos from the Grameen Foundation, we’re pleased to announce the first major release of Mifos fully supported by community members.  This release will be code-named Margaret H in recognition of Margaret Matinde, one of the many women that Nuru Kenya has been empowering to rise up from extreme poverty.

Margaret Matinde has been a Nuru client for three years. Throughout this time, Nuru gave her the ability to save and the opportunity to take out a loan to start a successful restaurant business. Now instead of struggling to provide for her children, she can send them to school and focus on building their future. For the past year and a half, Nuru has been using Mifos to administer loans and savings accounts to clients like Margaret through their Community Economic Development program.  Rebecca Herrington and her team have been an active and engaged community member throughout the transition.

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Passing the Torch – Community Ships First Release Post-Transition

Grameen Foundation is pleased to announce the release of Mifos 2.2.1 which has been fully developed and supported by the SolDevelo team, Udai Gupta, and other members of the community. Major enhancements include the first API module in Mifos, the ability to attach client photos, the flexibility to edit client date of birth and center, a new Telugu translation, and numerous bug fixes. Beyond the new functionality and the API module that’s been launched, what’s most important is this is the first Mifos release that’s been purely supported and developed by the community independent of Grameen Foundation.

We are thrilled by the community support for this release.  This is a significant release functionally and architecturally and marks a major step in the transition of Mifos from Grameen Foundation to the community.

Rather than simply list off features let’s look at what this release means for the community.

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Profamilia Goes Live with Mifos in Mozambique

IMG-20110808-00006Great news from Mozambique as we have another Mifos deployment live and another Mifos user to welcome to the community.  Miguel and Natu from Iniciativa Mifos Moçambique just finished implementing Mifos at Profamilia Moçambique.  Miguel is leading efforts to promote and distribute Mifos all throughout Southern Africa – his team has successfully brought the Mifos technology to Associação Progresso in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique and to Kongalend Financial Services in Namibia. Beyond Mozambique, their team is seeking out additional Mifos users to add to the community in Zambia and Cape Verde.

Profamilia Moçambique’s microfinance operations serve the province of Inhambane, benefiting the populations of the districts of Inhambane, Zavala, Inharime, Morrumbene through the provision of more inclusive financial services. They target their solidarity group loans at low income customers, particularly women.

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SolDevelo: Nimble Java Ninjas Fighting Poverty from Poland

soldevelo_1200We want to take the chance to highlight one of the top contributors to our community, SolDevelo, based in Gdynia, Poland. They are a telling example that no matter where you are located in the world, you can play your part towards creating a world of 3 Billion Maries.

Finding talented Java developers is always a challenge, especially given the complex business requirements that Mifos supports. Yet our team is always impressed that whatever project we send to SolDevelo, they quickly and thoroughly deliver a solution of superb quality.  Their nimble team is always up to the challenge, ready and willing to work on new features, fixing bugs, building reports, quality assurance – whatever our users need for a better product. Many thanks to Jakub for writing this post to highlight his team and the work they’ve done on the Mifos project.

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Kongalend Deployment Kicks off in Namibia

The Iniciativa Mifos® Moçambique team recently concluded a trip out to Windhoek, Namibia, kicking off Mifos deployment with the team at Kongalend Financial Services. 

KL-logo-FINAL-wb2Earlier this year, I got several emails from Semba Funda, the IT manager, at Kongalend Financial Services in Namibia. Semba had expressed a strong desire to use Mifos but was in need of a local expert to help them get the full benefits of Mifos.  Kongalend is a Namibian microfinance instutition based in Windhoek providing credit and power loan products to those with limited or no access to financial services. They were looking to streamline their operations and have greater control over what their software could do for their business. Their existing system, LendMaster, had very limited support and was impeding day to day operations; they were confident Mifos was the solution for them. With the Iniciativa Mifos® Moçambique team at their side, they’re now ready for a Mifos solution that will allow sustainable growth for the microcredit activities and expansion to several Namibian regions.

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Building a Better Community Experience

main-board-everything1Thoughts on how the Mifos community can follow David Eaves’ advice on enabling a better community experience based on his analysis of Mozilla metrics and dashboards analyzin contributors and their interactions.

