Kiva Update: Angèle, a Charcoal Business Owner from Togo, Africa

Veracity Solutions is dedicated to our goal of spreading an entrepreneurial spirit across the globe. That goal has inspired us to fund dozens of micro-loans through Kiva. Every month we reinvest funds from successful loans into additional worthy projects.

To date, we have funded 25 Kiva loans in 19 countries for a total amount of $10,375. More than half of the loans have been paid back in full or are near completion. Currently 25 of 25 loans are in good standing and set to be paid back on time.

Here is a highlight of one of those success stories.

Tucked away between Ghana & Nigeria on Africa’s west coast is the teeny-tiny country of Togo. Angèle, a mother of 5, helps support her husband and children by selling charcoal in the local market. Her loan of $875 allowed her to buy 77 sacks of charcoal for her business. The financial strain for a large purchase order can become overwhelming especially when living in an area which has an average annual income of only $1,500. Angèle has been amazing thus far and has currently paid back nearly 50% of her loan and is on schedule to complete her loan on-time.

These microloans are of high value to all those who borrow through Kiva and to the lenders of these loans. The knowledge of contributing to positive change somewhere across the globe is an amazing reward.

Earning Trust by Delivering Results

Recently, I had the pleasure of giving my 2017 State of the Union address to the employees of Veracity Solutions. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to work with this group of amazing, passionate, dedicated people, and I appreciate the time everyone took out of their day to listen to me.

Looking toward the future, I want us to focus on two very important areas.

The first is Our Brand.

Here are a few critical questions to get everyone thinking about that:

  • What is the Veracity brand?
  • What do people think of when they see the logo?
  • What do we want to be remembered for?
  • Why do people come to us? What do they get out of the relationship?
  • What exactly is our brand promise?
  • That final question leads us to the second Very Important Thing – Trust.

    Stephen M.R. Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

    Our brand promise is that our clients can trust us. Trust us to get it right. Trust us to solve their difficult problems. Trust us with their business intelligence and information.

    **My challenge to everyone at Veracity for 2017 is to improve on that trust. Improving on that brand promise.**

    It starts internally. We must improve our ability to make and keep commitments to each other. If we cannot trust each other, how can others trust us? Even the smallest adjustments to behavior can have a dramatic influence on an experience. And that can go either way – the failure to keep a commitment can have a cascading, negative effect on the entire team!

    From there, we move outward to our clients. It’s so very important that we all understand how critical building and maintaining trust is to the future of our business. We must all be very deliberate about the way we stage every client experience so that it fosters trust. As we move ourselves and guide our clients through each engagement, we must stay aware of the consequences of our words and our actions. What are we doing that is fostering trust? Even more important – what we are doing that is losing their trust? What can we do as a team to put things back on track if this starts to happen?

    It’s never enough to just say “Trust Us!” We all know where that can lead. Everything we do and say has to support and foster a sense of deep and enduring trust.

    Making and keeping commitments

    It’s not always easy to keep a commitment. Sometimes things happen that get in the way. Often we find that saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another. So I ask us all to be smart about our time, and focus on where we can make the greatest contributions. Try to avoid overcommitting ourselves – saying “yes” to everyone every time puts us in the awkward position of not making anyone happy. Say “yes” to the essential tasks and requests, and be mindful over being impulsively agreeable.

    Stephen M.R. Covey wrote an amazing book called “The Speed of Trust” In it he explains how we can measure trust as a set of dividends or a set of taxes. Things that can speed us up or slow us down. Things that add to the pot, or that take away from it. The bottom line is …

    NOTHING BUILDS TRUST FASTER THAN DELIVERING RESULTS

    And that brings us right back around to our brand promise.

    Better Software Every Time.

    Is a client testing us out? Are they going all in and handing us their trust and their project? Either way, it is incumbent on us to perform at our best and show them our true selves. Honesty, transparency, commitment … this is the way to foster trust.

    I believe that there is a cycle of trust experiences, and that the faster we move through the cycle, the deeper the trust we build will be. As we go through it we have to be agile, of course, and adjust course based on reactions and results and revised expectations.

    We must always remember – we are the representatives of our brand, and if we under deliver we lose trust and we damage our brand. It’s up to each of us to stay the course and deliver what we promise – every time.

    How do we do this? Good question! We have to pay attention. Often we get so caught up in what we’re doing that we forget to pay attention to how we’re doing it. Think of the customers’ trust as accounts in a bank. The deposits and withdrawals we make affect the account’s viability and stability.

    Covey (I do have a lot of respect for the man!) suggests that there are four components of trust – two related to competence, and two related to character. I see it as the parts of a tree – a living, reactive, organic thing:

    1. Integrity – The root of who we are
    2. Intent – The trunk – what we want to do
    3. Capabilities – The limbs – we have to know what to do and deliver it
    4. Results – The leaves and the fruits of our labor

    So let’s earn the trust of our clients by always delivering on our brand promise!

    Consider these questions: Are we keeping promises? Are we speaking the truth? Are we being fair? Are we being authentic and transparent? Are we being competent? Trust starts from within and ripples outward from there. As I said earlier – we must give and receive that trust from each other, and then gaining trust from our customers will follow naturally from the actions we take and the experiences we create going forward.

