Monitoring is the systematic and routine collection of data during project implementation for the purpose of establishing whether an intervention is moving towards the set objectives or project goals. In this case, data is collected throughout the life cycle of the project. The data collection tools are usually embedded into the project activities in order to ensure that the process is seamless. There are several types of monitoring in M&E and they include process monitoring, technical monitoring, assumption monitoring, financial monitoring and impact monitoring.
Process monitoring/ physical progress monitoring
In process monitoring, routine data is collected and analyzed in order to establish whether the project tasks and activities are leading towards the intended project results. It authenticates the progress of the project towards the intended results. This kind of monitoring measures the inputs, activities and outputs. In other words, process monitoring answers the questions “what has been done so far, where, when and how has it been done?” Most of the data collected during project implementation usually serves this kind of monitoring.
Technical monitoring involves assessing the strategy that is being used in project implementation to establish whether it is achieving the required results. It involves the technical aspects of the project such as the activities to be conducted. In a safe water project for example, physical progress monitoring may show that there is little or no uptake of chlorination as a water treatment strategy. Technical monitoring may establish that this could be a result of installing chlorine dispensers at the water source and women are too time constrained that they have no time to line up to get chlorine from the dispensers. This may prompt a change of strategy where the project might opt for household distribution of bottled chlorine.
Any project has its working assumptions which have to be clearly outlined in the project log frame. These assumptions are those factors which might determine project success or failure, but which the project has no control over. Assumption monitoring involves measuring these factors which are external to the project. It is important to carry out assumption monitoring as it may help to explain success or failure of a project1. For example, a project that was promoting the use of contraceptives may realize that uptake of use of contraceptives has dropped. The drop in use of the contraceptive could however, be attributed to increased taxation on the importation of contraceptives in the country which makes them more expensive, rather than on project failure.
Just like the name suggests, financial monitoring simply refers to monitoring project/ program expenditure and comparing them with the budgets prepared at the planning stage. The use of funds at the disposal of a program/project is crucial for ensuring there are no excesses or wastages. Financial monitoring is also important for accountability and reporting purposes, as well as for measuring financial efficiency (the maximization of outputs with minimal inputs).
Impact monitoring is a type of monitoring which continually assesses the impact of project activities to the target population. Indeed, impacts are usually the long term effects of a project. However, for projects with a long life span or programs (programs have no defined timelines) there emerges a need for measuring impact change in order show whether the general conditions of the intended beneficiaries are improving or otherwise2. In this case, the manager monitors impact through the pre-determined set of impact indicators. Monitoring both the positive and negative impacts, intended and un-intended impacts of the project/program becomes imperative. For example, in a Water and Sanitation program, there may be a need to monitor the change in Under 5 Mortality in the program area over time. In this case, rather than being identified as an impact evaluation, this would be identified as impact monitoring.
1. Water Affairs and Forestry Department, Republic of South Africa. Project Monitoring and Evaluation. 2005
2. Dannish Demming Group. Impact Monitoring: An Introduction. 2012