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Best Practices in MIS

During the period 2005-2006, MIOA agreed to conduct an assessment of the Market Information Systems (MIS) from the 19 member countries, with the following objectives: establish a baseline for each country, help identify appropriate partners, share information and experiences and build capacity. This assessment was carried out by the contracted consultant Dr. Gilberto Mendoza, who also developed for MIOA an “Evalua- tion Study of Best Practices in Agricultural Marketing Informa- tion Systems”. This was done to learn and rate the activities of the MIS under what is known as “Best Practices” in the development of activities. Dr. Mendoza defined the term “best practices” as the activities carried out by a MIS that are done in the best way possible. Alternatively, he mentions that it could be a set of recommended procedures for carrying out the components of a MIS’ work, and that could be adopted in order to improve operations and reduce the learning curve in achieving its objectives.

The MIS evaluation criteria for the study of “best practices” was established based upon 3 pillars: a) data collection, b) data processing, and c) information dissemination, which represent the main activities performed by a MIS. The “best practices” identified were 24, of which 7 are for the data collection phase, 7 for data processing, and 10 for data dissemination. Each “best practices” identified has a set of variables and elements related which are called “check list”. There are 70 “check list” variables, of which 14 are for data collection; 26 for data processing; and 30 for data dissemination. In a MIS, the “best practices” could represent the ideal standards for achieving its ideal performance and the “check list” allows it to learn its behavior when the activities or “practices” are carried out. Having this information, the MIS can evaluate its procedure to provide accurate market information. The identified “best practice” with its respective rating can be read as follows:

a) “Best practices” for Data collection (40%)

Best practice 1: The MIS has an operation manual for taking data (manual technically prepared and appropriate to the level of development of each MIS. Methodology for taking data, number of samples, schedules, material, sources of data, etc.) (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ There is a written manual and it is consulted by Reporters. (Rating: 3.0)
▪ The manual is complied with. There is internal control of manual compliance. (Rating: 3.0)

Best practice 2: There are reporters recruited via technical process and trained for this work. (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ There are norms for recruitment of personnel in the institution, and they are applied. (Rating: 3.0)
▪ There are norms for qualifications and training of personnel for entering into service. (Rating: 3.0)

Best practice 3: Market reporters have logistic resources needed to carry out their work. They participate in MIS training, evaluation and adjustments. (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ The system’s annual budget provides sufficient resources for normal operation and service. (Rating: 3.0)
▪ There is a program of training events for Reporters, including practices, evaluation seminars and other. (Rating: 3.0)

Best practice 4: Reporters have a list of qualified informers who support obtaining accurate information. (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ There is a list of market informers who have been known for a long time. (Rating: 3.0)
▪ There is a basic list of informers who can complement information with random surveys (according to the manual). (Rating: 3.0)

Best practice 5: There are norms for validation of information collected from different sources than the consulted informants, from other informants. (Rating: 4.0). Check list:
▪ There are written norms (inside or outside the Manual), or routine practices adopted by the Service. (Rating: 4.0)

Best practice 6: The MIS has made a study on the chain of the main products which permits technically defining the “data taking points”, and the price levels for wholesalers, producers, retailers, internationally. (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ One or more competent studies have been prepared by MIS or other which indicate where to sample and collect data. (Rating: 2.0)
▪ The MIS uses reputable diagnose and investigations of the country’s nutritional system, which contribute technical information to determine where to sample and collect data. (Rating: 2.0)
▪ If no investigations or diagnosis exist, the MIS at least looks for suitable information that enables finding out market tendencies, in order to update its methodology for collecting data and avoid become routine and stagnant in collecting data. (Rating: 2.0)

Best practice 7: The MIS takes prices and complements with commentaries, volumes and another market information (tendencies, overall analysis, etc.) (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ The Manual of the System establishes the different components of information. Otherwise, there are plans for developing the MIS that identifies the modules and components of the information that will be provided under the variable “markets”. (Rating: 3.0)
▪ The MIS has price and other information about external markets, including exchange prices in neighboring countries. (Rating: 3.0)

b) “Best practices” for Data processing (20%)