    I’ll end this blog the way I ended the meeting – posing some questions I’d like us all to consider:

    1. How much trust do we have today? Within the company … with each other…?
    2. What can we do to increase / what have we done to decrease that trust?
    3. What will it take in 2017 to deliver on our brand promise and our commitment to build and maintain trust?
    4. Are we giving more than we are receiving? Because that is the recipe for success!

    About the Author

    Galen Murdock is a creative software executive and entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience building world-class teams, innovative products and profitable companies in healthcare, finance, and education. Galen consults with software companies from Fortune 100 to startups to create market-driven web, mobile, native and cloud applications. He is co-creator of the blendsourcing™ model of trusted collaboration, a software architect, an Agile coach, and serves on advisory boards for several software companies and universities and on the U.S. HHS ONC’s Clinical Quality Workgroup. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his sweetheart, Danielle, and their four energetic children.

    Product v Project Focus in Software Development

    Many IT organizations use a traditional project approach to software development. Agile success is dependent on forming product teams that have these characteristics:

    • A defined focus area (application, domain, system, etc.)
    • Persistent over time
    • Cross-functional skill sets, giving it the ability to deliver a fully baked solution in each iteration
    • “Concept to cash” responsibility—taking work from early discovery and design steps through delivery and into production deployment and operational support

    It’s important to understand the difference between product focus and project focus. A product team can still deliver value in a project context, but the way the team is organized and delivers is very different. Here are some contrasting characteristics:

    ProductProject
    PeopleTeam is the primary means of creating value. They stay together over a long period of time and over multiple “projects” as a self-organizing unit.Treated as specialists in functional silos; focus is on 100% utilization (watching the runner, not the baton). Spread thin across multiple simultaneous projects, each competing for his or her attention. Death marches and heroes are common.
    CustomerIntegral part of team; key to defining value and providing feedback on deliverables. Partners with team to define roadmap in terms of business value.A request submitter. Incentivized to create large project requests because they get one shot at success, then relegated to back of line. Confused about who they can get info/updates from.
    Demand ManagementOne prioritized backlog per product.Repository of an unlimited number of requests of all shapes and sizes. Plan-driven resource allocation.
    DeliveryIterative and incremental with focus on highest value soonest. Opportunity to change priority regularly.Unpredictable and unreliable. Project at constant risk of being put on hold or deferred.
    QualityIntegral to every work item; owned by the entire team. Benefits of collective code ownership and continuous refactoring to reduce tech debt.Most frequently sacrificed characteristic in a plan-driven, deadline-oriented project. Highly variable from project to project because a continuous improvement process is lacking.
    IntangiblesHigher level of commitment from the team due to higher levels of ownership and accountability, defect level, tech debt level, and architectural integrity.Project team disbands and members move on to next project. Long cycles and unique work mean no opportunity to regularly inspect and adapt. Ad-hoc teams mean individual performance standard and improvement path. Hero culture.
    Passion Level
    • Missionary
    • Problem solver
    • Innovator
    • Mercenary
    • Do the minimum amount required to get it signed off
    • Hack

    Plan-driven traditional project approaches apply industrial process efficiency principles and practices that are poorly aligned with the realities of software development. Agile product teams are more aligned with principles and practices that work best for the type of creative, problem-solving work that is software development.

    The choice of product teams over a traditional project approach to software development creates a foundation for achieving organizational goals of high quality software delivered on a regular, predictable cadence, and highly engaged and focused people.

    About the Author

    Keith Klundt has close to 20 years managing software development. His roles have included: Product Manager, Scrum Master, Project Manager, Agile Trainer and Coach, as well as leadership roles as a CTO, VP and Director of Engineering and Agile PMO. Keith holds an MBA from Brigham Young University.

    Keith is passionate about Agile and Scrum and believes the principles, values, tools and practices they provide are an organization’s best way to achieve high levels of productivity, product quality, and morale.

    Veracity Solutions – Kiva microfunding, a year-round tradition!

    For the past two Christmas seasons, Veracity Solutions has focused its efforts on creating positive influence by being actively engaged in Kiva microfunds. Who is Kiva? They are a non-profit organization based in San Francisco with a mission to lend money via the internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries worldwide. Kiva seeks to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Annually we invest and reinvest funds on behalf of our employees and clients as a holiday gift in hopes of easing the financial weight that many of those applying through Kiva are feeling.

    To date, Veracity has contributed to 22 loans from 16 different countries. Of the 22 loans made, 55% have been made to females or female groups. 41% have gone towards agricultural businesses, 18% have been made to service-based businesses, while the remainder has been spread among food, housing, retail and education businesses.

    One of the many success stories we have helped to fund comes from George, who runs a photograph & digital print shop in Twifo Praso, Ghana. George has been steadily building his business success over several years using the capital he borrows from Kiva lenders. George bought a power inverter with his last Kiva loan which allowed him to work more efficiently during power outages. He is currently 2 payments ahead of his 8-month repayment schedule and looks to be well on his way to paying back his current Kiva loan far in advance.