David Eaves, a public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert who advises businesses on open source strategies and community management, put together a fascinating post on his blog. He takes a look at a set of dashboards and metrics Mozilla is using to measure the efficiency of its contributor community. He has pulled together some great insight that our (and any open source community) could follow to maintain better relationships with contributors and enable greater interaction and collaboration across a community.  We’re very excited to see such a large project like Mozilla doing this and should try to do it more formally with our contributor data in MifosForge.

For us, an area that we would really like to dig deep down into is metrics of our implementer community. We’re building pretty solid data on who our independent users are and who are specialists implementing Mifos along with rough metrics to measure that progress.  To help grow the user base of our software and identify how we can increase adoption, we need to understand the overall implementer experience. We’ve begun to analyze the lifecycle of a deployment, pinpointing the pain points along the way. Once we know more about where our users are, why they use our software, and what stage of deployment is most challenging, we can begin to improve the overall experience – i.e. make our software easier to deploy, improve our documentation, etc.

Here are a few noted highlights from David’s post.

Reducing Barriers to Cooperation

David on “Why the contributor experience is a key driver for success of open source projects”

“This task is made all the more complicated since Mozilla’s ability to fulfill its mission and compete against larger, better funded competitors depends on its capacity to tap into a large pool of social capital – a corps of paid and unpaid coders whose creativity can foster new features and ideas. Competing at this level requires Mozilla to provide processes and tools that can effectively harness and coordinate that energy at minimal cost to both contributors and the organization.

As I discussed in my Mozilla Summit talk on Community Management, processes that limit the size or potential of our community limit Mozilla.Conversely, making it easier for people to cooperate, collaborate, experiment and play enhances the community’s capacity. Consequently, open source projects should – in my opinion – constantly be looking to reduce or eliminate transactions costs and barriers to cooperation. A good example of this is how Github showed that forking can be a positive social contribution. Yes it made managing the code base easier, but what it really did was empower people. It took something everyone thought would kill open source projects – forking – and made it a powerful tool of experimentation and play.”

We have struggled with this given the learning curve for Mifos is so high and the codebase can be so murky once you get deep into it.  Seeking to overcome that, we try to put out as clear of documentation as possible, use tools that are open and transparent, and use the best-in-class open source libraries as we modularize our platform.  That being said, it requires a strong culture and a deep commitment to reducing these barriers that we as many open source projects must improve upon.

Building a Better Experience

David on “Using Data to Build a Better Contributor Experience”

“Unfortunately, it is often hard to quantitatively assess how effectively an open source community manages itself. Our goal is to change that. The hope is that these dashboards – and the data that underlies them – will provide contributors with an enhanced situational awareness of the community so they could improve not just the code base, but the community and its processes. If we can help instigate a faster pace of innovation of change in the processes of Mozilla, then I think this will both make it easier to improve the contributor experience and increase the pace of innovation and change in the software. That’s the hope.

…An open source communities volunteer contributors should be a treasured resource. One nice thing about this dashboard is that you can not only see just volunteers, but you can get a quick sense of those who haven’t submitted a patch in a while.

Using this view we can see who are volunteers who are starting to participate less – note the red circle marked “everything okay?” A good community manager might send these people an email asking if everything is okay. Maybe they are moving on, or maybe they just had a baby (and so are busy with a totally different type of patch – diapers), but maybe they had a bad experience and are frustrated, or a bunch of code is stuck in review. These are things we would want to know, and know quickly, as losing these contributors would be bad. In addition, we can also see who are the emerging power contributors – they might be people we want to mentor, or connect with mentors in order to solidify their positive association with our community and speed up their development. In my view, this should be core responsibilities of community managers and this dashboard makes it much easier to execute on these opportunities.”

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With a business domain that is so complex and a product that is so niche, we fully know that finding quality contributors is a challenge.  Retaining them and keeping them actively involved is a priority. We can use data to help us know who is actively contributing, who is dropping off and what areas of the product they’re contributing to. By understanding the overall contributor experience, we can build the processes and culture to increase community stickiness and incent volunteers to participate more.  Our mission of 3 Billion Maries is strong and we try to actively recognize our Star Contributors but we have much more we could do – how do you think we can increase volunteer contribution? More in-depth projects? Greater ownership of the project? Deeper connection to the entrepreneurs we’re empowering? Simpler projects? More engaged mentorship? Professional Networking and Development? There are many levers we can adjust to build a better experience, which matter to you most?

Understanding community is vital to helping it thrive and be successful.  For Mifos we need to focus on both our contributors and even more so our implementers – this community is the group that can help take our technology the last mile to the regions where microfinance institutions need it most.

