How do you start using Sigmah ?

Sigmah, information management software for international aid projects

Software on the internet

Sigmah is a web application that can be accessed via the Firefox web browser.

Why Mozilla Firefox?

Because Mozilla Firefox is a high-performance, free, and widely disseminated web browser that works equally well on Windows, Linux and Macintosh. Also, Firefox is open source like Sigmah.

How do you get onto Sigmah without an internet connection?

In order to deal with the numerous contexts where the internet connection is very unstable, or even non-existant, Sigmah has an offline mode. As soon as the connection is lost, it switches to the offline mode, and once the connection is re-established, you can synchronise any modifications using the Sigmah server.

There is no need to install anything to be able to use the offline mode: Sigmah uses the capacity of modern browsers like Mozilla Firefox.

 

Choose your hosting solution

Via the shared server Sigmah Central

The simplest solution to use Sigmah is to create an account on Sigmah Central. This allows you to use the software without being responsible for technical installation or server updating procedures, maintenance, backup copies, etc.

This is a fee-paying service, the cost determined by the services that are chosen, because the technical administration of the machine that hosts the software requires technical and human resources in proportion to the amount that it is used. The management of the server is subcontracted to Netapsys, and billing and technical support is centralised by Groupe URD who will be your direct interlocutor.

The Sigmah Central service is less expensive than installing a server within your organization, because the resources that are required are shared between numerous organisations.

Contact us for more information: contact@sigmah.org

For more information about hosting fees for Sigmah Central, consult the different service packages available.

Of course, individual quotes for Sigmah Central hosting are also available.

Via your own server

You can choose to use your own server for Sigmah. It will then be your own IT staff’s responsibility to manage all the technical aspects (installation, backups, updates and general technical maintenance).

Sigmah is open source software. This means that any individual or organization can download and install the software on their own platform free of charge.

Installing Sigmah is currently done by means of a technical procedure that needs to be rigorously followed to be done properly. This procedure is available at the following address: http://wiki.sigmah.org/doku.php?id=administratorguide:installingsigmah

 

Secure your data

Several levels of security, and responsibilities, need to be taken into account:

On the server

The shared server, Sigmah Central, is fully secured, both in terms of loss of data (automatic backups) and the risk of intrusion. If the software is installed on an organisation’s own server, it is their responsibility to take the necessary security measures.

Between the server and the user’s computer

The shared server, Sigmah Central, uses the secure HTTPS internet communication protocol. This is the same protocol that is used to safely log on to your bank account, for example. It is easy for organisations that install Sigmah on their own server to set up the HTTPS protocol.

The responsibility of the user

The majority of security breaches happen at the user level. Using passwords that are too weak, sharing passwords with a third party, etc. are reasons why an intruder can gain access to an organisation’s Sigmah. The software includes a button, “Destroy offline bases”, which allows users to remove any trace of Sigmah data from their computer. Use of this button is the responsibility of the user.

 

Configure sigmah to meet your needs

Sigmah is designed to be adapted to each organisation

Your international aid organisation has its own way of functioning. No two organisations in our sector operate in the same way. Sigmah is designed not only to be easily adapted to each organization, but also so that the organization can adapt the software autonomously. The objective of the Sigmah project is to reinforce the information management capacity of all the organisations in our sector.

How? The project model concept and a simple graphic interface

How? Using the simple concept of « models », whether for projects, organisational units or contacts. These models can be created and modified via a graphic interface that can be used without any special technical knowledge. There is no need to manipulate any abstract configuration files. Based on experience, all that is required is someone within your organization who is comfortable using spreadsheet programmes like LibreOffice Calc and Microsoft Excel.

Configuring project models

You can create as many project models as you want. And within each project model, you can, for example, create as many data collection fields as necessary: file fields to save and exchange documents, date fields for the key dates of a project, text fields for comments and appraisals, checkboxes to structure validations, etc. For each of these fields, you can decide who can see and modify the information. You can therefore create different levels of confidentiality for each unit of information. You can also establish validation processes. For example, if there is a checkbox entitled “Budget document validated by the financial department”, you can limit the ability to modify it to those with a “financial” profile.

Configuration can be done alone, or with support

Several organisations have carried out the configuration of Sigmah on their own, or by exchanging with other organisations. The complete User’s Guide is available to all to help make it easier to use project models. Other organisations, on the other hand, have preferred to be trained in using the software and to be accompanied in the creation of their first project models. These two options are available: the most important thing is that your adoption begins with a presentation of the software that makes sense and is easy to understand for your colleagues, and that you have the skills to adjust and change this presentation of the software based on their feedback.

 

Self-learning with the user’s guide

A complete User’s Guide is available free of charge. It explains everything about how to use the software, including configuration.

Download the English version

Download the French version

Download the Spanish version

 

Do you need help?

The Sigmah project depends on the expertise of a network of professional and voluntary partners.

This network is facilitated by Groupe URD:

Groupe URD is a non-profit association that employs around 20 people, and which has been working to improve humanitarian practice for 20 years. It has been involved in the area of computer-based management of international aid projects since the development of the Dynamic COMPAS in 2006.

Since 2010, it has facilitated the Sigmah project – which is run by a Steering Cooperative – and within which it acts as the product owner. It designs and runs both general and specific courses on Sigmah, accompanies organisations in their adoption of Sigmah, whether alone or as part of a broader Quality approach, and also provides technical support.

Alongside Groupe URD, the main partners are:

Adergo, for interface design, user experience and intuitivity: http://www.adergo.com/

Atol Conseils & Développements, for the software development of new features: https://www.atolcd.com/

Code Lutin, for the quality control of the code when new versions are released: https://www.codelutin.com/

Netapsys, for the software development of new features: http://www.netapsys.fr

 

What can you get support for?

