Buyer Beware: Tips To Select Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Software for Your Organisation

Updated: Jun 3


If I managed to convince you in my last article of the benefits of having a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) software, you may now be on the market for one. However, hold your horses! Before you go shopping, you should have an idea of what you need.

To use a fun example that a lot of women (and men) can relate to, say you have a wedding to attend. While you don’t know exactly how the dress will look, you already know that it has to be suited for a formal occasion, cannot be white (no competing with the bride!) and should be loose fitting so you can dance the night away.

Similarly, an organisation should already have an idea of their M&E needs before shopping for a software. At the end of the day a software is just a tool to make a process more efficient and effective. Additionally, a tool (or M&E software in this case) that is perfect for one organisation may not be the right fit for another. Does your small organisation really need software that supports 100 users? Don’t make the mistake of going shopping first only to realise that you invested in a M&E software that has little practical function in your organisation!

Low cost and ‘pretty appearance’ should not be the only deciding factors when choosing a M&E software

Once the organisation has gone through a process to assess their M&E needs, here are a few tips to help you in the quest for the right software.

Look if the M&E software is…

1. Able to operate offline - Some software developers will claim that they can operate offline. However, the installation for the offline capacity can be hugely cumbersome and/or the updates for offline versions of the software are slow and sometimes non-existent.

2. User-friendly - Meaning that the software is easy to use with limited training for the administrator.

3. Reasonably costed in terms of training and continued support - Some software packages have really expensive training support and/or the training is limited (i.e. first month or two). This is totally impractical for ensuring understanding of the system.

4. Compatible and easy to integrate into existing systems for operations and administration (financial, HR, communications etc.).

5. Easily maintained within an organisation - If a software design is complex and requires external expertise and support to manage, not only it does this incur more costs to maintain, but it will also affect the M&E system. That is, more time may be spent to get the M&E system adequately functioning. A good M&E software design for an organisation should be flexible enough to allow changes or adjustments to be made to the type of information that is required from time to time.

6. Packed with cool and practical features – These include the ability to:

· design customized reports and forms;

· capture qualitative indicators;

· adequately capture theories of change;

· combine indicators;

· enter and process data on a mobile device (smart phone);

· Geospatial Mapping Tools;

· aggregate on many variables (e.g. age group and gender);

· ability to export in PDF or spreadsheet;

· dynamic dashboard to get an overview of the data with ‘drag and drop’ feature;

· enable users to make most changes (configurations) without a software developer's support and additional costs.;

· Drag & Drop form builder;

· employ security protocols when transferring data and when data is at rest;

· ability to give notifications once reports have been approved;

· run on popular web browsers on all major operating systems;

· enter or download data even when internet connection is not available;

· protect data and confidential information

. link data on IATI registry

The table below presents an overview of the features to look for when deciding on a M&E software for your organisation.

Table reproduced from 'A monitoring and evaluation platform for nonprofits: DHIS2 Quick Start' Gillian Kerr, Ph.D., C.Psych. Martha McGuire, M.S.W., CE, https://zenodo.org/record/31995/files/DHIS2-Quick-Start-LogicalOutcomes.pdf

Additionally, a the following table compares some of the most popular M&E softwares on the market right now.

Table reproduced from 'A monitoring and evaluation platform for nonprofits: DHIS2 Quick Start' Gillian Kerr, Ph.D., C.Psych. Martha McGuire, M.S.W., CE, https://zenodo.org/record/31995/files/DHIS2-Quick-Start-LogicalOutcomes.pdf

On a final note, in most organisations there will usually be three categories of persons using the M&E software. These are the general users who are usually staff who access the software on a periodic basis, usually to approve reports. Then there are the technical users project managers/M&E officers who are staff who interact with the software on a regular basis to create reports and customise forms. These persons would usually be trained by the software developers. Finally there are the basic users (usually at the field level) who will just enter data or view dashboards.

So apart from the technical features of the software and the M&E needs of the organisation, it is also useful to keep the different kinds of users and their capabilities in mind when choosing a software.

Be a smart shopper and consider all these things before making an investment you may regret months down the road. Do know as well that no one software will be the ‘magic bullet’ to solve all your organisation’s M&E issues. Be wary of software developers that make this claim. To really solve all your issues you will need a proper M&E system in place (of which a M&E software is just one aspect of).

Hope you found this article useful. Did I miss anything or you do you want to add something? Feel free to let me know via the ‘Comments’ section below.

#monitoringandevaluationsoftware #software

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