    We will continue to encourage and support entrepreneurs like George for many years to come through this great program, and hope it inspires those with whom we work to find opportunities to positively influence others throughout the year.

    Annual Veracity Solutions Food Drive Helps the Hungry

    For 15 years, the employees and software consultants at Veracity Solutions have united to raise money to fight hunger in Salt Lake City, Utah. Veracity then matches whatever donation is made to donate to the Utah Food Bank. Veracity Solutions also matches any donations made by consultants who live outside of Utah towards the local food bank of their choice. This Holiday Season, Veracity was able to raise $4,300 in total ($2,880 for the Utah Food Bank), which is equivalent to $31,605 in goods and services when donated directly to the food bank. As a an added service, there was a food delivery day that was attended by 22 Veracity employees and family members. Sixteen food bundles were delivered throughout the Salt Lake Valley, which was the equivalent of 35,529 meals.

     Veracity Solutions would like to give thanks to all who participated through their donations of money, time, and effort.

    Galen Murdock Speaks to Graduating MBA Class on ‘Embracing Uncertainty’

    WIN_20161114_12_40_00_Pro (2)Galen Murdock, CEO of Veracity Solutions which provides agile software development solutions, presented to a full classroom of MBA students and professors at the University of Utah November 14th. The students actively participated, with questions and post presentation follow up. ‘Embracing Uncertainty’ is the challenge for oneself to jump feet first into the unknown and to seek it without being governed by the fear of what cannot be controlled. This topic resonated for many in attendance given the fact that most will be starting their careers in the tech/software industry at some of the nation’s largest companies upon graduation.A large portion of the presentation was spent on explaining how one uses different methodologies for problem solving and mapping when confronted with obvious or complicated problems versus complex or chaotic problems. Time was spent on a Q&A session allowing the students to reiterate the topics they thought most important or unclear which gave insight for many to understand the applicable nature of the main topic discussed. ‘Embracing Uncertainty’ has been presented multiple times across the country over the past 18 months to executive teams and peer groups alike. Galen & Veracity Solutions continue to seek out, influence and encourage all makers of software through thought leadership opportunities such as this. Galen founded Veracity Solutions in 1998 and has focused on providing agile software development solutions expertise, as well as management and mentoring to transform development organizations into high performance teams ever since.

    Accept What’s Unknown

    Galen Murdock, CEO of Veracity Solutions which provides agile development solutions, illustrates how accepting the unknown in software development teaches us to approach green and blue problems with different methods. He explains the order of certainty to uncertainty, from obvious and complicated to complex and chaotic. Watch this video and understand why it’s okay to accept the unknown and how to work within it. 

    How to Recognize Uncertainty

    Follow along as Galen Murdock, CEO of Veracity Solutions which provides agile software solutions,  speaks about different processes of recognizing, validating and working through the uncertainty in software development from his August 2016 Utah Technology Council TechLunch keynote address. Through his company Veracity Solutions, Galen Murdock has vast experience consulting with software companies from Fortune 100 to startups to create market-driven web, mobile, native and cloud applications. Veracity Solutions also helps their clients by helping to provide them with agile software solutions. Listen to how a lean startup can help turn guesses into knowledge by framing the problem in addition to building the idea to help validate your hypothesis. Discover the principles of going from a vague design to a finished product by learning, pivoting and making course corrections.

    Veracity’s Christmas Gift Provides Livelihood in Philippines

    In December 2015, Veracity Solutions proved to be more than just software consultants when they chose to place $1,800 in a Kiva account, on behalf of their current and potential clients, to be used for micro loans, instead of sending out chocolates for Christmas. Kiva ‘connects people to lending to alleviate poverty.’ To date, the donation placed by Veracity Solutions’ software consultants has helped several people in the Philippines and Kenya. Here is one of those stories from Jane in the Philippines. Jane, KivaJane’s storyJane is a 57-year-old woman who lives a simple life with her family in a town of Carles in Iloilo, Philippines, where fishing is one of the most common livelihoods in most communities. Jane and her husband are undertaking this livelihood to sustain their family each day.They have six children: five adults and one school-aged child who still needs their support. That is why Jane is asking for funds to buy new fishing net so that she and her husband can improve their catch.Definitely, she wishes in the future to improve their livelihood to have a better means of living.
    Jane requested a loan of $850 for the purchase of her new fishing net. To date, her loan is 76% repaid.We wish to thank the people and companies that we work with that make these types of stories possible.Click here to learn more about Kiva.

    The Elephant and the Rider

    Learn to distinguish between your emotional and analytical sides in this clip from Galen Murdock’s presentation on Embracing Uncertainty given at the Utah Technology Council Tech Lunch on August 10, 2016. Galen Murdock is the current CEO of Veracity Solutions. Veracity is a company which provides deep agile and other software development expertise, as well as management and mentoring to transform development organizations into high performance teams.Galen dives into some of the personal experiences in the sme software industry he has had using Jonathan Haidt’s description of the Elephant & the Rider.