Microfinance Institutions are often not aware of the strategic role IT can play in transforming their organizations and most importantly driving revenue growth. When they realize the importance of getting a right IT system in place, the organization more often than not struggles to define its needs and subsequently map out a system that would fit those needs.
Before embarking on to map out a system it would help if the organization could answer the following questions in order to get an understanding of its needs. Some of the questions to look at are as follows:
- What is the business strategy, objectives, who are your clients, and what product(s) do you want to deliver?
- Then design your operational requirements.
- Once you are aware of what problem you need to solve, only then will you be able to figure out how viable your chosen IT solution will be?
- Is the chosen solution acceptable for the client and will it address the clients’ needs? This is very important as the clients’ needs are the needs of the Microfinance Institution.
- Understanding your client and their culture, preferences, ability to change and financial literacy levels should shape the proposed IT solution. At the end of the day if the proposed solution is of no use to the institutions’ customers, then the envisioned benefits of the IT system can never be fully realized.
- Consider the widest possible range of options including both manual and automated solutions, existing infrastructure that could be modified, solutions that must be built from scratch, solutions that help maintain what is already there, in-house solutions, shared solutions, outsourced solutions, and proprietary solutions.
- Employ risk managers and designers to design risk management mechanisms into the solution.
- Keep the design simple, especially when pilot testing something new. Even if the technology itself is not new, the application of that technology in the institution will be new to staff and the customers.
- As much as possible choose something that can be controlled from a central position.
- Identify holistic solutions. The institution should not just focus on creation and set up, but think about implementation and distribution strategy as well.
- Before making decision, convene a task force, and have a business or marketing person there to drive the process, not just finance, accounting, or IT staff.
- Select the best technology that meets a particular need, not just the best technology. The right technology may be a technology that has been discarded by someone else or has not worked for someone else.
- Focus first on the functionality needed then at how much it is going to cost. The institution should not be distracted by the hype and the bells and whistles and the stuff that are not needed.
- Make sure to have the human resources to implement the desired solution. If not then make sure that you are partnering with the right technology partner who is able to offer support and training necessary for your staff to utilize the solution being implemented.
After going through the above questions, you should be able to forge a better understanding of the needs of your organization and most importantly the customers you are serving and which IT solution will ultimately help to address it all in the most feasible and cost effective way.