Introducing iHRIS

iHRIS – integrated Human Resources Information System…

… is the system we are implementing for the Malawi Ministry of Health and the new name of our project, which was previously HRMIS.

After being in Malawi for almost 5 months, I’m finally in a position to say something meaningful about my work here. It’s been difficult adapting to a completely new working (and living) environment. At times, the information has been too sensitive to share publicly. Thankfully, that’s all behind us and we have made some real progress, particularly in the last 2 weeks, following the arrival of 2 more VSO volunteers. Their skills and boundless enthusiasm has made a real difference to the entire project.

Here is some information on our project, which is taken from our PID (Project Initiation Document):-

1.3         Background

In 2004, the Malawi Ministry of Health identified a Human Resource for Healthcare (HRH) crisis, which must be addressed. Following the Program of Work (PoW) which covered 2004-2010 and implemented the 6 year Emergency Human Resource Plan (EHRP), the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP) 2011-2016 was created to address the long term challenges which still remained.

Several subsequent major studies, including a 2008 report by WHO, have identified the need for a Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) and associated processes to be implemented. In order to enable the Ministry of Health (MoH) to systematically monitor, control and plan the recruitment, development and deployment of public and private sector healthcare workers in Malawi.

In March 2009, an interim solution was commissioned and a national HRMIS was developed and implemented by VSO, using Microsoft Access. While in operation, data from cost centres were collected in a Microsoft Excel file, called a Staff Return (a pre-existing process), and sent via email or physically transported in a flash memory device to the Ministry of Health. Where it was manually validated and inputted into the central system. The Access-based HRMIS had the necessary functionality required by the MoH. It produced valuable reports from which the HR department could analyse and use to plan and make decisions accordingly. However, due to process and logistical difficulties, as well as technical limitations of Microsoft Access, the central database at the MoH headquarters has not been updated since September 2010. Though it has not been formally decommissioned.

In October 2012, a long term solution was formally proposed at the Human Resources Technical Working Group (HRTWG). The proposal was to commission a new web-based and scalable tool to replace the Access-based HRMIS.

The new tool identified was a free, open source software package called Integrated Human Resources Information System (iHRIS). It is an industry recognised solution developed by a USAID funded project called CapacityPlus and has been adopted by many African and other countries with similar needs.

A Task Force was formed to manage and take responsibility for the project.

2.1       Project Goal

The project aims to enhance the Ministry of Health’s organisational capability to effectively and systematically manage all public and private sector healthcare workers in Malawi, in order to address the Human Resource for Health crisis. Using the appropriate technology available, a new IT system will be made available to provide the Department of Human Resources with the necessary information for decision making and planning.

The technical implementation of iHRIS is central in the provision of this capability. As well as non-technical tasks such as staff training to use the iHRIS effectively. Together, this will achieve a fully operational system, which is scalable, sustainable and suitable for the Department of Human Resources’ long term needs.

2.2.1     Integration Scope

High level integrated system architecture and integration scope:-

iHRIS Integration Diagram

iHRIS Integration Diagram

To deliver iHRIS, we have adopted the Agile project management methodology and already implemented some simple but highly effective techniques such as a daily stand-up – a brief, structured meeting where all participants must speak.

Since our project has many stakeholders and partners (other NGOs including USAID, GIZ Health, CHAI), we need to have a project workspace and collaboration tool to store documents in a central library and to share accurate and timely information. This eliminates the unnecessary emailing of potentially out-of-date documents such as meeting minutes and reports to lots of people, whose addresses are often incorrect. So we are currently in the process of procuring a tool called Huddle via the Charity Technology Exchange.

Many of you who have worked in large organisations may be familiar with Microsoft SharePoint. Well, Huddle market themselves as the number 1 SharePoint alternative! Having tried a few similar online tools for the past week, we think it is a very good tool that’s suitable for our needs.

More news to follow soon.

Categories: Healthcare, Technology, Volunteering, VSO, Work | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Introducing iHRIS

  1. I am so pleased to hear that you are making progress and the new volunteers have brought enthusiasm with them! Keep up the good work!


  2. Eldad


    I have been following your blog for the last couple of months and i am enjoying it very much. Can you share with us information about the complexity of delivering an IT project in Africa and about the work and collaboration with the local people.



    • Hi Eldad

      It has been very challenging and continues to be so! In Malawi, the general level of computer literacy is very low. Coupled with the fact that we are working with the civil service and aid/development agencies. It means the overall approach is one of a development project, as opposed to an IT one. So there are lots of different perspectives, areas of focus and mentality.

      Also, critical thinking is rare here. Asking “why?” often does not give you the reason or the logic of why a task is being done in the way it is. Dare I say it (as a foreigner with only a few months experience), common sense is not common here.

      On the up side, it presents good opportunities to both learn from them and educate them too. For example, on best practices in the West and how it can be adapted to suit the Malawi needs. It’s definitely a 2-way thing.


  3. I work on the iHRIS project here in the US. I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences implementing it in Malawi and the challenges you’ll face.


    • Hi Shannon
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I’ll be sending you lots of questions soon 🙂 We’re making a lot of this up as we go along since none of us are iHRIS experts!


      • Questions always welcome. I hope you joined our forum as that is the quickest way to get help and advice.


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