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The Importance of Monitoring and Evaluation in Projects Funded by Citizens (Dec 2005)

Project Control
Management is a very important function not only in the business world but in also in the lives of each and every one of us. This is due to the simple fact that you can utilize it for any kind of duty or job. The entire process can be divided into three main parts: planning scheduling, and controlling. During the first stage you define the objectives, assumptions and constraints. In the second you have to allocate the available resource and therefore relating people, money and supplies to each specific activity. In the last one you monitor how the work is being carried out and if needed you apply modifications to the plan.
“Controlling is directly related to planning. The controlling process ensures that plans are being implemented properly. In the functions of management cycle - planning, organizing, directing, and controlling - planning moves forward into all the other functions, and controlling reaches back. Controlling is the final link in the functional chain of management activities and brings the functions of management cycle full circle”
The subject of controlling is a sensitive subject. Every company has to have measure of control to ensure that the job on had is being done. The Coast Guard a lot of individuals in leadership positions they abuse the control aspect of a subordinate. The abuse became obvious in some instances. There are supervisors that will micromanage sailors jury to them. In the end those individuals are weeded. The military is not in the business of babying individuals who have enlisted to serve, but the military will not allow people to abuse authority either. In this essay we will particularly focus on this last step and explore the details. Monitoring
As we said monitoring and evaluation is the last phase of project management. This is a very important part because it is practically the only one that allows us to control the quality of the outcome, control the progress, and provides relevant reports useful for future decision making. A good plan is one that allows modifications to be implemented. If this isn't the case then M&E is completely useless. Project plans should always be slightly modified in order to achieve perfection.
As we all know in order to better keep under control how a process develops it is advisable to break the system into the smallest parts possible. In project management these are called work packages. To help monitor it is a good thing to write down a sort of commitment calendar where everything is summarized for the current week or month (maximum). This has to include: time, people, other resources, money, and work package deadlines.  Check point cycles are also useful. These should have a duration of one week, in order to make abnormal things and events easier to spot. For example, start on Wednesday and end on Tuesday and the advancement will be recorded from Wednesday at 8.00 until Tuesday at 17.00. Project Meetings
After these notes have been taking there should always be some sort of meeting (it can also be brief and informal) where you discuss and analyze the outcomes. If necessary it is here that you start finding new potential implementation to make the plan better. These so called team meetings are very important to make sure that every member of the team knows his or her own duty and is aware of project's advancement (essential for high commitment and general morale). “Board meetings” should also be arranged with the top directors so that they too are constantly conscious of the progression of the project. In fact more relevant implementations and modifications to the plan can be ordered only by the actual people who have this power. Project Board
“The Project Board is the executive authority of a project.  It authorizes the project to proceed, change direction or stop.  It enters in to a contract with the Project Manager through the Project Initiation, Project and Stage Plans, to provide the executive support and resources required to execute a project which will deliver the specified products to schedule and budget.  In effect, the Project Board acts as the project guardians, enabling the Project Manager and Project Team to do their job protected from the arrows of outrageous fortune”
. Of course the project board is not obliged to have a first hand contact on an everyday basis. However the meeting with the project manager should be regularly programmed and respected to analyze the achievement of objectives, scope, schedule, budget and quality products, and to resolve outstanding issues and change requests. Meeting frequency
When deciding how often the board should meet there are several factors which we have to take into account. We may say that these are mainly three. The first one is the experience of the project manager and therefore to what extent we should let him or her act on his or her own. Secondly, we have to think about the size and complexity of the project or stage itself. Finally, but still very important, the overall cost and risk related to the project. The minimum however should be at the end of each stage or work package. Quality Control
ISO9001 definition of quality: "The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service which bear on its ability to satisfy a given need"
. The work done on a product may only be defined as complete when this has been tested against acceptance criteria which have been previously established for the actual product. It is essential that these elements have been agreed beforehand in order not to encounter unwanted problems between the workers and the actual customers. Progress Control
Progress control serves to monitor and control the actual development of the project. In this section what you do is collect information concerning work and cost performance. This information is very valuable. In fact thanks to this you are able first of all to roughly continuously estimate when the next work package or the actual project will be completed; secondly you can compare the actual performance with what you had planned and check if it's consistent. With this set of tools in your hands you're able to tweak the plan in order to make it a much more successful one every time you do it. In fact, it is very unusual for any project to go exactly as you planned. It is important to monitor the degree to which the plan is being followed, and to take appropriate action if the project is deviating significantly from the plan. How much is being spent is one of the greatest concerns for owners and investors therefore you should keep track of the actual costs incurred in each period and estimate the remaining ones (just to avoid unwanted surprises…). Issues Management
All issues that are affecting the success of the project have to be dealt with. In order to do this the first thing you have to do is be able to identify them and the extent to which they affect it. When this has been done you move on to find all the possible solutions. In some situations, depending of the dangerousness of the issue, as a project manager you may have to meet with your superiors in order to be capable of dealing with it and making decisions of a certain importance.
