Monitoring begins with the approval of the project and is carried out at the stage of its implementation, integrating planning and reporting. There are two types of monitoring in project management: general and operational monitoring. The overall monitoring is to monitor the implementation of the project based on a logical matrix, activity schedule, and resource schedule. Operational monitoring is seen as a system of regular reporting in the course of project implementation.
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Monitoring is done by creating a system as a set of four interconnected elements:
- collected data;
- management information systems for storing them;
- procedures for collecting, processing and transferring data via the database;
- institutions operating the system.
Project monitoring needs norms, standards, and goals
Project monitoring is accomplished through the selection of norms, standards, goals, tasks, and following the normative provisions, the methodological guidelines of the State Commission, as well as the internal procedural rules and requirements of the monitoring body.
The preparation of monitoring and the establishment of a monitoring system is based on a step-by-step approach, which should take into account the specific circumstances and needs, as well as the level of administrative resources available for its implementation.
Following the establishment of the monitoring and managing authority, a monitoring procedure is developed covering several areas.
The first area of the monitoring procedure is the identification of the data to be collected to provide the necessary information on products, results, impacts, and relevant indicators. The collection of data and information serves to measure the indicators identified. The methods to be used to obtain the data should be laid down. The collection of quantitative product data is based on the information in the project implementation reports and project documentation. The collected quantitative data on the product is the basis of the project monitoring system.
The effectiveness of monitoring in the project management
The effectiveness of monitoring needs to determine the purpose of the data collected – whether it will be used by the monitoring body or for the evaluation (which of them). This information is important both for the monitoring body to be able to assess the degree of project implementation and for the project contractors to be able to understand what is happening in their activity. Once the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and interpreted.
The monitoring procedure identifies the authorities and institutions at all levels of government responsible for collecting the data needed to review the implementation of projects. Their functions and responsibilities, the type and amount of information required for each management level, are determined. The collection of information for project monitoring is a function of the executive agencies, which are also responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the monitoring system.
Collecting data for monitoring purposes
When collecting data for monitoring purposes, it may be possible to unnecessarily duplicate the activities of the various institutions, as well as to make full use of them by the information provided to them by national and regional authorities and official statistics. When collecting information, there is a risk of weaknesses associated with the provision of redundant information and the repeated presentation of the same data, which maximizes the need for data processing or may lack the necessary information. Therefore, the use of operational information systems should be optimized by creating an information flow scheme for users of information, the type and volume of information, sources of information, and responsible institutions for its preparation.
The second area of the monitoring procedure is the determination of information to be provided to the monitoring body. This information includes:
- baseline data and monitoring indicators, which are the information base of the monitoring system;
- data on the interim evaluation;
- intermediate data on the general socio-economic status.
When the monitoring procedures have been developed
Once the monitoring procedures have been developed, the next step in the preparation of the monitoring is the development of a standard form for project reporting. The project implementation report is developed on the basis of the activity plan, cost plan, and logical matrix.
The project implementation report covers all areas of the subject of monitoring:
- the physical implementation of the activities included in the implementation contracts;
- financial fulfillment of the contractual commitments with the financing institution; problems related to the actions of beneficiaries and executive agencies;
- the results of the control and audit carried out by the relevant public institutions in the country.
The project implementation report
The project implementation report contains the following mandatory information:
- general project and executive agency data;
- current status of the indicators;
- main activities performed during the period;
- activities planned for the next reporting period;
- expenses incurred during the period;
- physical and financial progress information sheet;
- the reasons for the differences between physical and financial
- performance, if any, and an explanation for the delay;
- technical, financial or legal problems; corrective actions taken;
- information and publicity measures taken;
- expected date of project implementation.
The project implementation report is prepared periodically – monthly, quarterly, and annually.
Reporting on project implementation focuses on inputs, activities performed, and direct results, through a system of evaluation indicators. As a result of the analysis of the project implementation, deviations from the plan, which could not have been foreseen during the preparation of the project, are identified, and corrective actions are taken.
Providing information for the analysis of projects and programs
Important from a methodological point of view is the issue of providing information for the analysis of projects and programs. Accordingly, the monitoring information system is regarded as a fundamental element of the monitoring system. The information system is intended to store and transfer the collected data and to generate information for monitoring purposes. It is based on a systematic approach in determining the scope, structure, organization of activities, and forms of information processing. The information system collects, analyzes, and summarizes the information on the various planning parameters and the financial and statistical indicators for the implementation of the projects. The participants directly involved in the implementation of the projects provide on monthly basis information that is entered into the information system.
Monitoring in Project management requires an information system
The establishment and maintenance of the information system contribute to maximizing communication and coordination of actions and to the development of the monitoring system. The information system has an important role to play in assisting public institutions concerning faster processing of information, better document management, and centralization, obtaining various quick references and ongoing communication between program participants.
The information system provides information through access to information on project opportunities offered to potential beneficiaries, as well as the results of their implementation, and transparency of the management of structural assistance.
For all projects funded by the public authorities, there is a universal requirement that the beneficiary prepares reports during the implementation and in connection with the completion of the project. Monitoring and reporting are very closely linked. In a narrow sense, reporting is an activity carried out within or between organizations to inform the progress promptly and results achieved.
Monitoring, in turn, is an activity that is always carried out between the beneficiary organization and the financing institution, with the former reporting to the latter on the progress made towards achieving the objectives, which is supported by the donor organization.
The financing of project activities itself is the negotiation of several tranches, each of which is carried out after the submission and approval of an interim progress report on project initiatives.
The interim report summarizes the results of the monitoring carried out so far. The basis for the preparation of the report is systematically collected, processed, and archived information.
The annual and final reports on the implementation of the projects shall include information on:
- any change in the general conditions relating to the implementation of the project;
- progress in project implementation;
- the financial implementation of the project based on quantitative indicators;
- the actions taken, including monitoring measures, to ensure the quality and effectiveness of implementation;
- steps taken to ensure consistency with Community policies.
An essential tool for monitoring implementation is on-site inspections. The objectives of the on-site visits are similar to those of formal instruments and include an assessment of:
- the correspondence between planned and implemented activities;
- receiving feedback from partners on the effectiveness of their involvement and their evaluation of the implementation of the activities;
- management and internal monitoring mechanisms;
- the need for additional technical assistance to the project team;
transparency of project implementation.
Quantitative and qualitative information in project monitoring
The quantitative and qualitative information collected during on-site visits serves as an overall assessment of project implementation. The purpose of the on-the-spot check is to ensure the proper use of the funds and the implementation of the activities provided for in the project.
The program and project monitoring system includes not only the use of formal reports and implementation reports but also informal communication between participants in the project implementation process through periodic meetings to report on their progress.
They report on the progress and problems of the projects reflected in the implementation reports, discuss proposals for their resolution, identify remedial measures, and upcoming actions in the short term.
Institutions are involved in project monitoring
Although many institutions are involved in the construction and maintenance of the monitoring system, the monitoring body institutionalizes the process of monitoring project progress. It is the main unit for monitoring the implementation of projects.
As a collective body, it is responsible for the detailed monitoring of each project and related contracts, monitoring the overall implementation of the projects under the program, making recommendations for improvement, taking corrective measures, providing publicity and information on each project under the program, preparing of the progress report and the approval of the annual progress.
The management functions are performed at the project implementation stage
The management functions are performed at the project implementation stage – administration of the awarded contracts (including change in contracts), monitoring of the project implementation, and control over the project.
The objectives and content of monitoring need to be considered concerning control and evaluation. These three stand-alone activities, which occur at different stages of the project cycle, are interrelated and complementary in terms of their role in the effectiveness of public projects.