Conflux hits the road

conflux_11Specialists around the world are independently guiding the adoption of Mifos. Providing local support and implementation services to MFIs is of the many values of the Mifos ecosystem. This is a guest post from Nayan Ambali, a member of Conflux Technologies, detailing a recent Mifos Roadshow, they embarked on throughout Northern India. 
Our roadshow was intended to showcase the functionalities of Mifos to MFIs in northern India. We chose to start with Utter Pradesh (North India state) because of its highly dense population plagued by gender inequality and poverty with more than 40% living below the poverty line. Most of the MFIs are lagging in adopting technology compared to their counterparts in South India.

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Enabling Social Change through Software Development

The Mifos community would like to extend our congratulations to Ken Banks, the 2011 Pizzigati Prize recipient, for his leadership and innovation in Mobiles for Development through FrontlineSMS. We would also like to recognize Adam Monsen, Mifos software engineer and open source evangelist who we nominated for the award for his fervent passion for open source software and his selfless commitment to empowering users and developers in our community to contribute.  

monsen

The Tides Foundation announced this morning that it had awarded the 2011 Pizzigati Prize for outstanding contribution in public interest software development to Ken Banks, founder of FrontlineSMS. A tip of the hat to Ken for being a true pioneer in the Mobiles for Development space.  Ken’s commitment to openness and user-based design is a brilliant example of what it takes to build a vibrant community. The strong team he’s built, the active community he’s cultivated, and the widespread adoption along with specialized adaptation of FrontlineSMS serve as a blueprint for other open source projects.

Although he wasn’t victorious, we would like to give a pat on the back to Adam Monsen who truly embodies the characteristics of Antonio Pizzigati in helping others realize their dreams through software development.  Adam always has the interest of others at heart and is a true advocate of open source software for non profits, proof that developers can enable social change through software.  Adam breathes life and energy into our communty that makes it hum – whether it’s donning his track suit for a documentation sprint or responding thoroughly to mailing lists posts as our informal Lord of the Listserv, and as we learned today – baking a great loaf of bread ;).

Here are a few snippets from Adam Monsen’s nomination form:

What is the role of software developers in social change?

What if Farmville, an online game with tens of millions of active users, were used to drive social change rather than simply entertain?

The role of software developers in the social change movement is to bring it to scale. Developers have specialized skills and knowledge: they can build tools that unite, organize, and facilitate positive social change at a scale impossible without software.

Consider poverty, and Mifos. Say you are a microfinance bank serving ten thousand poor clients. Your business is growing, and your clients are doing well. You can prove that your bank is helping the poor to rise out of poverty. You want to grow! To get to one million clients, you need software that can efficiently track loans and savings accounts for these clients: calculating interest, reporting on progress, and integrating with other aspects of your business such as accounting so your service at one million clients is better than your service at ten thousand. 

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How has the nominee demonstrated leadership in public interest computing?

Adam Monsen is a dedicated advocate of open source software for the public good. His energy as a lifelong OS evangelist and contributor is visible in his effort to ensure openness and transparency in Mifos development. Looking back on the growth in participation in the community, it wouldn’t have been possible without Adam. He is the grease that makes the community run smoothly. Adam is always involved – activism, documentation, ease of collaboration, improving our software, even helping to resolve legal issues. He is the most active voice on the mailing list; first to welcome a new volunteer and always quick to respond on #mifos IRC.  Every time I search for information, it’s easily found because he has put in place a tool so that all documentation, discussion, and decisions are open, indexed, and available. Adam helps to grow the community too – he initiated participation with Google Summer of Code, led talks at OSCON and on FLOSS weekly, and collaborates with HFOSS projects like OpenMRS. The Mifos software wouldn’t be where it is today without Adam – as the team re-architects Mifos, he makes it’s a priority to incorporates best-in-class open source components to ensure it is robust and actively maintained. 

Ken is in good company with previous winners of the Pizzigati Prize which include our peers, Yaw Anokwa of OpenDataKit and Darius Jazayeri of OpenMRS. We look forward to hopefully joining them in 2012.

