winsight 11 A one minute guide to Management Information Systems:: SPORT USEFULL TIPS

A one minute guide to documentation

A one minute guide to Management Information Systems


All documentation is to record, to reflect and to inspire action. Management information systems (MIS) support our work to make it more effective and maximise the impact. It helps decision making and streamlines information management. The following make information management a pleasure.


Systems              Systems help streamline the collection, organising, storage, retrieval and use of information. MIS requires sufficient infrastructure—human and physical. Systems should always support the work, and make it easier.

People                Any system is only as good as the people. Those working the information need to have the capacity and the passion to work with numbers and people.

Objective             Be clear why the data is being collected, and for what the information is required. What is the objective in collecting the data? The process of collecting the data should be ‘objective’ meaning don’t only collect data that supports preconceived notions. If the data warrants a new approach or a change in beliefs, then we must be flexible and honest enough to do so.

Retrieval              We all have experienced situations when we ‘know’ but cannot ‘remember’—hence the saying ‘it does not matter how much you know, but how much you can remember in time’. The information system should be able to generate the required information at the appropriate time. For this reason, the information retrieval system (naming, coding and filing) is an intrinsic part of a good MIS.

Timely                Information is useful at a particular time. How often should data be collected, and how much time should be allotted for it? Deadlines are extremely important. Decision-makers should be able to access the appropriate information at the correct time.


Unique                Make sure that you collect each bit of data only once. Collecting and keeping duplicate data takes time and space—both of which cost money—and causes confusion. Updating becomes a nightmare where there is more than one set of data. Remember the saying ‘a person with one watch knows the time, those with two are never sure’. Multiple copies of the same information could mean that some are not ‘up-to-date’ since it is difficult to change information everywhere (this is so even if our data is in computers)..

Simple                Keep the data, the data collection process and presentation simple, easy to understand and use.

Essential             Collect only information required for taking a particular decision. Resist the temptation to collect all the data possible. Collect all the data required—as comprehensive as necessary—but keep it to only what is required. Data collection and analysis can be very addictive, so self-restraint and self-disciple to keep to a minimalist approach is vital. In the case of information management, less might actually be more.

Forward looking  The data that we collect will be about the past. They record history. But organising this data—turning it into information—must help in future work.

Unusual              The data collected must ‘tell a story’. What is unusual? What are the emerging trends?

Live                    Capture data that is ‘living’—that is useful for our work, and that which can help us take decisions to best improve the life of the poor we work with. Always have the latest information, keep updating what you have. Go back to get more information—another method of keeping the data ‘live’.

Long lasting        The data collected and organised must be useful in the long term. Always crosscheck to see if the right questions are being asked.


Time                   Any work requires time. Ensure that sufficient time is allotted for collecting data and organising information in the ‘time budget’ of each staff. Ensure that the time invested in this task provides sufficient ‘returns’ to the organisation, by using the information so generated.

Interesting           The data collected should be transformed into interesting presentations so that others too use it. There should be a good mix of qualitative and quantitative data (stories and numbers).

Procedures          Knowledge is power. There should be appropriate procedures, policies and protocols to ensure proper collection, organising, storage, retrieval and use of information. Privacy is a concern that needs to be respected, since breach of privacy, apart from legal repercussions, could irreparably harm individuals.

Scale                  The effort at information collection and management should be appropriate to the scale of the organisation, and its relevance to the mission.

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