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Selecting Right Monitoring and Evaluation Software

September, 8 2019

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When building a theory of change model, much of the effort involved focuses on identifying activities, outputs, outcomes, etc. that will hopefully deliver the impact you seek to create. Outcome tracking and impact management are critical; not all monitoring and evaluation software are equal.

But how do you plan on managing all those data you’ll need to make that theory of change come alive through proper monitoring and evaluation software?

Unfortunately, for many impact-driven organizations, the tech know-how that is necessary for proper impact data management is scarce. And as a result, we default to traditional Excel-based processes (which can turn ugly real quick).

So let’s take a look at selected few software tools that are trending in the monitoring and evaluation space. Beware of M &E branding, as it is essential to define focus on core requirements and value.

Monitoring & Evaluation Software 

Based on detailed research, following review provides an in-depth and easy to use guide.

1. Evaluation of Program

Core technique: Survey

Appropriate for Organization: Any 

Implementation: Relatively easy but survey design and collection may require substantial design 

Example Software:

For Offline Data

50+ Offline and Online Survey Tools

ODK based

Dimagi

KoboToolbox

SurveyCTO

Magpi

SocialCops

Dharma.io

TaroWorks

More....

Online Survey Tools

Google Forms

Survey Monkey

Qualtrics

More...

 

2. Qualitative Evaluation

Core technique: Qualitative Analysis

Appropriate for Organization: Any 

Implementation: Relatively easy but survey design and collection may require substantial design 

Example Software:

Both qualitative and quantitative methods can be used in the monitoring and evaluation of an impact initiative. Some tools can handle both, while others are more suitable for one or the other.

For each of these tools, we’ll indicate the types of data it manages best and identifies some of the most robust complementary features. It is worth noting that this is not an exhaustive list, but some of the most robust and currently used M&E data management tools on the market.

Nvivo

This software boasts that it is number one for qualitative data crunching. While hard to quantify where it ranks, it comes highly recommended by academics and researchers, especially in public health fields. One of the most significant benefits of this software is the ability to manage diverse types of data, from text and audio to video and online surveys. An automated transcription feature adds to the efficiency-boosting nature it provides for qualitative data analysts.

Strength
  • Designed for qualitative research
Weakness
  • Limited use case

 

3. Monitoring Single Organization (Not for hierarchical organization)

Core technique: Aggregate result for a single enterprise for an internal purpose

Appropriate for Organization: Medium size nonprofits

Implementation: Relatively easy to setup 

Example Software:

TolaData

An impact-focused tool (they declare you can align with SDGs), TolaData offers real-time data management, combining built-in data collection features as well as import capabilities to manage data collected offline. A results-framework feature complements the analysis tools so that users can track how they are doing in reaching their impact goals.

TolaData does have an ability to aggregate results from external sources; it focuses on integration with few well known offline data tools.

Level
  • Small & Midsize NGO (Department Level) and foundation 
Strength
  • Easy to setup
  • Integrates data feed from a few offline tools

Limitations

  • Reliance on results framework
  • Cannot scale with data governance required at different department or country with different level of data culture
  • Aggregate and rollup of the department, country data not feasible
  • Impact Framework: Custom & Limited
  • Dashboard: Basic
  • Scorecard & Professional Impact Reporting: None

 

LogAlto

A cloud-based software solution, LogAlto heavily emphasizes the collaboration-boosting benefits of its offering. It purports to be easy to use, which invites stakeholders of all levels of tech-savviness into the M&E journey. Its mobile app can be used to manage data in real-time while in the field or to take advantage of offline data collection functions. LogAlto is mostly used by NGOs and foundations, or by government-led initiatives.

LogAlto is a simple activity and indicator management tracking platform designed for relatively simple M & E programs. LogAlto does not have sophisticated indicator framework, hence building effective outcome-oriented reporting is somewhat challenging. Data aggregation capabilities are relatively basic, which can cause challenges for M & E team especially if you are going to be frequently collecting results from different sources.

Level
  • Small & Midsize NGO (Department Level)
Strength
  • Easy to setup

Limitations

  • Reliance on results framework
  • Cannot scale with data governance required at different department or country with different level of data culture
  • External data integration limited
  • Aggregate and rollup of the department, country data not feasible
  • Impact Framework: Custom & Limited
  • Dashboard: Basic
  • Scorecard & Professional Impact Reporting: None

ActivityInfo

If you need to work together across many different organizational partners, ActivityInfo offers a powerful solution for collaborative M&E. Used in a diverse number of sectors such as education, health, and water and sanitation, it is built for impact leaders working at the frontlines of “humanitarian operations.” Its database builder ensures easier adoption even in less tech-savvy teams. See its full list of features here.

 

4. Monitoring Sector-Specific Multi Programs

Core technique: Aggregate sector-specific results such as Health or WASH

Appropriate for Organization: Multiple Program Initiative

Implementation: Medium to complex 

Example Software: DHIS2 for Healthcare and Akvo for WASH

 

5. Monitoring Aid Related Multiple Programs

Core technique: Designed for large M & E programs funded by public funds to monitor activity, output through Results Framework

Appropriate for Organization: Designed for large M & E programs financed by federal funds to monitor activity, output through Results Framework

Implementation: Relatively complex

Example Software:

 

DevResults

Led by its activity mapping tool, which enables practitioners to visualize the geographic landscape of their interventions, DevResults is undoubtedly a leader in M&E software solutions. It complements this unique feature with a framework built to help teams align and track key impact indicators during the life of a project. It rounds out these features with a built-in work plan platform to keep organizations accountable to project timelines and goals.

Level
  • Large Hierarchical Organizations
Strength
  • Comprehensive
  • Highly customizable

Limitations

Salesforce Based
  • Vera solutions
  • Social Suite

6. Impact Framework & Data Governance Approach

Core technique: Designed for INGO,  Foundations, Nonprofits with multiple programs, Hierarchical Structure to Aggregate Results, and Raise Grant or Impact Capital

Appropriate for Organization: Multiple or Single Organization

Implementation: Comprehensive, Flexible, Relatively Fast

Unique Value Proposition

  • Impact Framework: impact knowledge graph simplifies consistent and standardized impact theme, impact metrics, survey and due diligence implementation across different organizations
  • Data Repository: Manage organization, partners, grantee and investee output, outcome, performance, story and document in a single location
  • Designed for Fundraising: Align funders with program results
  •  Data Warehouse, Aggregate from many sources: Aggregate results from many sources and auto calculate metrics in seconds
  • Seamless Offline Data: Seamless bidirectional integration with KoboToolbox
  • Collaboration between funders & partner:  Collaborate with impact results, field notes, stories, and program evaluation notes
  • Document Management: Simple and Seamless document search for all stakeholders (based on access)
  • Data Mapping & Multi-Table Calculation: Complex calculation and multi-table alignment
  • Automated Scorecard with SDG Alignment:  Streamline Integrate stakeholder, investors, SDG and IMP based dashboards
  • Qualitative AI-Based Analysis:  Stakeholder Voice

While a newer player in the Monitoring & Evaluation field, Sopact’s Impact Cloud incorporates many of the features mentioned above and houses them all in one place on its cloud-based platform.

It’s a virtual data warehouse that thrives at simplifying the often complex data aggregation process from multiple sources of data. It will help teams do away with the file after file of Excel spreadsheets by offering one place for data to be housed, managed, analyzed, and reported.

In short, it helps practitioners transform impact data into impact insights.

A theory of change model is only as good as the tools you have to make it a reality in your organization’s implementation and in the lives of the beneficiaries you hope to impact!

 

 

Read In Depth Guide to Monitoring and Evaluation Here

 

 

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