Collectively Advancing Technology for the Industry with CGAP

CGAP Technology Check out the CGAP Technology Blog today to view a couple of our efforts we’re engaged with CGAP on to foster industry-wide discussion and collaboration to address technology for microfinance. We’re trying to shed light on the back-office information system as a critical enabler for the scale and impact of microfinance. George Conard's second guest post to the blog is now live. Entitled, Beyond Software: Investing in Complete Technology Management Solutions, it compels MFIs to look beyond software to consider human and business process factors to realize the full value of technology investment.

Today also marks the start of a virtual conference on the CGAP technology blog to discuss the findings of a workshop we recently convened with CGAP along with support from the MasterCard Foundation. On October 20 and 21st in Washington, DC, more than 25 stakeholders representing a cross-spectrum of the players and influencers across the industry including MFIs and MFI networks, funders, industry consulting experts, and vendors of IT solutions came together for the first time to discuss the following question:

What needs to happen to make appropriate back-office systems (including people and process as well as technology) more broadly adopted by MFIs?

Join in now on the active discussion taking place during the virtual conference today and tomorrow on the CGAP technology blog.

This workshop marked the first time in which the back-office systems (technology, people, and processes) were at the forefront of the discussions seeking to align operational needs of MFIs, reporting needs of funders and industry stakeholders, along with the technology solutions offered by vendors.

What emerged from the workshop were four core themes:

Skills and Staff Capacity: Technology itself is not enough; MFIs must have the strategic vision and insight at the management level to invest in technology along with the practical skills and effective capacity at the staff level to manage and use technology.

Business Processes: The industry must work to formalize and document the critical business processes across the MFI so that these can be optimized for technology, advanced towards greater effectiveness, and one day arrive at a level of certification of processes to maximize efficiency.

Standards: Industry stakeholders, external funders, and reporting and regulatory agencies must work to arrive at standards for data, reporting, and transparency including efforts like MIX Market and SEEP's endorsement of XBRL data standards.

Business Models: MFIs must begin to see the proven value of technology. This can be done through documented ROI and case studies on effective technology adoption, scalable growth models like subscription-based SaaS offerings, and user consortiums collectively advancing technology.

These are the topics of the discussion going on now during the virtual conference. A summarized report of the key findings can be downloaded here.

This initial workshop in DC is just the starting point for the discussion as we shall now continue the dialogue and collaboration locally within each region throughout the upcoming year with three additional workshops. The ultimate goal is to collectively address the business, technology, and industry challenges and identify an action space and path to progress.

As you discuss these four themes at the virtual conference please keep in mind the four practical pieces of advice George Conard lays out for MFIs to invest and adopt complete technology management solutions:

  1. IT Strategy: Guide and prioritize technology investment to facilitate long-term results.
  2. Business Process Optimization: Map out business processes and realign those to optimize introduction of new technology.
  3. People Optimization: Combine training, communication, and management for long tern adoption of technology investments.
  4. Systems Integration: Integrate core MIS with accounting, business intelligence and external networks (mobile money, ATMs) to multiply effectiveness.

Posted by Edward Cable, Marketing Coordinator