Logframer's blog

Logframer by the Numbers - 31000 Downloads and Counting

Logframer 3.0 is out and it's the sixth version in total. So how is this project going?

Well of course monitoring is important for any project and I wouldn't be allowed to call myself a M&E expert if I hadn't devised a monitoring system for Logframer as well. So here are some of the main results

 

Logframer has been downloaded and installed over 31000 times

Since its launch in May 2013 (four years ago), Logframer has been downloaded more than 31000 times. That is pretty huge for specialist software aimed at project managers in international assistance.

Logframer download stats

As you can see in the chart, most people use the logframer.eu site (some 25.000 downloads in total - the blue line). Logframer is also available from a number of download sites such as Softpedia, Download.com, FindMySoft, FileCluster, etc. For my stats I track seven to eight of the more popular ones, but there are many more mirror sites out there that are not included in this list. (Beware for some mirror sites because they lure you in with free software and gain money by including all kinds of unwanted applications in their download files).

You can see the dramatic jump since November 2016, when version 2.0 was released. This was by far the most popular version:

Average monthly download

In defense of version 1.3: it had to keep the fire going for two years while I completely revised the code and developed version 2.0. But still, version 2.0 managed to get more downloads in half a year than its older brother did in two years:

Downloads of each version

With Logframer 2.0's excellent results and the release of version 3.0 a couple of weeks ago, it's clear that 2017 is going to be a record year:

Total download figures per year

The number of downloads for the first six months (well almost; the first five-and-a-half-months) of 2017 are almost as high as the total number of downloads for 2016 - which was a record-breaking year.

 

People from all over the world use Logframer

When I started working on Logframer my hope was that it would be a useful tool for grassroots organisations as well as larger organisations and that it would be used in developing countries and donor countries alike. And this is the case, as you can see in the map below:

People from all over the world visit the site (the map shows the number of visitors per country, not the number of downloads). People of Greenland and Turkmenistan are not fond of project management and I urgently have to send an e-mail to the five people in North Korea that are allowed to use a computer about what a great application it is.

The top twenty of visitor countries shows a nice mix of people from developing and donor countries:

1 India 11 Belgium
2 United States 12 Indonesia
3 France 13 Bangladesh
4 Kenya 14 Ethiopia
5 United Kingdom 15 Italy
6 Philippines 16 South Africa
7 Canada 17 Germany
8 Pakistan 18 Nepal
9 Australia 19 Nigeria
10 The Netherlands 20 Uganda

So all in all I'm quite happy with these figures so far, which exceed my expectations by some margin. I hope Logframer 3.0 will have a bright future and also that Logframer will attrackt more people from Spanish speaking countries once the interface has been translated.

 

Logframer 3.0 preview

The official launch of version 3.0 of Logframer isn't too far off now, it's a matter of days now. So it's high time for the traditional preview of the new features of this version.

Originally, version 3.0 was supposed to be version 2.1 - meaning that it was supposed a minor upgrade instead of a major new version. But well, one thing led to another and before I knew it I had made so many changes that I figured it made more sense to release it as a new major update.

The one thing that led to many others was the ability to read and create IATI activity and organisation documents. IATI is the International Aid Transparency Initiative: it aims to clarify where aid money comes from and where and how it is spent. Amongst other things, this will empower local governments who will have a better understanding and overview of the aid that is coming their way or that has already been delivered in their country. But IATI also aims to inform the public at large, journalists, researchers, etc. To enable this exchange of information, IATI has created an information standard, i.e. a way of presenting information in a standardised, digital format. In some countries, NGOs are required by their respective governments to produce IATI activity files about all their projects as well as annual reports about the funding of the organisation as a whole.

IATI is picking up speed, but there aren't a lot of tools to produce IATI compliant files. But now Logframer can create such files, and the best thing is that you don't have to do anything particularly complicated: just develop your project in Logframer, push a button and presto! Your IATI activity file is ready for publication!

Create an IATI activity file or organisation file at the push of a button

The great thing is that unlike most other tools, you don't need to copy-paste all that information from your project from the project's documentation into the tool.

