1. Executive SummaryTop
The purpose of this document is to address the questions that arise as multiple users begin to use the AIF MIS. There are various facets of the system and for a new user it could be confusing in the beginning to manoeuvre their way through the MIS. Although the MIS is designed to be very user friendly to ensure maximum efficiency in data entry and review without waste of time and effort. This document takes the user through 8 sections addressing the issues faced to provide the required information in the given format. The What is MIS? Section focuses on creating an understanding of why is the MIS important to the stakeholders and what is their role with respect to it.
The section on Dashboards highlights how the dashboard calculates the number of candidates trained and placed and the logic used based on financial year.
Section three on Candidates clarifies the rules enforced to get accurate data and the calculation of age of the candidates.
The fourth section on employers talks about the various kinds of employers and the way to manage national level employers with multiple branches.
The section on documents is related to the accepted form of documents that need to be uploaded, acceptable formats and how to reduce storage size.
Login and password sections highlights the importance of security and privacy of the MIS.
The Browser and software section cover useful tricks and recommend additional free software that help in providing documents in the most convenient formats.
Lastly, this document seeks to simplify the usage of MIS for all types of Users and hence will regularly updated based on the questions.
2. What is MAST/ABLE MIS SoftwareTop
AIF MIS is a 24x7 real time information management system used across AIF's many partners across India. It simplifies data collection and data quality. Previously AIF received multiple spreadsheets in various formats. The teams had to spend hours in checking and consolidating to generate reports. MIS has simplified that to a large extent.
AIF MIS through transparency of data builds credibility of the organization for:
AIF is embarking on expanding use of technology in its own programs and throughout NGOs where presently technology adoption is very low, thereby giving leadership edge to AIF and its partners. MIS is one part of this larger initiative. Use of such technology inspires confidence that the organizations are committed to streamlining operations and reducing overhead costs, thereby deploying a greater percentage of funds towards actual social causes. Real time visibility of data, documents and pictures gives a sense of the realism to those stakeholders who rarely get an opportunity to engage with partners or interact with the beneficiaries. AIF is planning to give access to its donors as soon as some of the requisite software features are completed.
Partner's and their staff's primary responsibility is data entry of candidates as they undertake training, collect all the personal and family information; create new employer entries as candidates are placed in jobs; and upload various documents into MIS.
In addition, partners can create new user accounts for their staff. As AIF normally doesn't know who has left partner's organization, it is the partner's responsibility to mark Users as inactive (or simply delete them) as they leave the organization, so as not to put MIS at risk of data mess-up or misuse by some former disgruntled staff member.
Further, this is as much partner's MIS as AIF's. MIS will improve with everyone's sense of ownership, constructive feedback and ideas to make your operations smoother, simpler, and more useful. Feel free to send email with issues or suggestions to take the MIS forward.
MIS presents consolidated information from each of its partners to AIF. It has received data and documents for close to 10,000 candidates in 2013-14. It is being used by over 50 users concurrently and spread across India and USA. Previously AIF team had to constantly ask for data through the Youth Tracking Sheet in multiple excel spreadsheets, consolidated reports and so on. MIS eliminates all that to a large extent. It allows AIF program team to devote more time on the qualitative aspects of the programs, working with partners, pursue strategies for future, or engage with employers and donors.
Towards MIS, AIF program team's responsibility is:
AIF MIS is expected to be reasonably complete by April 2014. It will continue to undergo enhancements and fine tuning as the programs evolve.
Some additional plans are to develop applications for:
Hopefully these will streamline and simplify many of the activities presently done manually or over emails.
Yes. AIF is committed to maintain login for partners even after active partnership ends. As an alternative, you can export spreadsheet of all candidate data using the “Download Spreadsheet button”. AIF Program team has the capability to also “bulk download” spreadsheet with links to documents, and the associated documents themselves in a zipp'ed file – you can ask them to create/mail one to you.
