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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.

Meet the 2010 Google Summer of Code Mifos Interns

This year we’re excited to announce a class of 7 rock star Google Summer of Code interns who will be part of the Mifos team this summer. In now our second year participating in Google Summer of Code, we look to build off the successes of Udai Gupta and Johan Hilding, last year’s interns, by taking on a larger team that will help us to bring participation to a new level.

Our 7 students from around the world bring a diverse set of skills, interests, and perspectives that will help to extend the Mifos platform. Once again we had an incredibly impressive pool of applicants making it difficult to narrow them down to this group. We’d like to thank all for applying and the dedication you’ve shown in wanting to help end poverty through writing code.

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Mentors Meet in Mountain View, Manifest Mastery of Mentoring

Jeff Brewster and I had a great time at the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2009 Mentor Summit. We were royally welcomed, well-fed, and given a great springboard for mind-melding with the other GSoC mentors.

The summit was decidedly unconference style: meeting ideas were shared beforehand but the sessions themselves scheduled and run on-the-fly. I wanted to learn more about project hosting since we recently worked the Mifos project through some issues with hosting at java.net (and ended up moving to SourceForge), so I co-hosted a session called Project Hosting Horrors. The session filled up a room and we got useful feedback from lots of projects about what works with hosting, what doesn’t, and ideas on different approaches.

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