Best practice 8: The MIS has data processing manuals and instructions for the different tasks for adding value to the data. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ There are general instructions for processing data, from post-collection through delivery for dissemination. (Rating: 0.75)
▪ There is a computerized manual for data processing, updated. Instructions with graphs and instructional forms suitable for computerized systems. (Rating: 0.75)
▪ There are instructions for storing data and for statistical processes, prepared in consultation with experts. (Rating: 0.75)
▪ Processing technicians know and use the manuals and instructions. (Rating: 0.75)

Best practice 9: The MIS should keep an updated listing of products, varieties, units of weights and measures, based on the market registries, so as to organize and publish the information. (Rating: 2.0). Check list:
▪ There is a document that registers information products according to the type of market, with classification by groups, varieties, commercial presentation (weights and measures), and updated as the market evolves. (Rating: 2.0)

Best practice 10: The MIS should use a computer program that allows administering information in an ordered way and which demonstrate efficiency in handling the data. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ A structured program is used for the database. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The program allows the entry of primary data and processes the information. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The program is appropriate to the operating capabilities of the MIS personnel (language, access windows). (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 11: The MIS should have the necessary capabilities to update and maintain the computer program used for processing data, whether they are commercial origin or internally developed. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ There are economic or human resources to maintain and update the computer program. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The computer program allows modifying data processing. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The program includes modules for handling related information such as units of measurement, packages and monetary units. (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 12: The MIS should use a computer program that allows processing and freely sharing information with other computer applications in a standard, compatible data format. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ The program has modules for consulting data different than the standard report generated. (Rating: 0.75)
▪ The program allows extracting or exporting data for incorporating into other platforms. (Rating: 0.75)
▪ The data that are exported, or can be extracted with the program, are compatible with other database programs. (Rating: 0.75)
▪ The data that are exported, or can be extracted with the computer program, are compatible with spreadsheets. (Rating: 0.75)

Best practice 13: The MIS should use a computer program for information management that allows easy and simple processing of data entry, diminishing typing errors. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ The computer program has a special module for data entry. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The module for entering reads and operates easily. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The module for entering includes validation of information. (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 14: The MIS should use a computer program that allows preparing and modifying reports easily for disseminating information in print and electronically. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ The computer program automatically generates standard reports. (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The computer program allows making changes in reports. (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The program allows creating new reports, or the MIS has the capability of modifying the program that generates reports. (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The program allows creating reports for printing. (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The program allows creating reports as electronic files in spreadsheet format. (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The MIS has programs for creating electronic documents in standard formats (PDF, XML, HTML, CSV, TXT). (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The program has a module for interactive consultation of information. (Rating: 0.375)
▪ The program has a module for interactive consultation via Internet (in Web Pages). (Rating: 0.375)

c) “Best practices” for Data Dissemination (40%)

Best practice 15: The MIS should promote the system. It should have a defined policy that stimulates the dissemination of data, that expands its range of action and that increases the number of clients and users. (Rating: 6.0). Check list:
▪ There are documents (manuals or instructions) that define these policies. The Service’s employees refer to these documents when they seek to attract new users, or to expand the list of beneficiaries. (Rating: 3.0)
▪ The MIS has events promoting its services and training its users and potential clients so that they understand the bulletins, can interpret the data and gain confidence as users. (Rating: 3.0)