Mifos User Meeting – a Big Success!

imagesLast week we held our first ever online Mifos user meeting and it was a big success with 44 people from 12 countries in attendance. Despite some hiccups with the logistics of GoToWebinar, the turnout and participation was fantastic.  The mix of people attending was just what we were looking for – existing Mifos users as well as new potential Mifos users, Specialists supporting MFIs implementing Mifos, and contributors strengthening the Mifos platform. We got to hear some detailed feedback from new users like I.Can Capital Microfinance in the Philppines and valuable insight on product architecture from long-time Mifos veterans like Terry Wong, who is still following our project even after volunteering 5 years ago.

It was the perfect time to share what’s been going on, take a closer look at the new features in our most recent releases, and unveil a huge step forward, the Mifos Business Intelligence Suite.  The questions and feedback were invaluable.  We are definitely going to have user webinars like this again and do it more often, covering more topics that you want to learn about. While planning is underway for a global developer summit in India this summer, we’re also looking to potentially host a global Mifos user conference in a year.  We’d love to know if you’d like to attend in the comments.

Check out the presentation below and our 4 main takeaways from the meeting after the jump!

4 Take-aways

Looking back the user meeting, there were four big take-aways:

Show what we’re building.

Our product team is doing a lot of great work and shipping a ton of new functionality. You, our community,ppi
need to understand and see how that technology works. We showed some screenshots and did a live demo during the user meeting but we need to be more visual and demonstrative about what’s new in the product. It’s easy to read over a list of features and not fully grasp the power of what’s inside and what you can do with Mifos. With Questions Groups, we’ve really opened up the potential to collect rich data and information about your clients; we now have integrated social performance measurement through PPI, and our M-PESA integration is coming just in time as Safaricom looks to roll this out across Africa. Business Intelligence is a major focus for the product going forward; our Mifos Business Intelligence Suite 1.0 is only just the tip of the iceberg. The demo we gave prompted a lot of questions and we’ll soon share more about the new standard reports, the data warehouse, and the exciting capabilities of Pentaho like dashboards and ad-hoc reporting that are on the horizon.

Listen to what you need.

listenDuring the user meeting, we were overwhelmed with questions and feedback across all subject areas. From mobile data entry to accounting integration to offline capabilities to Know Your Customer requirements for India, you had great feedback about where you want the product to go. We really need to listen to what our users need and be agile in building out the product to respond promptly to evolving market conditions. The refactoring of the code into a more modular framework is positioning us to release new features faster. A more layered architecture and framework for plug-ins also means that you, external contributors, can build new functionality more quickly as well. It’s only through a combination of listening, capturing feedback, and a platform that enables our team to develop quickly and external developers to work effectively, that we can evolve our product to keep pace with the microfinance sector. We’re working to build out better mechanisms to capture feedback but for now, read this page on requesting new features and stay tuned to our roadmap for updates.

Get technical.

During the user meeting, we also had a lot of questions about using the product, configuring the product, andhelp
customizing the product. We encourage you to voice these questions on our developer and user mailing lists. There you can get a quick response from our team or any one of our worldiwde users or contributors in the Mifos community. We also have great documentation. Technical and systems admininstration documentation is on our wiki on MifosForge. User documentation and how to configure the product is on mifos.org. Processes and tools for deploying mifos can be found  in our deployment toolkit along with live case studies in our deployment project pages.  If you can’t what you’re looking for, let us know how we can make it more accessible or what you want to see. With that said, you can only get so much help online or through email and nothing beats talking through a problem with a real human being. We’ll try to have more of these user webinars covering different topics based on your feedback – some will be more technical, others more strategic and business-focused.

Share what you’re doing.

Picture Downloas 2.6.10 136From the sheer number of people who were on the call to the growing number of deployments, there’s alot of activity going on in the Mifos community. Unfortunately, most of you probably don’t know about it. During the user meeting, Nayan from Conflux Technologies in India gave an impromptu demonstration of the Offline Collection Sheet Entry module he was building.  It was moving to see how impressed and gracious Duffy, representing Lumana in Ghana, was after learning about this new discovery and connection in the community. For the community to grow, it needs to be aware of this activity; we need to build these connections, which will increase the sense of community and in turn enable more collaboration. If you haven’t, check out some of the social features on mifos.org like our regional user groups and user profiles that we’re using to build community. For the latest news, follow @mifos on twitter, subscribe to this newslog and sign up for our newsletter. We’re also ramping up our presence on other sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Here’s just a small snapshot of some recent community activity:

Listen photo courtesy of ky_olsen via Flickr | Question photo courtesy of matt.hutchinson via Flickr.