Support in organizational change in order to design an adoption project for your organisation

Support in organisational change will help to design a project for adopting Sigmah within your organization. This is the point when important preliminary questions need to be dealt with. For example, what should the adoption timetable be between the different users in different countries? What communication plan should be adopted? Etc.

Support of this kind will also provide the basis for monitoring the adoption project and deciding what needs to be adjusted based on how the project evolves and feedback from staff as the process moves forward.

Analysis of the organisation’s specific needs and management processes

Through interviews with the key people within the organization who will use Sigmah, and analysis of existing institutional documentation, Groupe URD will establish a table summarizing the needs that exist and a diagram of the organisation’s specific management processes. Each need that is identified in the table will be prioritized based on the expectations of the organization. Decisions will then be made about how to meet these needs either through the configuration of the software or the development of a new feature.

Developing a new feature to meet a specific need of the organisation

An organisation can have needs that are not yet met by Sigmah.
If this need has been expressed by a large number of other Sigmah users, it will perhaps be a feature of a future version of Sigmah that is developed using the shared resources of the project.

If there is not a collective demand for this feature, the organisation can decide to develop it alone.

In this case, Groupe URD and Sigmah’s network of technical service providers can develop the feature to meet the organisation’s specific need. If so, Groupe URD takes responsibility for relations with the organization, the functional design, product ownership and interaction with the service provider, who, for their part, is responsible for the software engineering: the technical design, the development, tests and documentation.

Training

It is possible to self-train in using Sigmah thanks to the User’s Guide that is available free of charge online.

However, an organisation can be provided with support in learning to use and configure Sigmah.
Groupe URD provides a 2-day general course on using (day 1) and configuring (day 2) Sigmah. Day 2 ends with a workshop that allows participants to begin their organisation’s configuration.

Recuperating existing data

When an organisation begins to use Sigmah, they may want to have access to past data that is saved in other formats. The existing data therefore needs to be recuperated so that they can be integrated into the new data base.
After a preliminary analysis of the data to be recuperated, the service provider provides the organisation with file models to be filled in. Based on these files, they produce an initial version of the data base, either in the form of a file, or directly installed on the organisation’s Sigmah Central account.

Methodological support to configure the software

In order to configure the software so that it meets the organisation’s specific needs, a number of questions need to be addressed: how should the “Organisational Units” be organised in order to reflect how projects are distributed? How many project models should be configured? How many phases should be included in each project model? What level of detail should the first version of models have? Etc.
Methodological support can be provided for the configuration of the software. This involves helping to define the steps to be followed, and establish how Sigmah can meet the organisation’s needs most effectively. Generally, this type of support consists of a workshop at the organisation’s headquarters and remote activities.

Advanced dashboards

Sigmah already includes a simple dashboard that provides an overview of all projects, with a number of general indicators such as the budget used and the time that has passed. But how can complex information that is stored in Sigmah be pooled?

Having conducted a needs assessment, the configuration of Sigmah can be developed further, and advanced dashboards can be created in a self-service business intelligence software. In keeping with the principle of increasing actors’ autonomy, we recommend self-service decision-making tools that can be modified relatively easily to change dashboards so that they meet the organisation’s needs.

Technical support

There are two ways to get answers to any questions you may have about using the software, or to find solutions to problems:

  • The complete User’s Guide, which is available to all
  • A technical support service via email, that is available depending on the service package that is chosen

This technical support service is available all year on working days via support@sigmah.org

The reactivity and cumulated time of support provided depends on the service package that is chosen. Any extra support over and above the limit included in your package, is billed at full cost to the organization.

Depending on the subject or seriousness of the request for support, the response can either be immediate or delayed. If the request does not require any correction of an anomaly (the majority of situations), the response and the closure of the request may be immediate. If the request involves the correction of an anomaly, a “ticket” describing the anomaly is created. The speed with which the ticket is dealt with depends on how critical the anomaly is and the user’s service package (see “corrective maintenance” below).

Lastly, if the request involves the modification or development of a new feature, a “ticket” describing the evolution is drafted. The organization that has made the request may then decide to implement the development, or it may be planned together with other user organisations.

Maintenance

  • Corrective maintenance depending on the service package

There are three main types of anomaly: minor, major and critical.
Any critical anomaly will be corrected as quickly as possible, regardless of the version of the software (basic or full) involved.
“Full” packages also include the correction of major and minor anomalies for the next “full” version of the software.

Apart from the very rare occurrences of critical anomalies (around 3 per year since 2010), no correction of anomalies is included for the “basic” version that comes with the « basic » package because these are designed to be accessible to all kinds of organization. In order to keep the cost of these packages as low as possible, it is not possible to include the cost of correcting all the anomalies that are identified in the related version.

  • Progressive maintenance

When a request is made for a new feature, an analysis is carried out to find a solution that is in keeping with the constraints and expectations of the other user organisations. In this way, Sigmah continues to evolve as a single shared asset that is to the benefit of all.

Two general cases are then possible for the development of the feature:

  1. the Steering Cooperative considers the feature to be a priority in the same way as the organization that made the request;
  2. the organisation that made the request requires the feature more urgently than the rest of the Steering Cooperative.

In the first case, the request is integrated and prioritised in the project road map, and collective resources are made available for its development.
In the second case, the requesting organization may provide the resources to develop the feature itself more rapidly. As Sigmah is a commonly owned asset with an open source license, the organization thereby contributes to its development for the sector as a whole. The cost of developing a new feature depends on how complex it is.

Sigmah is supported by 12 NGOs

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