Are you a beginner with monitoring and evaluation (M&E) or starting a new project or program in the development sector? Then you will probably also think about IT tools, how and where to use them. There are plenty of tools and software out there. Getting an overview is not an easy task.
But wait, before spending your time researching for tools, go a step back and ask yourself if you really need IT tools at all for your M&E system. It may sound a bit heretical since everything nowadays is IT supported. However, it makes sense to be aware of some of it shortcomings. For example:
- Depending on your or your partner organizations’ locations, Internet connectivity can be weak or non-existent, and reliable access to electricity may be challenging.
- Users might be hesitant to use new tools, especially if they don’t realize their added value to the way they are used to do things. “We’ve always done it this way, why should we change the way we work?”
- In interview situations, smartphones or tablets may distract respondents or raise unwanted expectations.
Despite these points, software and IT tools can make your M&E work much easier!
Starting by data entry. Collecting survey data via electronic devices and appropriate software will save you considerable time and paper compared to the traditional method of doing paper and pen interviews. No need to collect staples of questionnaires and to enter the data later into a software for analysis. Furthermore, potential changes in the questionnaire can be easily deployed.
Another example: a list or indicator data sheet needs to be updated by several people. It doesn’t take long until there are different versions of the same file sent around via email. But it takes some time for the responsible person to consolidate all information into one document again. Who doesn’t know this scenario? It can be a frustrating task for an M&E Officer: “I have to chase down the staff assigned to the field work to make them fill the form and then enter said data into my own database for later analysis.”
Cloud-based IT can ensure here that all people work on the same single document/sheet, even if based in different locations.
Last but not least, software can help to consolidate different data sets into dashboards. Dashboards allow for quick and easy overviews, enabling project managers to make informed and results-oriented decisions.
So, conclusion number one: don’t think that software will be the solution to all your M&E problems. Be aware of the challenges it brings along but don’t be discouraged. The right tools and their proper use can make M&E so much easier!
This blog post is part 1 of our blog series “IT for M&E – four questions you should consider to get the right tool”. Check also part 2, 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.