Some of AIF's partners exclusively work with Disabled candidates, some with only able people, and some with both. ABLE dashboard counts and shows only candidates who are disabled. MAST dashboard counts and shows all candidates. Users can easily switch between the two views by selecting MAST or ABLE from the Top menu bar.
The financial year (April 1 through March 31) to which a candidate belongs is based on the Training Finish date. Only candidates whose training has finished are reported under Trained. People whose training finish date is in future, are counted under “In Training” - training is not yet finished, and they are not “Trained” yet. In cases where no training finish date is filled in (people dropped out, never joined), the financial year is determined based on training start date; and they will remain under the “In Training” column. “In Training” is short for “Incomplete Training” or “Continuing Training”.
3.3 How does the MIS deal with candidates whose training finished before March 31, 2014 but are placed in April 2014 or later?
Candidates whose training has finished before 31-3-2014 will go in 2013-14 dashboard under trained. Financial year for placed is determined based on Placement date independent of trained dates. So candidates placed in April will be reported as trained under 2013-14 dashboard, but placed under 2014-15 dashboard. Funding decisions of such candidates as to which year's budget they belong to is determined by AIF Management based on MoU agreements and budget considerations.
Typically funding for trained will properly belong to 2013-14; funding for placed or retained would go in 2014-15 as part of 2014-15 MoU, but exceptions may be possible. MIS reporting follows precise rules based on dates. You can see past or following year data by selecting year in the top menu dropdown.
AIF's programs typically span a financial year (from April 1 through March 31). The dashboard by default shows current year. To view prior years' information, you can select one the entries in the financial year dropdown.
You can further select a particular date to get a view as of that date. For instance, if today is November 10, and you are interested in Trained/Placed data as of September 30 (end of quarter 2), you can select September 30 as the date in top menu, and all charts, dashboard numbers will be shown as of September 30. These are useful for generating reports of previous quarters or even previous years.
MIS software has been developed in open source software such as PHP and MySql. The software is hosted at a hosting provider (znetlive.com) who promises to provide a reliable platform with minimum downtime. All development as well as hosting expenses have been borne by AIF.
3.6 What about security of the system, data? Privacy of data? Can one partner see the data of another partner?
All access to the system requires a login with password. It is only as secure as AIF team and partners keep it by not sharing passwords and by deleting users as they leave the organizations. From software standpoint, we will be migrating to use of SSL whereby transfer of data between your computer and hosting provider will be encrypted so even hackers can not gain access to the data. The system has an elaborate data backup setup (some by znetlive, and some by Exact IT Solutions) to minimize loss of data, and have ability to recover the data easily, in the unforeseen event of a catastrophic failure at the server end.
The system is designed in a manner where one partner can not see the data of another partner. Only AIF team has visibility into all data.
MIS calculates Age as of the Training Start date, not as of data entry date. We have settled on this definition as we want to know exactly how old they were when they took training, even if data entry is done several months later.
Several rules and policies are enforced in candidate data entry to prevent improper data input. Some of these are:
Some of our donors like to know the families who AIF and it's partners are making a difference to. They want to know how many people we have indirectly benefited (family size), and details on who is the main provider for the family, etc. Note that although most government issued documents/forms ask for father's or husband's name. However, AIF is asking for the Family Head, i.e., the person who provides for the family presently. Naturally if Father has expired, he is not providing for the family. This can be mother, grandfather, guardian or others.
This information also helps partner as well as AIF to perform market analysis to understand if we are targeting and marketing our programs appropriately or if any adjustments are required. For instance, if the data shows that certain family situations lead to greater dropouts, or certain courses in certain geographies are not resulting in successful placements, then AIF can develop an intervention strategy or refine its priorities, or repeat a market scan to reassess the skills in demand.
Employers has been one of the more complex features to implement and has undergone many revisions, and requires a somewhat lengthy explanation. AIF needs to track top employers so it can make strategic employer engagements and create charts of top employers. It is the partners, not AIF, who create employer entries; an employer entry created by a partner is visible only to that partner.
