You’re thinking about using IT tools for your monitoring system? Then consider the following three points before taking a decision:
- Should it be file-based or web-based?
- Should it be a database or do Excel tables suffice?
- Should it be online or offline?
1. File-based IT approaches have the disadvantage that data and information is often scattered across different documents with several versions circulating for example via email. Access to the latest information can be difficult within a team. It needs a person who is responsible to consolidate all information regularly and doesn’t lose overview. Always remember: files tend to hide and multiply rapidly.
In web-based software tools or cloud-based solutions, usually all people who have access and assigned rights can / shall add information to the same document or page. This way, information is not lost in emails or different documents. All users can always be on the same page very easily. However, it might depend on the organizational culture if a more hierarchical or a more participatory and transparent working style is expected. This could influence the decision for file-based versus web-based approaches. Furthermore, in some organizations, concerns about the safety of cloud –based software prevail.
2. The relationship between content and structure is the main difference between databases and Excel or other file-based approaches. With databases, you first have to set up the structure (data base modeling) which can be challenging for a non-IT-person. Content is entered later into the developed structure. From there, information can be accessed and displayed in different dashboards, analysis sheets, etc.
With Excel files, usually, content is entered first. Beginning with some rows and columns but then adding more and more… At the end, a lot of excel tools are just big tables and you may get lost. Excel is a great tool but if you start to get lost in big tables you should consider setting up a proper database and you may need professional support for this.
3. Should it be online or offline?
For some people online versus offline software makes a difference. While online tools allow for instant data entry and analysis, they also need to be connected to the Internet. During field surveys this can be a challenge. However, some apps also allow for offline data entry and then upload data once they’re online again. For regular management processes Internet connectivity might not be a decisive point. Here, web-based software that opens in the browser and allows various people to work on the same documents / pages can be very practical. Classic software to be installed in the PC is also offline.
When opting for cloud-based software, think about privacy issues and where servers and thus data are located. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) the European Union has one of the strongest privacy laws of the world. In the US in contrast, no general applicable privacy law exist. Locally existing privacy laws apply only to US citizens. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy_policy)
Thus, companies or organizations should have a careful look at privacy issues and server locations of software providers.
Take WebMo as an example: WebMo is a web-based database application which handles all your M&E data based on your Logframe. Our servers are located in Germany and we handle your data in line with the GDPR.
Did this blog post help you clarify your organization’s requirements for monitoring software? We hope so!
This blog is part 3 of our blog series “IT for M&E – four questions you should consider to get the right tool”. Check also part 1, 2 and 4 to learn more about the different aspects you should consider before deciding what kind of software support or which tool you need for your M&E system.