To make sure all the information required by IATI can be developed in Logframer, a number of changes had to be made to the Project Information window. The bulk of the changes can be found here:

The new Project Information window

In the new Description tab you can indicate the phase your project's in. Content-wise you can indicate what type of project this is, what sectors it deals with and provide a short (or long) description of the project and the context you're working in.

Another improvement in this version of Logframer is the inclusion of (dynamic) maps. You can indicate the location of your intervention zones, target groups and (partners') offices on Bing Maps.

Draw a rectangle, circle or polygon around an area

Another new addition is the Funding tab. You can list funding sources, add information about budget lines and calls for proposals, make a list of contractual obligations such as deadlines for reporting, external audits & evaluations, etc.

A key element in aid transparency is to provide information about transactions and show how money moves from the donor to the NGO to its partners to beneficiaries in the field.

Information about a transfer from HQ to a field office

What struck me when I first learned about IATI is how much information the Activity standard shares with the Logframer object model - in fact this was the reason why I started to add this capability of producing IATI files in the first place. But there is of course also information that is specific for aid transparency, which can be found in the IATI specific tab

A main worry was that the novice user of Logframer, or someone who just wants to create a (simple) project, would get lost in all these additional fields aiming for aid transparency. Logframer is not only used by NGO people but also by businesses, non-profits in other fields than international assistance, various government agencies, etc. So an important new addition was the introduction of view modes. Logframer now has four view modes:

  • Basic view mode: this focuses on the main elements: the logframe, planning and budget along with the short description of your project; the identification of your target groups and partners; and the planning of your monitoring. By default the detail panes are hidden but you can show them by pressing <Ctrl><D>.
  • Advanced view mode: in this mode you can include all kinds of detailed information about your project, including the location of intervention zones and the funding sources for your project. Some dialog windows and panes also offer more information. IATI-specific information is not shown.
  • IATI activity: in addition to all the options of the advanced view mode, this mode adds fields and lists to include information that you may need to make a report compliant to International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards.
  • IATI organisation: this mode allows you to create the (yearly) IATI organisation report. It focuses on the expenses of your organisation during the past (three) years and your budgetary forecast for the next (three) years.

The view mode can be found in the File toolbar. The File toolbar of version 2.0 was split up in a modified File toolbar and a new Reports toolbar:

The new File toolbar in 'Basic' view mode

The new Reports toolbar

You may notice the 'My organisation' button in the File toolbar. You can now create a separate file with information about your organisation that Logframer loads every time you start the application. You can use this information in your various projects - in fact your organisation is automatically added as the lead organisation in the list of partner organisations. You can also add a link to a picture file with your logo, which will consequently appear in the interface (see the Facilidev logo above in the Project Information window).

The My Organisation dialog window allows you to include your own logo

You can then include this information in the headers and/or footers of your reports

As said earlier, most of the changes can be found in the Project Information window. Some minor improvements were made in the logframe, planning and budget windows - mainly removing some bugs found by users since the release of version 2.0. However when you use Logframer to create an IATI organisation file, not only do you need to be able to provide your organisation's budget but also an overview of its expenses over the past couple of years. A new Expenses window was added to the interface, but it is only available when you work in IATI organisation mode:

The expenses window

Last but not least, you can use Logframer in a new language. Logframer 3.0 is also available in German thanks to the efforts of a group of volunteers from Applicatio Training and Management in Hamburg. A big thank you to this team.

Stay tuned for the official release of version 3.0 in a couple of days!

RAID – how the environment affects your project (and how to prepare your team)

When we design a project we hope everything will go as planned. The weather will be nice, the suppliers will bring everything on time, there will be money in the bank, our well-trained staff will finish everything on time and there will be a beautiful rainbow over our work site.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this many times in our carreers. But every so often, things may go wrong. There may be errors or accidents, or simply things we hadn’t thought of or taken sufficiently into account. Or maybe we were aware that something just like this might happen, but we didn’t really consider what we could or should do in such an event. The fact is, there are many ways in which the context or the environment in which we work may influence our project. The environment in this case doesn't refer just to the natural environment. It is about any factor that can influence your project, including human factors but also political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, etc. This influence may even be positive – great! – but can be negative and it can be expected or unexpected. We must be aware of this and try and prepare for it.

