MN EA Week: Nicole MartinRogers on Project Management Tools for Evaluators

Hello, my name is Nicole MartinRogers. I am the Survey Research Manager at Wilder Research, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Wilder Research manages projects that range from small evaluations for local nonprofits to multiyear statewide evaluations of complex interventions.

Hot tip: Project management (the discipline) offers great tools that will help keep your projects on track, for example:

  • Work Breakdown Structures, used to plan a project by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Three-Point Estimation, a strategy for creating realistic cost estimates by accounting for variability using experience, historical information, and expert judgment to define an optimistic estimate, a pessimistic estimate, and a most likely estimate.
  • Network diagrams and Gantt charts, tools that help illustrate a project timeline and contingencies between tasks, so you can easily show how a delay in one aspect of the project will result in changes to the entire project timeline.
  • Agile or Scrum methods for regular team check-ins to keep your team and project on track.

Lessons learned: Don’t feel you have to adhere strictly to the templates and documentation associated with project management (the discipline). Instead, try out a few tools, take what works for you, and modify it to address your specific needs.

Try working with your team to develop a Work Breakdown Structure or network diagram. It will help them understand how their part fits into the big picture. Also, work with your client to finalize these documents, and get client sign off as a formal step in the project.

Team members, clients, and other project stakeholders are easier to manage and more satisfied when your evaluation project is completed on time and within budget, and when it delivers all of the agreed upon products. This can be achieved by carefully planning and managing resources and expectations throughout the course of the evaluation.

Rad Resource: Google is a great source for more information about any of the specific tools described above. Two books that are also helpful: PM Crash Course, Premier Edition: A Crash Course in Real-World Project Management, by Rita Mulcahy; and Project Management for Dummies, by Nick Graham.

Twin Cities Hot Tip: When you’re in town for the AEA conference this fall, you should check out some of Minnesota’s beautiful state parks. William O’Brien is less than an hour drive from the Twin Cities and has great hiking trails and views of the St. Croix River.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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