There will always be issues that arise during the course of a project.  Some of these issues may have a bearing on the project, and some will be of little consequence. Issues can arise from within the Project Organization and from the environment that impacts the project. With the aim of assessing these issues you should keep in mind these guidelines: Product Evaluation
When you are towards the completion, you should analyze the product you made and be able to determine the overall quality. This is very useful to maintain that level or even improving it in the future. You should also evaluate the product against the original objectives and make the consequent considerations. In any case, before actually handing the final product to the customer, any kind of discrepancy has to be fixed. This can be under the form of a new project or a more simple maintenance program. However some form of maintenance should always be planned or included.
It is also a good habit to carry out some kind of evaluation of the final product under the form of a meeting, quality review or a questionnaire. This helps to determine weather the product meets all the requirements. In case this is not the situation there are three possible options. The first one is not to close the project and just continue until it does meet the necessities. The second is to define a follow up project (therefore actually starting a new one). Finally you may, as we said earlier, prepare a maintenance process. Process Improvement
Once everything has been dealt with it is good custom to make things easier for the future by supplying possible improvements based on the experiences you just encountered. Process improvement aims at reviewing and updating the process used by the project. This covers basically everything: the project's process, techniques and organization, identifying things that worked well, things that didn't work, things that were not necessary, additional necessary things, and improves the estimating model. The scope of this is mainly so that the organization can learn from it and make similar future projects more successful. Example of Public Fund Mismanagement Padua – Venice waterway
The waterway that was supposed to link Padua with Venice is currently 65% done. It is one of the greatest jobs of the seventies. It is one of the many unfinished projects present in Italy although it used an incredible amount of investments and resources. At the time it was seen as a great thing to connect these two cities with “the use of a river” to transport goods from Switzerland and the “pianura padana” with much lower prices (especially compared to other forms of transportation such as on roads).
The construction started with a 27km strap of “IV class” suitable for boats up to 1350t. However this was soon stopped due to the preference of some local entrepreneurs to use the resources and funds for other projects. This is particularly reasonable if we take into account the fact that this whole project was going to link a very limited number of locations. Now the project has been stopped for 20 years
. Conclusion
This we may well see this is a typical case of mismanagement of a citizen funded project. Of course the planning team made a big mistake because they didn't realize that it was in some way stupid to spend all that money to create a fluvial link which touched only a limited number of locations. However, since in this essay we are mostly concerned in the monitoring and evaluation section we have to highlight a few points. First of all the above problem could have been solved by making some modification at the beginning of the project. Once a project is made, it doesn't mean that it may not be changed. This is fundamental. Second of all, one of the major reasons why the works ended was because they terminated the immense funds they had. Even here, after a brief monitoring session, you immediately understand that you have to better administer the resources you have. In this case it was a total disaster: they didn't finish the original project, they spent all the money they had, and they weren't able to change the plan in time in order to actually make something useful for the community.
The monitoring and evaluation phase is extremely important in normal projects and even more in projects funded by the citizens. This is due to the fact that these do not have the opportunity of actually following how the jobs and work packages are being developed although the money is theirs. Bibliography
Due to difficulties in finding relevant sources on this topic, the main contents are based on my personal knowledge especially acquired in class discussions. (This Section discusses how M&E can be used to manage projects in order to maximise their impact on poverty reduction). (explains in detail how the process of controlling should carried out). (Information and facts on the Padua - Venice waterway) (many examples of project mismanagement in Italy) (interesting document on quality management) (various articles concerning the importance of project management)

Published: Tue, Nov 27 2012 @ 7:02:26
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