When you use a logical framework-based approach, you will know about the fourth column that contains the risks and assumptions. The good thing about logframes is that they explicitely take the (potential) influence of the environment into account. When you design a project, you understand what is necessary for your activities to be succesful and lead to tangible results that add up to the realisation of the central objective (purpose) of your project. The fourth column and the first column of the logframe have an if…then… relationship: if these pre-conditions hold true then we can do our activities. If we do our activities and the next set of assumptions hold true then the activities will produce the desired results our outputs. If we have all the necessary outputs and the next group of assumptions hold true, we will realise the main objective(s) of our project. And if a final set of assumptions hold true our project will contribute to a greater good.

if...then... relationship between the last and first columns

Identifying assumptions (and risks as a kind of negative assumptions) is important to create awareness about critical success factors that are external to the project and often beyond our control. But how do you deal with actual problems that arise? What possible action can we take? Which alternatives exist? Who should take action? Who can help us? Who or what may obstruct us?

Originally the logical framework was only meant to be used during the planning stage, but gradually it became both a project design and management (including monitoring and reporting) instrument. In the same vein it’s important to consider how you will deal with incertainties and this influence from the environment not only during the formulation of the project, but also during its execution.

One interesting tool is to use a RAID log. The RAID acronym stands for Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies. LFA, PCM and RBM users will know about risks and assumptions, but RAID identifies two other types of factors: issues (problems that raise during execution) and dependencies (from others or previous projects). These elements are not only four different types of influence; they also occur during different phases of a project.

Risks are events that may have a negative impact on the project. You can try to identify risks as much as possible during the design phase. Risks may or may not occur during the execution phase and it’s therefore important to follow them up. A specific tool that is used in Results Based Management (RBM) for this purpose is the Risk Register.

Assumptions are the situations, events, conditions or decisions which are necessary for the success of the project, but which are largely or completely beyond the control of the project's management. Assumptions are identified during the design phase and at that moment you can think of ways to deal with them so your project can start up. If there are any critical assumptions, it’s possible that you won’t be able to start the project at all – unless you redesign it completely, or postpone it until the circumstances have changed.

Issues are problems that you have to deal with on the very moment they present themselves in order to ensure your project runs smoothly. Issues occur during the execution of the project. They are not things that may occur like risks, but actual problems that you encounter

Dependencies are things (output) that your project needs from another project or partner. It’s also possible that another project depends on output of your project. Dependencies can have an influence during the design phase (because your project can’t start without certain external outputs) or during  the execution phase. They can also influence the course of future projects because they depend on the results of your project.

The RAID log helps you identify possible or actual risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies and plan what action you can take to deal with the situation should it occur. If there is an unexpected issue you can describe what you did to solve for future reference (learning). A RAID log can include the following pieces of information:

  • To identify risks you use the Risk Register (see RBM). It helps you to calculate a Risk percentage based on the likelihood that the event will occur and the impact it would have on the project. Each risk must be described and the steps to take if it occurs can be described (scenario). It’s also important to be clear of who will be responsible in such an event (risk owner). There are different strategies to deal with a risk: you can try to to avoid the risk, reduce or share its consequences, try to transfer the consequences to someone else (insurance company, emergency services) or simply accept the consequences.            
  • The assumptions list includes the reason for the assumption, how you will validate whether it influences your project, how it may impact your project, how you've dealt with this assumption in the design of your project and who is the owner for this process.
  • The issues log includes a description of each issue, the impact it has on the project and how serious this is (does it threathen the realisation of the project). It’s also important to note what you did to deal with the issue (for future learning).
  • The dependencies log specifies the type and possible impact of each dependency, what deliverables you expect and when, how you will deal with the situation if these necessary inputs don't show up and who is responsible for dealing with such a situation (the owner).

If you use Logframer for your project design and management, you will find the RAID log integrated in the Details pane of the fourth column. When you click on an item in the Risks and Assumptions column you can select whether this item is a risk, assumption or dependency in the Details pane on the bottom (if it’s not visible press <Ctrl><D>).

Information for the risk register in the Details pane

Here you can register all the information you need to identify and manage risks, assumptions and dependencies. You won’t find ‘Issues’ in the list because by definition issues can’t be foreseen.

