So you’ve just completed your project. Hooray! But don’t celebrate just yet. The project may be complete, but putting it to one side and forgetting about it is throwing away a lot of potential value. We all know the importance of monitoring projects during their development, but less attention is paid to measuring the impact after delivery. In this article, we’ll explain why it's so important to continue post-project monitoring, and explore some of the ways you can make this happen.
Continued monitoring and evaluation of projects upon completion is made up of 2 elements, the monitoring and the evaluation.
Monitoring will typically refer to the gathering of both qualitative and quantitative data that reflects a project's impact. This data can then be utilised by the organisation to determine the success of a project. It involves you engaging with stakeholders, technology and studying relevant notes or documentation to gather as many details around the effect that a project has produced.
Evaluation, on the other hand, takes a more holistic, retrospective view. It's where you consider the data gathered throughout the post-project monitoring. It then makes assessments and decisions based on this. Whereas monitoring should be as objective as possible, evaluation encourages professional opinions to be imparted on the data gathered.
Continued post-project monitoring is crucial to your department for several reasons.
Firstly, organisational learning cannot take place without first understanding what projects are having an impact where and why. Without this knowledge, organisations are unable to improve their project selection over time. Projects are picked and chosen speculatively, on the hunch of those deciding. This is the polar opposite of a ‘data-driven’ approach that many organisations strive for. When project monitoring and evaluation is executed effectively, future projects are chosen and executed based on solid evidence, leading to a higher success rate.
Asides from project selection, process improvements in general are severely limited without post-project monitoring. Typically, projects are tracked throughout their development, so identifying bottlenecks here is less of a challenge. What may be neglected however is those process issues that don’t reveal themselves until a project is complete. Imagine a house built with popsicle sticks as its foundations. Throughout development, it may be marvelled for the speed at which it was put up and the low cost, but as soon as someone lives there, it's going to come crashing down. This could very well be happening with your projects, without adequate monitoring and evaluation.
The next reason is that in a highly governed world, a department with little data on its project successes won’t perform well under scrutiny. Justifying the existence, growth and funding of your department requires proof that what you're doing is worth the investment. Activity in itself is useless if the results aren’t there, and what better way to prove the effectiveness of your activity than in the results that come from the projects undertaken.
So now we know why it's so important to continually monitor and evaluate projects, it’s now time to explore how you can go about doing this.
The continued monitoring and evaluation of projects post-completion is something that should be built into your project plan before it even begins. This is so considerations can be made early on as to how the project will be effectively monitored and evaluated, with the necessary measures and procedures put in place.
One consideration might be to continually engage with some of your key stakeholders who were engaged throughout development of the project.
In the case that the project is ‘handed over’ upon completion, then your stakeholders may even differ to those who were involved throughout development. Where this may occur, consider extending your ‘stakeholder map’ devised during the planning stage. Extend it to those who will be interacting with the project upon completion. Try to consider the needs of your end-users, internal and external parties, and what success will look like to them. It’s these attributes that will eventually form your post project KPIs.
The post project KPIs should be another consideration, particularly when gathering quantitative data for the ‘monitoring’ of post-project performance. Here, KPIs should accurately represent what success means to relevant stakeholders. Like stakeholders, post-project KPIs should be defined during the planning stage. You also may wish to change them over time to better reflect the needs of the stakeholders or developing aims of the projects. This is absolutely fine, as long as these changes are recorded with adequate reasoning.
Now, it’s important to make sure these 2 elements are communicated properly. For this, we recommend formulating a comprehensive stakeholder communication plan. It may be that some stakeholders are interested in different KPIs to others, or that some prefer to see quantitative data; indicating the ‘monitoring’, whereas others would prefer to see an overarching perspective on the project; the ‘evaluation’. In order to cater for these differences, we recommend custom stakeholder communication methods for each party. To help with this, technology is your friend, and our team would be happy to discuss your options further through the contact information found here.
Finally, we suggest putting together a comprehensive method for archiving post-project monitoring and evaluation data. Developing and improving processes over time will mean retrospectively analysing the performance of previous projects. This can be difficult, without a structured and formalised way of storing said data. To avoid this, we recommend using standardised data structures, along with a well kept repository of post-project data, meaning it can be accessed and analysed easily, leading to insights that bring positive changes for your project process.