“Transform big data into big understanding”- Richard Saul Warman
Role of Management Information Systems (MIS) in Social Work Management
Over the course of my Social Work education and career, I began to advocate for a better quality of life for individuals and communities. In my first position after graduate school, I was selected to be the system administrator for a management information system as a part of my new project assignment. I vividly remember completing two Google searches “System Administrator Role and Responsibilities” and “Skills Needed to Operate a Management Information System”. I reviewed numerous management information systems articles and my eyes began to glaze over. I decided that day that I would acquired the skills necessary to excel as a System Administrator and share the knowledge I gained through this process.
The myths I believed about MIS
I have to be honest when I first heard the term “management information system”. I believed the following myths:
- I needed to read a plethora of manuals in order to be successful
- I would need to acquire coding skills
Through my research, it became apparent there are five information system domains: executive information, decision support, management information, office support and transaction processing. MIS’s incorporate basic data, information and explicit knowledge. MIS documents best practices, program and client information that can be utilized for planning, initiating, organizing and improving a social service organization. MIS is a strategic data tool that can be used to move the mission of social service organizations forward.
Importance of MIS
MIS has the capacity to provide Social Workers with outcome data, service analysis, program outcome indicators, individual/family community trends and information about the stewardship of funds. This information also supports opportunities for engagement, project management, and builds upon Social Work competencies. Further, these efforts support the opportunity to grow and maintain a knowledge base that documents quality assurance and the ability to adapt to internal and external shifts in human service organizations. As well as the information required to evaluate a program’s effectiveness and create a corrective action plan to meet the needs of the community.
MIS Preparation for Current and Future Social Workers
I encourage all current Social Work students and future social services professionals to take the time to ascertain the capabilities of MIS in your institution and workplace. Although information systems can be thought of as operating in a silo, they require knowledge from the focus areas of interpersonal practice, community organization, social policy evaluation and management of social services. The data collected in our communities can be a part of transforming our communities. We can share these skills with our colleagues to create a team of social workers that utilize data as an innovation tool to support resilient and sustainable programs in our communities.
Kimson Johnson, MSW is a human services professional who implements and supports community programs and projects to further human services and enhances the quality of life. She is dedicated to improving community outcomes, equity of care and policy advocacy for all populations but, specifically, older adults.