In the ‘Reports’ section of the File toolbar you can either print the risk register, assumptions list or dependencies list or export it to MS Word or Excel. The fact that you can export the Risk Register to Excel is particularly interesting, because it allows you to periodically re-assess your risks and update the list of risks as well as your assessment of the risk level and potential impact over the course of the project. This helps you maintain vigilance for potential risks and also to understand how the risk percentage increases or decreases over time. This will enable you in turn to be prepared and take appropriate action should such an event occur.

Risk register exported to MS Excel

For more information about how to work with risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies in Logframer, see this section in the Logframer manual: Managing Risks, Assumptions and Dependencies.

If you haven't already, you can download Logframer 2.0 from the download page. Logframer is open source software, is completely free and comes with no string attached.

Example projects

As you may have noticed, Logframer 2 offers a lot of possibilities and it may take a while before you know and understand them all (even if you are one of those rare people who actually reads a manual).

So after popular demand I've decided to post the projects I use for testing the software and writing the online/offline manuals on a new page (version française ici). You will find a new link in the Help pages as well as on the Download page to the Logframer examples page.

For the moment, most examples are in english, but in the future I will post more examples here. I'm also willing to post any example projects that you would be willing to share with other people, so feel free to contact me if you have a project to share.

Bug: exporting the logframe to an existing Word document

A user reported a problem when you want to export the logical framework to an existing MS Word document

Exporting the logframe to the end of a Word document

When you want to export the logframe and insert it at the end of an existing document, Logframer stops the process and gives an error message. Exporting the logframe to a specific bookmark does work however.

This problem was solved and I made a new build of Logframer 2.0 that I published on the download page of this site.

To remedy this problem, you have to re-install Logframer so the new build will replace the earlier version:

  1. Go to the Download page
  2. Click on the green Download button
  3. When the installer has been saved on your computer, double click on 'logframer_20_setup.exe' to start the installation process.

Many thanks to the person who was so kind to make me aware of this problem. If you encounter a similar problem, feel free to use the contact form on this site to report it. When you do report a bug, please give a detailed description of the circumstances in which it occured. This helps me enormously in finding and eliminating the problem. Good user feed-back is essential to improve Logframer and to iron out all the bugs.

 

First bug detected: Logframer halts when adding/removing outputs or activities

Today a user made me aware of a problem in Logframer 2.0. When your logical framework has more than one purpose (or outcome, or specific objective) then you may run into troubles when you try to add or delete outputs or activities.

I was able to remedy this problem and I made a new build of Logframer 2.0 that I published on the download page of this site.

To remedy this problem, you have to re-install Logframer so the new build will replace the earlier version:

  1. Go to the Download page
  2. Click on the green Download button
  3. When the installer has been saved on your computer, double click on 'logframer_20_setup.exe' to start the installation process.

That's all there is to it. Thank you to the person who was so kind to warn me of this problem. If you encounter a similar problem, feel free to use the contact form on this site to report it. When you do report a bug, please give a detailed description of the circumstances in which it occured. This helps me enormously in finding and eliminating the problem. Good user feed-back is essential to keep improving Logframer and to iron out all the bugs.

Windows SmartScreen blocks installation

Some people have reported that they were unable to download and install Logframer because they got a warning from Microsoft SmartScreen:

Windows SmartScreen warning

There is no reason to worry, this happens because SmartScreen checks of list of known applications. If an application has a bad reputation, it is blocked. The problem is that young, new applications - such as Logframer 2 - are not known yet by Microsoft and therefore haven't got any reputation (good or bad) yet. So by default they are blocked.

Luckily, it's relatively easy to install Logframer anyway. Here are a couple of articles that explain how you can install an application anyway:

You can also turn of SmartScreen if you want. It is not a virus scanner, it just checks for an application's reputation. So if you have a decent virus scanner installed (and you should have one) then you are perfectly save.

 

 

Logframer 2.0 Released

It is done. The last line of code is written. The last bug is ironed out (although inevitably there are some more to be discovered). The last icon is drawn. The last help page is written and translated. After two years of non-stop occasional intermittent stop-and-go programming, Logframer 2.0 is finally released!

Logframer 2.0 is released

And it certainly is a 'new' version. No stone has been left unturned: every line of code has been scrutinised and I guess about 90% has been rewritten or modified to some point. One main objective was to improve the overall performance and speed and you'll certainly notice that viewing and printing large logframes will be much smoother. But that's not all of course.

