The answer will depend on your program needs, as all along the M&E cycle there are various steps where software can support your work. For example, there are tools for data collection (online, offline, GIS based), some offer data analysis some don't. You might want to use Excel or programs such as SPSS instead for sound statistical analysis. Visualization software can help show results more clearly than any text description could. You also need to think about how to communicate results and to whom. Are monitoring or evaluation results meant for internal program steering only, or do you have to inform donors, the public? What further information do you need for your M&E management process? There are various specialized tools for each step. In general, data can be exported as CSV or XML files and imported into other systems. However, in general it is easier if you have one tool covering as much aspects as possible, provided you need them. A tool offering too many options you don’t need is also not handy.
So, conclusion number two: before researching which IT tools are available, define your needs and decide at which step along the M&E cycle they should support you. Only this way you will be able to find the right solution for you and your program!
Take WebMo as an example. WebMo will support you to organize your M&E system by entering all project and Logframe relevant data into one system. WebMo handles all the data and can generate Word-Reports for reporting to your partners and donors. But WebMo is not a data collection tool for conducting surveys and it will not work offline.
Did this blog post help you clarify your organization’s need for monitoring software? We hope so!
This blog is part 2 of our blog series “IT for M&E – four questions you should consider to get the right tool”. Check also part 1, 3 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.