December 05, 2016
5 Reasons Why Every Development Organization Needs a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) software
It is that time of year again when the donor reports are due or the Board and other stakeholders want to hear how the programmes are progressing.
Questions abound; “How many direct and indirect beneficiaries were reached?”, “How much of the budget was spent?”, “Did the programme have an impact?”, “What are the success stories?”
There you are running around like a headless chicken (pardon the metaphor for the animal lovers), scouring through endless Excel sheets, different monthly and quarterly reports, calling up Jackie from the Finance department for the latest figures and trying to reach Sam, the Project Officer, who is currently somewhere in the field. As chance would have it, there is intermittent internet connectivity in his neck of the woods. Guess you are on your own.
In your panic, you also start searching the computer for the smiling photos of the recipients of a scholarship from the education programme in Kenya a few months ago. These photos would look really nice in the donor report. However, where were these photos saved? You also vaguely remember Sally telling a nice story of a woman who got her life back on track after getting a small loan under the income-generation project in Guatemala. That would make a good case study. Alas, Sally is on vacation for a month.
Does any of the above sound familiar? You would be surprised to know that this scenario plays out in a lot of development organisations every single reporting cycle. It is not that these organisations are sloppy and disorganized.
On the contrary, most of them do possess a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system to track the achievement of results. However, their M&E system is usually paper-based and relies on data that is electronically stored in a spreadsheet, in multiple places and in different persons’ heads.
For a small NGO that has few projects in a few geographical locations and a small budget, they may get by with a paper-based M&E system. Though as mentioned earlier, it can be a painstaking process that takes time, energy and effort to collate and analyse all the information.
By complex programmes, we refer to the ones with many components/services with multiple and broad objectives that are implemented in different countries, with a lot of different donors and agencies, a sizable budget and oftentimes there is country-led planning and evaluation. It behooves such an organization to use an M&E software.
An M&E software allows you to get an overview of all your interventions, wherever they are located, the amount of the budget that is spent and if you are on track to deliver results. No longer will you feel like you are doing a jigsaw puzzle to put together the pieces of the last Quarterly Reports, Evaluation Reports, Financial report etc., to show progress or impact.
Without an M&E software it is an arduous search to find all the
missing pieces to know if your programme is achieving the programme deliverables.
Once again it is a painstaking process to manually comb through different surveys, evaluation reports and project documents to write a coherent report. Can you imagine searching for a formula error in an Excel spreadsheet with over a thousand cells? Or worse, manually tallying the number of direct and indirect beneficiaries reached from over 10 interventions in the last 5 years? This is where the efficiency of an M&E software comes in. All the calculations are done for you with reports automatically generated. This lessens the reporting, is faster and there is far less margin for (fatal) errors.
Not having a M&E Software could spell doom for your organisation
An M&E software unleashes the power to analyse data and generate an array of diagrams that will breathe life into the most lackluster report. As the entire programme data is already stored by the software, with the click of a mouse button the data can be visualized. Gone are the days of (re)entering data from multiple sources and merging Excel files to create charts.
Just one click of the mouse and voila! All the charts magically appear!
Another value added of a M&E software is the ability to capture and summarize data in ‘real time’ and directly from the source (which enhances the quality of the data).
For example, if your staff needs to complete a series of checklists when on a site visit, rather than filling out a paper form that will be entered into Microsoft Excel when they get back in the office, a good M&E software will allow the staff (or partners) to complete the checklist directly unto the platform from a mobile device or laptop in the field.
This increases efficiency and ensures that all project information is captured. Going back to the fictitious example cited earlier, if they had an M&E software, the scholarship photos from Kenya and the case study from Guatemala would have been on the system and there would be no need to rely on Sally and Sam.
With an M&E software you get ‘real time’ data so you don’t miss the boat and become extinct
Another advantage of having an M&E software that collects the data in ‘real time’ is that it gives project managers the most up-to-date information on which to learn from and to make timely decisions as issues are spotted right away.
A lot of development organisations that rely on archaic M&E systems find themselves in a predicament when ‘red flags’ appear too late. For example, there is 3 months left until the end of year and that is when the realization hits that there was gross under-spending or that that the data collection was not carried out according to plan. It then becomes a race against time to implement and achieve the programme deliverables.
With an M&E software it is less of a race against time
Is your organisation ready to modernise and upgrade? Logalto may be the M&E software solution for you.
Please get in touch with us through firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll be happy to further discuss how LogAlto can support your organization.