The new RSR is almost here

By: D. de Bruijne

As we get close to a new release of RSR (Really Simple Reporting), Adrian Collier (product manager at Akvo) reflects on the past, the present and the future of RSR. RSR is developed and supported at Akvo. Learn about the changes to come and how RSR can make the most of bringing your projects online.

“For the past seven years we’ve been working with hundreds of international organisations to bring projects online with Akvo RSR in order to provide a consistent and consumable format for activities to be presented to the world. One of the most powerful features of Akvo RSR – as it stands today – is that it brings a voice to people working in the field via RSR project updates. With the introduction of our mobile app RSR Up early in 2014, this was brought to Android devices. We’ve seen first hand the impact this can have for internal communication to increase visibility for projects as things happen, as well as creating an interesting narrative for everyone to be able to see and gain insights into progress and achievements.

With a focus on making things simple, we will be providing a brand new visual interface that not only makes the site look prettier than it has been for a while, but also gives users easier access to the actions they need to carry out as part of their work. We’re also improving the IATI compatibility of the platform and making more changes under the hood that will allow us to roll out more specialised and needed functionality in the future. While we see this as a big release – after all we’ve been working on it for several months – we’re not stopping here.”


What’s more to come?

When Akvo RSR was conceived, it was as a project database that would support the opening up of highly networked partnership structures in international development cooperation. It was designed to scale to thousands of projects. And today Akvo RSR has 2400+ projects online, covering project budgets worth over €1 billion. Now is the time to look at how it’s used and improve the user experience.

After putting all the information and resources that was gathered on the table, all the major user routes were analysed. Defining the problems users are currently facing, what caused these problems, and starting to understand how these might be resolved.

So what are the main problems?
1. The user registration and administration process is unclear.
2. There is some uncertainty on what users can actually do in RSR.
3. The distinction between the Admin and the front end of RSR.

Based on this insight a redesign plan was developed. We call this a redesign not just in the visual sense, but in the structural and engineering point of view also. The way our users interact with the product will change in some fundamental and really useful ways, and help to streamline activities to reduce the overhead that using RSR has on our partners.

3 critical areas at the core of the redesign:

1. MyRSR
The introduction of MyRSR will provide a new interface that is clear and directs users to the features and functions that they need to access for their work. It simplifies the user registration and authorisation process. MyRSR also gives users a history of the project updates that they have posted in a central place – effectively a personal portfolio, as well as a list of projects that they can update. Another key change is the introduction of object-based permissions. So organisations will determine access to projects and updates per project if they wish, and not just at an organisation level. This will increase uptake and reduce training and support for end users.

2. IATI and Content over time
The implementation of the IATI data set within RSR gives us huge potential for both reporting and understanding project data not just as a snapshot, but over the duration of the project. However in order to capitalise on these changes, the data being entered has to be visualised in a manner that makes sense to both the users working on the project as well as the general public.

3. Distinction of RSR as its own product
The look of RSR has Akvo written all over it, even after customisation of Partner Branded Project Sites (PBPS). This is a legacy of RSR’s roots as a project marketplace and something that will be unravelled and solved.

Now we’ve entered the beginning of 2015, we will be sending our work out to the wider world with a full roll out of the changes. For a modern and effective product to compete in the growing market of project visualisation and reporting.




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