The biggest change that you will notice when you start up version 2.0 is that you can develop the logical framework of your project AND develop a project plan like you would in Microsoft Project AND develop your project's budget like you would in Microsoft Excel. All in one file, but at the same time all these major building blocks are linked to each other. Add some activities to the project plan? Then they will also be listed in the logframe and vice versa. Made up your budget? Then you can choose from the budget items and use them in the Resources/Budget columns of your logframe.

The logframe window

You will also notice the new ribbon tab toolbars at the top of the window. Their functionality changes depending on what you're working with: the logframe, the planning, the budget, the list of partners, text, etc.

Another main development was the improvement of anything related to project monitoring. For starters, you can now set multiple targets for your indicators (as well as a baseline) and develop a monitoring calendar. There are no less than 17 types of indicators to choose from and each indicator has many options. All in all, there shouldn't be a monitoring scenario for which Logframer doesn't offer a solution. But maybe the best thing is that once you've selected all the necessary indicators to measure the impact, effects, outputs and progress of your project, you can create a monitoring instrument in MS Excel by the touch of a button. Indicators can now have sub-indicators. And sub-sub-indicators and sub-sub-sub-indicators and so on.

Risk management has improved as well: in the fourth column you can now select between Risks, Assumptions and Dependencies. In the monitoring calendar you can indicate when you need to follow-up risks and at the touch of a button Logframer will generate a Risk Register in MS Excel that you can use during your project.

The earlier versions of Logframer had a planning window, but it was not interactive. Instead it was more of a static overview of the information you added for each activity. In version 2.0, you get an interactive Gantt chart to design the key moments, processes and activities. With the introduction of processes, you can have activities with sub-activities with sub-sub-activities and so on. The gantt chart has drag-and-drop functionality, which means that you can move activities, make their duration longer, increase the time needed for preparation and follow-up (only available in Logframer people!) and link them to one another.

The planning window

The budget is a brand new addition. You can simply add budget headers and budget items. Totals are calculated automatically for each header. You can work with different currencies and manage exchange rates in a central location. You can even create multi-year budgets and automatically calculate total expenses on the front page. Also included are budget templates to get you started. Automatically calculate administration (indirect) costs as a percentage of your direct costs, etc. Logframer can handle it.

The budget window

There's a host of other things to be discovered, but I don't want to repeat everything that you can find in the help pages. So instead, rush over to the download page and install the newest Logframer (still for free and no-strings-attached) on your computer or laptop!

Download Logframer 2.0

 

First sneak preview of Logframer 2.0

It's been quiet around here lately, but don't let that fool you. During the last months I've been very busy with the brand new Logframer 2.0. As I've announced previously, this version is a major upgrade to Logframer 1.x, with all new features as well as a major overhaul to improve performance.

But enough chit-chat, how about some screenshots?

Managing the logframe with ribbons

Logframer 2.0 - logical framework with indicator details

Tadaaaah! How about a round of applause folks?

You'll immediately notice the familiar logical framework in the centre. Although at first glance it looks much the same, it has some nifty new features. And now it is lightning fast too, thanks to a completely new rendering engine.

Near the top you can see that Logframer now has a MS Office-style ribbon. The content of the ribbon changes according to what you are doing, as you would expect from a ribbon.

Logical framework lay-out ribbon

With the lay-out tab you can control what elements are visible in your logframe. You can show or hide columns, as usual, but now you can also show/hide the different sections of the logframe. There is a new button to show the whole logframe at once, or hide everything but the purpose(s).

Items ribbon tab

This is the Items ribbon tab. On the left you can see the various copy/paste options. The cut-copy-paste mechanism has been greatly improved, making it amongst other things easier to copy text from other applications, or copy/paste groups of items and so on. Next to the Add and Insert buttons, you can see the Insert Parent and Insert Child buttons...

Child activities and child indicators

Activities and child activities

... because now you can add child-activities and child-indicators. You can add as many levels as you like (I tried up to 12 sub-levels in practice).

Child indicators

Advanced options to develop your monitoring and evaluation system

Talking about the indicators, these have had a major revision too. Not only can you create compound indicators using the sub-indicators; the way that you can add up the values or scores of the indicators has had a major update. For instance, you can use the values that are registered directly, or replace a certain value range with a score.