Imagine if one partner creates an entry for HDFC Bank in Ahmedabad; and another partner wants to create an entry for HDFC Bank in Delhi. Both are private to respective employers. And each wants to see only their own employers in dropdowns. To AIF, both are simply HDFC Bank and its “branches”. To properly implement this, when a partner attempts to add the 2nd HDFC branch entry, he is warned that HDFC Bank already exists, use that one or create a new branch. A branch shows up with a dot in front of its name. All branches show as “Main Employer/Branch”.
Now when the first employer is created, it is not a branch, even though it may not really be headquarters either. Only later ones are branches. You can add a Location to the “Main” employer entry to distinguish between multiple branches.
Partners can help by properly creating branches of multi state or national employers. Otherwise much time is spent by the AIF staff to properly clean up employers and candidate data entries.
A sector is the type of business a company or employer is engaged in.
Note that every company of course has all kind of jobs – receptionist, cleaning staff, variety of workers, managers, executives. So sector is not the job a candidates is placed in – it is the type of business the company is in. When entering a sector, please try to use one of the values in the dropdown. Only if the employer is in an entirely new type of business should you create a new value. If you are not sure, please ask your AIF program point person via email describing the nature of the business of the employer about whose sector you are unclear.
A sector is useful for analysing the type of companies where our candidates are getting placed. This information can be useful for AIF to help make alliances with large national employers.
6. Review ProcessTop
MIS software has an online review feature that simplifies review of documents and data, via separate review screens and Notes chat box to communicate with partners. This potentially eliminates lots of emails around candidate data correction.
The notes chat box uses a token passing scheme to alert partner or AIF. Who ever has the “Red” token has the action item. Once one party has a question/comment/response, they pass the token to the other party. When AIF notices some discrepancy that needs attention from partner, they write notes in the AIF-Notes section, and press Save/Alert Partner button. This creates a Need Attention flag for partner in their main dashboard. Clicking on the numbers in Need Attention column display those candidates who need attention. Then, clicking on the review button will display the review screen showing the notes. This also shows up under AIF Review Dashboard. When partner has taken corrective action, they can type in a note and press Save/Alert AIF button. This will remove the candidate from partner dashboard, and shift it to AIF dashboard.
The person who has the Read token is displayed on top right corner of the Notes section.
[For AIF] AIF members also have options to Save, or Save/Alert AIF. Once partner has responded, and you find the response acceptable, you can “clear” the red token by clicking on Save – then no one has the red token and the conversation is closed. This will remove the candidate from Need Attention dashboard counter. If one person in AIF wants to make a note for others in AIF, they can click on “Save/Alert AIF” - this will put the candidate on AIF's review dashboard.
This is a variation on the normal instant messaging. In our case, we need to alert Partners or AIF that something needs attention on a dashboard; otherwise people will notice these things only when actually opening the candidate display.
Some donors of AIF do a thorough review following AIF's review. There are separate dashboards for Donor which shows candidates requiring attention. There is a separate Donor-notes box where notes can be exchanged between AIF and Donors. And Save options work similarly.
One concept is important to understand: who is the owner of the review. In AIF-Partner interaction, AIF is the owner of the review and initiates any notes exchange in case they have an issue. In AIF-Donor interaction, it's the donor who owns the review – the donor initiates notes exchange, and AIF responds by passing the token back. Donor then will clear the token upon an acceptable response.
How is a partner intimated about the errors in data?
AIF can communicate with Partners via emails, and notes in spreadsheets in case of any errors that need correction. Or they can use the notes-exchange feature for online review.
AIF is requesting 5 different document types. Not all are required yet but are requested. Usually only one document per type is sufficient
For most candidates,
For details, see the Documents Help document located here as well as in the Document Upload section in candidate data entry page.
It is important to remember that one person will be uploading documents or images initially, but many people will be opening them to view later, possibly on slow internet speeds. So it's worth some effort to get them right, and keep the size small.
Presently MIS allows up to 5MB sized documents/images. However AIF plans to restrict this to 1MB. So this section is a must read for people responsible for uploading documents and images.
There are some useful tools to have on your computer if you are responsible for uploading documents and images/photographs.
