Hi! My name is Mike Matarasso and I’m responsible for leading the design, testing and global roll out of a Monitoring and Evaluation / Information Communication Technology (M&E/ICT) platform for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The platform will help us gather timely and high quality data to track performance across the agency, to inform change at project level and to report to donors and other stakeholders. The platform includes:
- Recommended mobile devices for simple and detailed data collection with options for solar charging and collection/syncing offline,
- A standard form library and form building interface where projects can select and use existing forms, adapt existing forms or create customized forms,
- A database with an interface for data management, cleansing and advanced analysis,
- A Geographical Information System (GIS) interface for mapping service delivery,
- A real time web reporting and dashboard interface with a standard library
- A complete training curriculum for users and support staff
- A help desk with tiered service support
We’ve built and piloted the platform in one food security project in Ethiopia with outcomes for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), food security, mother and child health, public works and microfinance. Following the initial design, validation was done with five additional projects across four countries.
Experiences from this pilot will be combined with a cost-benefit analysis and field assessment carried out with Accenture and a global CRS project level assessment of requirements to determine the architecture and next steps for scaling globally.
Lessons Learned: If you were to design a similar system, here are some suggestions:
- A mandate and support from leadership are essential
- Sufficient budget should be planned and in place
- The right number of qualified staff should be available to work on building the system and for piloting in the field. Everyone should believe in the system and be excited about it!
- Requirements should be documented and confirmed by all stakeholders before starting work
- Testing and adaptation are imperative and should be done in one project before all kinks are worked out. And did I say testing?
- A training curriculum should only be developed after the initial system design is complete. Otherwise the training materials will constantly change and be outdated as will the knowledge and skills of the trainees. Intensive mentoring is required.
- A cost benefit analysis is integral to make a business case for the platform and to improve adoption
- An Information Technology (IT) help desk and skilled support network need to be in place.
- Focus on small, realistic releases and timelines and get something done initially to demonstrate success to others. Work in phases rather than expecting to deliver everything at once.
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