Best practice 16: The MIS should generate reports in a format that allows easy reading and the orderly display of contents. (Rating: 4.0). Check list:
▪ The MIS should have the support of a social communicator or professional to provide methodologies in the presentation of information that are user friendly for the public in general. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The MIS report is presented in an order that is easy for the user to understand. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ Each reporter includes a description of contents easily understood by the user. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ The report format is more like a “market report” and less like a series of charts of statistical information. (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 17: The MIS should have a policy of distributing its reports to its market informers on a regular basis. (Rating: 1.0). Check list:
▪ There is a policy of distributing its reports to MIS’s market informers. The reporters or other persons distribute the reports on a regular basis to the informers (printed or another medium). (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 18: The MIS should keep the registry of users to whom it provides reports up to date. (Rating: 4.0). Check list:
▪ There is a policy of reviewing and updating the user registry. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ There is a user registry. The user registry is kept up to date. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ There is verification of reception of reports by users. (Rating: 1.0)
▪ User registry data is kept confidential to protect personal information. (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 19: The MIS user registry should separately identify users who are natural clients of the service from those who get the reports for other purposes. (Rating: 2.0). Check list:
▪ There is a registry of the natural users of the service (voluntary users). (Rating: 1.0)
▪ There is a registry of beneficiaries who are sent the information without necessarily being subscribed users of the service. Anyone can be a user of the service (although they should pay a fee). (Rating: 1.0)

Best practice 20: The MIS should use appropriate media to communicate with natural users of their services to assure that these have effective access to the reports. (Rating: 8.0). Check list:
▪ Users are classified according to the means of communication they require for obtaining the information. The user can elect the most appropriate medium for receiving information. (Rating: 1.33)
▪ There are several means of dissemination, according to the needs of users: Internet, printed, fax, radio, TV, newspapers, telephone, etc. (Rating: 1.33)
▪ The MIS generates printed reports for distribution to users. (Rating: 1.33)
▪ The MIS has the resources to distribute printed information adequately. (Rating: 1.33)
▪ The MIS generates reports in electronic document format to distribute to users, or has access via the Web. (Rating: 1.33)
▪ The MIS has the resources to generate and distribute reports electronically. (Rating: 1.35)

Best practice 21: The MIS has a Website as an important means of disseminating data. (Rating: 3.0). Check list:
▪ It is a Website prepared by experts supported by communicators who take into accounts the suggestions and characteristics of the clients or “natural users” of MIS in the country. (Rating: 1.5)
▪ It is an easy Website to access, with efficient display of its contents, friendly and practical to use. (Rating: 1.5)

Best practice 22: The MIS Website links with and cites other information sources that complement prices and market information. (Rating: 4.0). Check list:
▪ There is a policy of interrelating with other information sources, avoiding institutional jealousy and thus offering a better service to users. (Rating: 2.0)
▪ There are effective mechanisms that complement and link on the Web with other pertinent information sources. Relevant data and reports from other reliable sources cited. (Rating: 2.0)

Best practice 23: The MIS should consult “natural resources” of the Service about the format and content of the reports to assure that they meet their needs. (Rating: 4.0). Check list:
▪ There is a communication policy or mechanism for traditional and also for infrequent users, as well as those no longer subscribing to the Service. (Rating: 2.0)
▪ The policy or mechanisms for assuring quality are carried out, based on user feedback and other sources of input. (Rating: 2.0)

Best practice 24: The MIS should evaluate or receive opinions about the quality of their Service. (Rating: 4.0). Check list:
▪ There is a policy for quality control of the Service offered. (Rating: 0.8)
▪ The quality policy is carried out. Users are consulted about the quality of the Service frequently or at scheduled intervals. (Rating: 0.8)
▪ There is a procedure for handling complaints and suggestions. (Rating: 0.8)
▪ Complaints are handled according to a procedure and the user receives a response. There is a register of complaints and responses. (Rating: 0.8)
▪ Suggestions and recommendations from users of the agrofood system and other are taken into account. (Rating: 0.8)

According to Dr. Mendoza’s proposed methodology, the evaluation of the “best practices” according to the level of compliance in the various phases of processing in a MIS is a follows: a) rating between 75% and 100%, the MIS has good to excellent compliance; b) rating between 50% and 75%, the MIS has adequate to good compliance; c) rating between 25% and 50%, the MIS has inadequate compliance; and d) less than 25%, no rating.

View documents:
OIMA Best practices report
OIMA Best practices indicators Annex 1 Basic Table