The two PDFill tools can be downloaded from download.cnet.com. It is well reputed site for downloading software free of virus and spyware. Be careful to decline their offers to install other free software during installation as those will change the behaviour of your browser or add advertisements. With this software, you can print any document (browser, applications, anything) to a Virtual Printer name “PDFill PDF&Image Writer” to create a PDF file. PDFill Free Tools is a very useful software which allows you to do many types of modifications to PDF files such as split multi-page documents, combine separate files into one file, reorder pages in a file, etc. Using this software, you can split a 10 page PDF file into 10 separate PDF files of 1 page each.
PDFill also allows removal of passwords - a very useful feature if you receive lots of bank statements, credit card statements, phone bills, etc. via email, each with its own distinct password; you can remove the password before storing it in your computer for eternity.
Usage of these tools is described in specific scenarios below.
General Scan settings:
Scanned images or photographs can often be as high as 1 to 4MB; but these can be reduced to around 50KB to 300KB while preserving readability. Readability is highly dependent on the quality of the original document being scanned. The key to size reduction is the fact that AIF or others will rarely have a need to print any document. They will mostly view documents on computer screen as part of their review to verify candidate data. Hence much lower resolution is acceptable as long as key information on the document is readable on a computer screen. And ideally PDF format is the desirable format for uploading into MIS.
PDF stands for portable Document Format. Portable means it can be viewed on any variety of devices such as windows laptop, apple computers, linux laptops, tablets, mobile phones, in browsers or separately in Adobe Reader and is the universal standard for sharing and reading documents. An especially useful feature is that the PDF plugin in browsers allows one to zoom in/out and rotate documents which are scanned sideways or upside down.
These are called image formats and are created by scanners (in picture mode) or camera pictures. These are often much bigger in size (though sometimes jpeg is small). Also some browsers don't allow them to be zoomed in/out or rotated. TIFF format creates images in an editable format, hence is usually a very large file.
MIS will be storing tens of thousands of ID proofs, job letters, disability certificates, retention proofs, etc. Each year, the disk size required to store all of them will increase substantially. You can help AIF by keeping the document sizes small. There are several ways to reduce a document size, or image sizes. This is described separately later on. You can convert them into PDF files by copy/pasting them into Microsoft Word and doing Save As PDF format. That often reduces the file size. For further reducing size at expense of quality, see later question.
First of all, For Aadhar Card, only front is needed; back has no additional information. For Voter ID, both front and back are useful, see next question for how to work with two-sided documents.
Scan the image in greyscale 300 dpi. This will give a good quality image though in a large sized file which we will reduce in following steps.
Open Microsoft Word
Insert Picture: browse and insert the jpeg file you saved.
You can crop the image by removing unnecessary white space around the main image – this also reduces the file size. Click on Crop, and move corners so that only the relevant picture shows.
By pulling the bottom right corner, enlarge the picture to fill the page (so it will show large enough in browser reducing the need to enlarge)
Save As->PDF; in the Save As menu, check the “minimum size (publishing online)”
Select Publish. This will save a PDF file of much smaller size. Do not close the Word file yet.
Open the PDF file by double clicking on it, make sure the name, etc. are clearly readable; see by enlarging the document if needed.
If for some reason, the PDF is not very readable, then in the Word file, Save As PDF again, but select the option “Standard (publishing online and printing)”.
Upload the PDF file, give appropriate name such as “Voter ID”, or “Aadhar card”.
The typical way this is done is to make a copy of one side, then overlay the other side and copy together to scan both into one file. This wastes one paper, and the scan of the copied image is of poor quality. There is a better way.
Scan each side of voter id as a separate greyscale JPEG format file, with 300 or higher dpi. We'll combine the two images to be side by side, and reduce the size in following steps. Then open Microsoft Word. Using Insert picture, insert the front side. Type a few spaces (to create some gap between this and next picture). Now using Insert picture, insert the back side file. Now you can enlarge each picture so they show side by side, and are as large as will fit the page. You can change Page Orientation to Landscape to see if that works better. Save as PDF file, check “minimum size (publishing online), as described above.
