Mobile Management: Using Mobile to Make Every Program Run Better

The spread of mobile phones and internet connectivity provides opportunities to make every program run more effectively and efficiently. We call this “mobile management,” and Magpi can help, even when it’s not a “data collection” program, per se: with easy automation, reminders, scheduling, and other tools.

Mobile Management, Part 1: Activity Logs

“Smart people, given easy-to-use tools, find ways to make their lives easier, without being told to.”

Zambia mobile data collection training-2006Years ago, we were training a group of Zambian health workers on how to use EpiSurveyor (the Magpi predecessor) on Palm Pilot PDAs.  We had one half-day of training on a Monday, then were to return to the classroom on Tuesday.  On Tuesday morning, some of the students were excited to show  what they had done “after dinner last night” and called the facilitator to look at their mobile screens.  And as it turned out they had re-created their paper travel reimbursement form – the one that allowed them to get reimbursed for fuel, vehicle rentals, etc.  The form collected data on who they had visited, on what day, and for what purpose.  And the students realized that if they filled it out electronically they could file it faster. Which meant they’d be reimbursed faster.

They had created a mobile management system, after half a day of training!

We love that example, because it shows how smart people, given easy-to-use tools, find ways to make their lives easier, without being told to.

And after ten years, Magpi offers more project management tools than ever.  In this post, we’ll go over some of the most useful.

Zambia Transport Log Example

Those enterprising students in Lusaka were on to something.  Every project has vouchers and logs that need to be managed, and it’s much easier to do this using the mobile phone that each team member is already carrying than to try to manage slips of paper. This is what mobile management is all about: easily replacing paper systems with digital ones.

Let’s look at that ten-year-old example of the paper travel voucher:

paper travel log example

This is super-easy to recreate in Magpi (took only 3 minutes) as an electronic form. Here’s how it looks in the Magpi Design tab:


If you want to use this example as a starting point, just log into Magpi to your forms dashboard, click the “Template” checkbox above the list of forms, then click the refresh button.  You will now see “travel_log” in your forms list, and you can open it and “Save a Copy” for making your own edits.


Automate the Reporting Process

Of course, collecting travel log information is only the first step, right?  Very likely, the submitted information will need to be reviewed by a supervisor and approved before payment can be made.  One approach to making such a system work better and faster would be to notify the supervisor each time a new voucher was submitted (you could even build in the intelligence to know which staff member was under which supervisor, but we’ll keep it simple for now).

Below we’ll show how you could use the built-in Magpi Respond system to both acknowledge submission of a travel voucher, and also to notify the supervisor.

Acknowledging Submission of the Travel Log by SMS or Email

To send an SMS acknowledgement to the field staff member who submitted a travel report, we’ll need to do two things:

1 – go into Magpi’s Messaging dashboard to create the appropriate SMS message

2 – open the travel_log form, above, and go to the Respond tab to set up the automation


If you go to the Messaging dashboard and click the Add link above the list of messages, it brings up a dialog that you can customize for your message, like so:


Now, in step 2, we have to instruct Magpi that when a travel report is submitted, it should send this SMS to the data collector who sent it in.

For that, we open the travel_log form and click on the Respond tab.  In the Respond tab, we can add “response items”, each of which specifies some kind of message (text, audio, or email) to be sent in response to incoming data.

Here’s a response we built in less than a minute specifying that if any travel log item is submitted where the date is not equal to “01/01/2000” (which means basically any submitted item), then the message we created above will get sent to “datacollector”.


“datacollector” is a special word in Magpi Respond.  When you enter it, it always means the person who submitted the current data record.  If that person is using the Magpi mobile app, and logged in with their email, the message will go to them as an email. If they’re submitting data by SMS, it will go out as an SMS.

Informing the Supervisor that a Travel Report has been Submitted for Review

OK, so now we’ve set up a system that allows field staff to submit their travel logs remotely from their phones, and even acknowledges their report submissions.  But we should probably also tell the supervisor when a log is submitted, so they can review it.

To do that we went to the Magpi Messaging dashboard, and created another Magpi message that says “A new travel log has been submitted.  Please log into Magpi to review and approve. Thank you!”.  Once that message is created, we can go back to the form and add it to the Magpi Respond item we’ve already created.

And here’s what it looks like once we’ve done that:



Just the Beginning

The example above is just one simple case of mobile management. In the coming weeks, we’ll show you how to keep your field staff safe in emergencies, how to keep key personnel informed, how to create emergency alert systems, and more!