Bridging the gap
Project monitoring and evaluation is an integral part of any project life cycle and all round good management practice. The question is, why do so many organisations fail when it comes to monitoring their projects? In this article we make the argument for managing outcomes and deliverables after the project is completed, increasing the focus on the intended benefits that the project is meant to deliver.
Bruce Moepye, MD of Gen2 Enterprise Services, part of the Gen2 Group, says: “Regardless of whether the project is in the public or private sector, there’s always a gap between project management and monitoring and evaluation during the course of the project, and monitoring and evaluation of the project’s final outcome.
“Once the project manager has completed the project, the actual evaluation of the efficacy of the project’s end result often takes place long after the project is finished. There’s no real-time evaluation of the project once it’s up and running. However, reshaped project life cycle phases and approaches to monitoring and evaluation of ICT projects have been shown to deliver value to the intended recipients.”
There’s been a growing realisation that the project life cycle will have to change. The widely used sequence in traditional project management is: initiation, planning, implementation (monitoring, reporting, testing) and closing (handover). The modern view of the project life cycle is as follows: ideation initiation, planning, implementation (monitoring, reporting, testing), closing (handover) and run. The ideation and run phases are added to allow for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the project’s success after completion.
“The project review board needs to be able to look at the ongoing project and determine whether it’s doing what was intended at the outset,” says Moepye.
During the implementation stage of a project, it should be – and often is – monitored and evaluated throughout. However, once the project has been closed, all too often organisations overlook the ‘run’ phase where they need to track the benefits of the projects. This is all about benefit management and benefit realisation, determining whether the project’s delivering the anticipated value.
“At the end of any project, the key stakeholders want to know their goal was achieved. But they also have to be fed real-time information as the project is running to determine whether it’s on time, on budget and whether there are any problems. Ongoing monitoring of a project is key, especially once the project is completed. Stakeholders should receive weekly – if not daily – updates about the progress of their project. Far too many organisations provide monthly or bimonthly updates.”
Moepye cites the example of a retailer that opens a new branch. “It can take months to get a new branch up and running, but once it’s operational, the monitoring and evaluation doesn’t stop there: stakeholders need to be kept informed whether it’s successful and profitable. It’s critical that stakeholders have access to that type of information so they can see timeously if there are any problems with regards to running the project – and take the necessary action.”
Commenting on the frequency of updates to stakeholders, he says: “It depends on the size and complexity of the project. Where the initiative touches on many business units within the organisation and, should anything go wrong, the impact will be huge, more regular updates will be required compared to a smaller initiative that doesn’t have major impact throughout the business should things go awry.”
He offers an example from the financial services sector. “If a banking app goes down, it impacts the entire business and all of its customers. Whereas if a single ATM goes down, the impact is much less.”
Which brings us to real-world examples of where there’s a massive disconnect between projects being run, stakeholders monitoring and evaluating results and the final evaluation of whether the project is running successfully.
“There are a plethora of examples of public sector projects that either didn’t work out as planned, went way over time and/or budget, or were never completed at all. When projects are run without the necessary monitoring and evaluation throughout, we’ve seen cases where data was migrated to a new system without being properly cleaned. When this happens, the only way forward is to clean the entire database and reload it onto the system, which will cost both time and money. Taxpayers end up footing the bill for these projects that come in late, never finish or don’t work as expected.”
If the key stakeholders had been monitoring and evaluating as they should have done, they could have picked up issues much earlier on in the project. This highlights a massive disconnect between the project manager, the developer and the stakeholder, where nobody tracks project, budget or progress.
“All too often, key stakeholders aren’t monitoring and evaluating the projects they’re responsible for because they simply don’t have the tools,” says Moepye. “This results in a huge waste of money when projects don’t deliver the intended value.”
In South Africa, far too many organisations lack the tools and skills that help provide real-time online information on a project’s progress. Yet it’s apparent how critical it is to have a framework in place to ensure projects are completed – and that they’re monitored and evaluated en route. It’s frequently the case that projects either die off before completion or they don’t meet the intended goals for the project and ultimately don’t deliver value to the intended beneficiaries.
“Project benefits and the value they provide to the business are the reasons that organisations carry out the projects in the first place, and these need to be included in project methodologies as benefits management and benefit realisation,” he concludes.