If you have scanned front and back of some document as separate PDF files, you can easily combine (merge) the 2 page documents into one 2-page document using PDFill Free Tools. You can upload this file with proper type and name.
7.6 I have a offer letter from employer with many names on one page. Should I upload once or multiple times for each candidate?
Upload the same document separately for each candidate applicable. MIS doesn't have a way to link documents from one candidate to another.
7.7 My employer sent a multi-page PDF file of 10 offer letters, one page for each candidate. Is there a way to separate them into single page PDF files?
7.8 I scanned a ration card front and back page. Now I have 2 files. How can I combine them into one file instead of uploading as 2 separate documents?
Most scanners allow you to scan one page after another into a single multi-page document. But, if you have 2 separate PDF files, you can merge them into a single 2-page PDF file using PDFill Free Tools software with the merge option.
7.9 I have a previously scanned document in PDF but the file size is too large. How can I reduce the file size?
Using PDFill software, we can reduce the size as follows:
While reducing the file size, this reduce the quality of the document to be acceptable for reading on computer screens, but not good enough for printing a document. If the readability of this document is poor, then consider rescanning from original and use other techniques as mentioned above to reduce file size.
A brief tutorial on dpi or megapixels: 600dpi means 600 dots per inch (linear inch). Printers and scanners typically refer to dpi since they print one line of dots at a time. One square inch at 600dpi would equal 600 x 600 = 3,60,000 dots, or approximately 0.36 Megapixels. Each dot generally requires 1 byte of storage (well, black and white require 1 bit, but greyscale requires 1 Byte, and color dots require 8 bytes. 1 Byte has 8 bits. A 1 by 1 in color photograph therefore could require approximately 8*0.36 = 2.88MB.
Cameras capture colour images in tiny dots known as pixels. That's why phones/cameras advertise their built-in camera's strength in terms of megapixels. 1 megapixel means 1 million ( 10 Lakh) dots per square inch, creating an image of 1 MB size. A 3 by 4 picture taken by a 5 Megapixel camera therefore will be approximately 6MB. With some image compression tricks, the sizes are typically reduced to 2 to 3 MB. Storing such images in a disk can quickly eat up a lot of disk: 333 images of 3MB = 1GB. 33,000 such images = 100GB.
With 10,000 candidates per year, and 2 documents/candidate on average, at 3MB each will require 63GB per year. Therefore it is important to take the time to reduce file sizes whenever possible.
8. Login and PasswordTop
Once you login, you can change password by clicking on your login id at top right corner of the MIS window which is always visible.
No. The person who creates it initially knows , but not if you later and communicates the password. Later when user changes the password, then no one except the user will know it. Passwords are stored in MIS in encrypted form (known as MD5 encryption) and no one can read or figure out your password. Even AIF or database administrators do not know and cannot figure out your password.
No need to ask anyone to tell you your password because they can't as explained above. But they can reset your password to a new temporary password and inform the same.
A better way: On the login screen, simply click on Forgot password, and MIS will send an email to your login email id with a new password. You can subsequently change it to one easier for you to remember.
8.4 Is it ok to share my login/password with my colleagues instead of going through the trouble of getting a new account created?
Login/passwords should never be shared on MIS or in any other online applications such as bank, facebook, email, etc. You run the risk of abuse by others; they may change your password thereby locking you out of your own account. Also the MIS in some cases records the name/login id of the person who does certain operations. This helps in tracking things down in case of errors.
You can help the system work better by having separate accounts. It is very easy to create accounts in the system. Partners can create accounts for users in their organization, or you can email your program contacts in AIF to create one for you.
9. MIS Software IssuesTop
Sometimes MIS appears to misbehave – previously working things stop working, or it just appears to hang even for simple things like display candidate list. What's the cause?
While active development is going on in the software, new versions are uploaded to release new features, or correct reported issues. Usually uploads are done at night to minimize impact, but sometimes day time uploads are necessary.
