Monday, June 23, 2008

Google docs as online monitoring system

Recently I worked with a South African organisation to set up a monitoring system. The requirements were:
  • Compatible with requirements of several donors
  • Suitable for two project locations and headquarters of the organisation
  • Possibility for monthly management overviews for headquarters and for the Dutch partner organisation
  • Version control
  • Not too expensive
The solution we used, was Google Docs. A spreadsheet developed in Excel and uploaded on Google Docs with the following elements:

  • A worksheet with operational definitions of indicators used
  • A worksheet where overall target and baseline figures were filled
  • A worksheet for location 1, and a similar worksheet for location 2 where project staff will fill monthly realisations for all indicators. They see the target and base line figures as they fill the white cells.
  • A worksheet where monthly totals for the two locations are being calculated, compared with targets.
  • A worksheet where 6-monthly totals are automatically being calculated and compared with 6-monthly or annual plans.
  • A worksheet with some graphical representations, e.g. some key results expressed as a ratio of targets, compared with the time past. See second picture.

In order to skip some initial hurdles for using the system, I created the Google accounts for each location and had some training sessions with all who had to work with it.

The Dutch partner got viewers' accounts. The result: if data are filled from any one location at the end of the month, South African headquarters and the Dutch project officer can both see the gauges going up.

Version control is integrated in Google Docs, you can download the file back to Excel and upload a new excel version if needed. No more emailing wrong versions and retyping monitoring data. And all for free.

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