Although this challenge is not limited to non-for-profit organizations, it is common for organizations in the development sector to be spread across several sites, regions and countries.
Sometimes there will be staff that work in “the field” (whatever that may mean for each organization) and rarely visit an office. Or staff will work across many dispersed offices.
While all this enables non-profit organizations to have the reach that they do, it can also be a nightmare to manage.
How do managers make sure that they have the information they need to properly understand the organization?
Here are the cornerstones of good information collection and management:
Clearly define and communicate information collection expectations
It is important that uniform data is collected from employees in all locations. Otherwise you’ll have to patchwork different types of data together, and you’ll end up with information gaps.
If you set up a clear system to collect uniform data, then you’ll have a greater chance of getting a clear picture of your organization once this data is compiled.
This can be done using templates, survey forms or software systems – to name a few.
Decide where to store this data
Once you’ve set up the system of data collection, you’ll need to make sure you’re storing the data properly.
One pitfall that organizations can face here, is that it’s easy to end up with information stored on various spreadsheets on the computers of managers at various sites.
This means there is no central repository, and no way to gain a picture of the whole organization without compiling the individual spreadsheets.
It also means that if something happens to one of the computers storing the information, that data is completely lost if it hasn’t been backed up properly.
A better option is to store all data in a central repository, ideally backed up to the cloud, so it can be accessed by anyone that needs it, whenever they need it.
Figure out how to use this data for maximum value
Once you’ve collected all of this useful information on your organization, and compiled the information so it’s in one place, you need to figure out how to use it.
How to report data – format, how long will the reports take, how much effort.
Who to report to – not just to management, but useful insights down to the people that are collecting the data. If they see the value of it and how it can help them, then they’ll be more likely to put effort into collecting data on time.
Decide when to report – timeliness, regularity, real-time reporting? Obviously with traditional M&E methods this is impossible but with more modern methods, such as software, it can be done.
Why is this so complicated?
If this all sounds too complicated, that’s because it is. When projects are based across different regions and even countries, developing a cohesive Monitoring and Evaluation system and getting everyone to follow it in a uniform way can be a nightmare.
When the Monitoring and Evaluation systems are based on manual methods of data collection, the room for error is huge, and it becomes near impossible to provide managers with the data they need to make good decisions in a timely manner.
Often, by the time all of this data has been collected, data entered, compiled and then reported, the data is already out of date and doesn’t necessarily reflect the current situation on the ground.
So what’s the solution?
Well, we think the solution is to use a comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation software system to collect, compile, store and report data.
A few of the benefits that Granity provides include:
- Data is collected at source on mobile devices – no need for extra handling and data entry.
- Once data is in the system it’s immediately available in real-time – no need for managers or head office to wait months for all of the data to be compiled.
- Data is centrally stored, data is updated in real-time and can be accessed from anywhere
- Dashboards provide a simple way of seeing a summary of the data in real time – you don’t need to wait for a complicated monitoring report to know where things stand.
- Learning can also happen in real time – if a project is not going the way it’s meant to, this can be alerted in the system and measures put in place to correct things before it’s too late.
If you’d like to find out more about Granity and how it could work for your organization, contact us today.
If you have had experience implementing Monitoring and Evaluation systems in a geographically dispersed organization, we’d love to hear about it. Comment below!