The software has been working quite reliably. So if you observe strange behaviour, chances are your browser window or MIS session has been going on for long time, and new version has been uploaded in the meanwhile resulting in some inconsistencies. To remedy, you can logout, close all your browser windows, and start again. You can also clear cache by going to Options or Settings. MIS keeps some software code in browser cache and that needs to be updated sometimes for latest software to load. Or once you login in a fresh browser, hit the F5 key to force a refresh.
10. Browser Issues and TricksTop
You may bookmark www.aifmis.org. Please do not bookmark any of the other internal pages.
In a browser window, you can enlarge or reduce the font size by using Ctrl + or Ctrl – keys repeatedly. Or via Ctrl and scroll wheel on the mouse.
You can open different menu items in different tabs. Click once on top menu items (such as Reports or Master. On the sub-menu item of interest, click mouse right button, and select “Open Link in New Tab”. This is useful if you want to work with multiple dashboards or charts or candidate displays in different contexts so you don't have to keep going back and forth. This is particularly useful in data entry – you can open candidate list in one tab, and Employer in a second tab, and easily go back and forth. You may have to hit refresh in a tab after any major changes; for instance if you add a new Employer, and you have an Add Candidate window open, that employer may not be visible in the dropdown until you hit the refresh button (the little reload circle in the browser URL address bar).
The trouble with software is that there are too many versions of everything, and new ones come every some months. You are probably using an old version of Internet explorer. You can easily download a newer version for free and update your browser.
I recommend Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. These are essentially identical with minor variations in menu names and locations. But these browsers are much faster. You can search for them on google and download/install.
11. Other Useful SoftwareTop
Firefox: ImageTweak free add-on. Firefox browser (version 27) is unable to rotate or zoom in-out certain images. I have found this add-on to be quite useful. Search for this in google, and install. This adds menu items to right mouse button for a whole variety of options. Useful to those who view/review documents and images.
Advanced System Care: There is a very useful free software called “Advanced System Care” - you can download it from download.cnet.com. After install, you just have to press one button called “Scan” and select “Automatically repair”. This software does a thorough clean up of your windows system, and in fact will breathe new life into your PC, make it run faster and more reliably. I have used it for several years and it has saved me from trips to computer repair shop. They keep trying to get you to buy the paid version but you don't have to. Just ignore the “Activate Now” or the scary report of so many problems still remaining after scan – these are all sales techniques.
Alternative to Microsoft Office: There are two free alternatives to Microsoft Office:
These two were one software until a couple of years ago but have split into two products with separate teams. You can read about them in wikipedia.org to learn about their history and assure yourself that these are serious software. I personally have used Libre Office for couple of years. Search on google to download. These free alternatives are almost as powerful as Microsoft Word and fully compatible, and used worldwide by millions. The only caveat is that by default they like to save files in an international open format called odf (open document format) which Microsoft does not support. But they have options to save in .doc or .docx format (or xls or xlsx for spreadsheet). If you want to share files with others, you have to save it in Microsoft format so Microsoft users can open them. Best part is that they can read all formats whereas Microsoft office 2003 cannot read docx or xlsx format created by Office 2007 or newer versions.
12.1 What does active/inactive courses, faculty mean? Why do some Delete buttons say “Unable to delete”?
The only effect of a course marked inactive is that it will not be shown in the dropdown of course choices in candidate data entry. A course can not simply be deleted as there may be candidates in prior years who had taken it – deletion will cause those candidates not to have any course. That's why a course which has any candidate associated with it has the delete button disabled.
Likewise on Partner, Centre, Employers, Sectors, States, City, Education, etc., whose contents go into a dropdown, once there are any records associated with it, the entry can not be deleted and the delete button is disabled. If they are marked as inactive, they will be not show up in data entry dropdowns. Conversely, if the delete button is enabled, you can be sure that item is unused in the system, and can be safely deleted.
For users once they are marked inactive, they can not login. If you anticipate those users might return, you can leave them as inactive, otherwise such users may also be deleted.