Indicator scoring options

Below you can see how the total value of a main indicator is calculated based on the values of its sub-indicators. This is just an example of the 'values' type of indicator, but in total there are sixteen different types of indicators, all of which can use sub-indicators.

Adding up sub-indicators

Another new feature that you may have remarked in the image above is that it is now possible to identify multiple targets (instead of just a single target in the current version of Logframer). For each section in the logframe (goals, purposes, outputs and activities) you can determine at which intervals indicators have to be monitored:

Selecting how regularly indicators need to be measured

For instance, you can specify that impact (goals) and effect (purpose) indicators anly have to be monitored at the end of the programme, while the output indicators have to be measured yearly. Also, for every indicator you can measure a baseline.

RAID

Jumping to the last column, the Risks detail window will look familiar to you. However, I now integrated the RAID-typology, which stands for 'Risks - Assumptions - Issues - Dependencies'.

RAID - Risks

So when you select Assumptions you can complete the following information:

RAID - Assumptions

And this is the Dependencies window:

RAID - Dependencies

For each type of RAID element you can identify how you will deal with it (over time) and how it may influence your programme.

Project overview page

In Logframer 1.x, you would get a single overview of the logical framework with the details section in the bottom and a pop-up window showing the project's planning. In version 2.0 you can use different tab pages to see the various main elements of your programme. The logical framework has its page of course, and via the details window you can still see different information about your project. But the first page you'll see when you open the application is the Project overview, withe the project's title, its duration and other info. Below it you can immediately see who will benefit from the project, in the overview of the target groups. Other tabs allow you to register partners, donors, etc. On this page you also find the monitoring options that we saw above (when - intermediary - targets have to be reached and monitored).

Project overview page

The Planning window also had a major overhaul. In version 1.3, the Planning pop-up window just gave a static overview of the key-moments and activities that you identified using the logframe and the detail window. In version 2.0, the planning is now fully interactive, up to the point that you can design a project just like you would in Microsoft Project, using Gantt charts rather than the logical framework. I'll show you how it works in a follow-up post.

Simple or multi-year budget

Also new in this version is the inclusion of the project's budget:

Budget

You have the choice between working with a single page budget for the whole of your project, and establishing a multi-year budget. In that last case, you create the main budget headings on the overview page, and then you can specify year by year what specific costs (budget items) you want to include.

For each budget item you can calculate its cost based on how many times you will need it (in terms of duration), how many items you need and how much a single item costs (optionally in local currency). At the left you can see the totals in local currency (should you need this) and in the currency of the budget.

The totals for each budget heading are then summed up on the 'Total budget' page:

Total budget

Back in the logframe, once you've established your project's budget you can use it to indicate for every activity how many resources you will need:

You make (indicative) totals by selecting budget items and then you can specify what percentage of that cost will be needed for the activity in question.

Almost there, but not quite

So far the development of version 2.0 has progressed quite well - I've even been working on elements for later versions. But on the other hand there's still quite a bit to do before I can release version 2. Amongst other things, I have to update the printing and import/export modules to use the new rendering engine and accomodate for the new features such as the child activities/indicators and the new budget. The Undo/Redo module also needs an upgrade and then there's all the work of translating the interface and creating or updating the help files as well as the website. At the moment I'm aiming for April or May next year to release Logframer 2.0.

 

 

Logframer 1.3 - Build 2

At the moment, I'm frantically working on version 2.0 of Logframer, which will be utterly fantastic once it's finished. Some day. In the far future.

Anyway, just to say that the release of the newest version is not for toworrow because I'm giving Logframer a really thorough make-over. But that doesn't mean that the current version 1.3 is left to its own devices. I was made aware by a couple of users of some bugs in the system, most notably when you try to set the start date of an activity or key moment.

Apart from removing these bugs I incorporated some elements under the hood from the future version 2.0. Nothing drastic you know, just to make sure you can plan activities the way you want to. So that is why I have published a second build of version 1.3, which you can now download from the page with the same name.

Don't expect any new functionalities, this is just maintenance. You'll have to wait for Logframer 2.0 for any real changes. But I'll give some clues about the new version in a follow-up post.

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