6. Configure M&E Data Sets unit

6.1       Role of the data sets section
The data sets unit of AlSuite is used for managing monitoring and evaluation data. It establishes a link between accounts data, i.e. the project created in the Accounts unit and the work plans to be created in the operational units. 

Configuring M&E data sets presupposes that a project has already been created and more importantly, that the M&E team has a complete logical framework in the form of a results chain. If you do not have a results chain for your project as yet, then we strongly advise you to take time to document the results chain of your project before beginning to configure this section.

You are welcome to use the results chain template of AlSuite, which can be found online on the official website under resource / downloads. Comprehensive documentation of the results chain presupposes knowledge in M&E, especially the logical framework. 

6.2       Access the Data sets unit

The application permits an organization to create only one Data sets unit, giving it any name of preference, e.g. M&E Unit. In order to access the Data Sets unit, log into the application -> go to Navi-Bar-1 and select “Operations” -> select the Data Sets unit -> you land on the Dashboard.

Navi-Bar-2 has the Dashboard button that lands you back to the dashboard section as shown above. Further buttons in Navi-Bar-2 include the “Project Description” button for managing M&E components, i.e. outcomes, outputs, indicators, milestones etc., and the “Categories” and “Sub-categories” for multi-dimensional analysis.

A “Select Project” button in Navi-Bar-3 permits the selection of a project to display its outcomes and outputs in the unit panel. 

6.3       Manage project description
The project description permits the creation and management of outcomes and related data, i.e. outputs, indicators, milestones and related weights. We are assuming you have already filled the results chain for the project you would like to create here. If this is not yet the case, you should consider doing so at this stage.

In order to access the Project Description section, go to Navi-Bar-1 and click on “Operations” -> select “Data Sets”. In the Data Sets unit, click on “Project Description” under Navi-Bar-2; you will be presented with three options, i.e. Show Outcomes, Create an Outcome and Show Outputs.

6.3.1       Create and show outcomes
Use the “Create Outcome” button to create an outcome linked to the project of choice. Typically, any given project will ideally not have more than 5 outcomes. Create all outcomes defined in your project, then proceed to “Show Outcomes” to display them.

The “Show Outcomes” panel displays the list of outcomes in the left section of the application and outcome details in the right section, beginning with a summary of the outcome, followed by outputs information. Navi-Bar-3 permits you to select either outcomes or outputs of a given project. 

6.3.2       Create outputs related to an outcome
Outputs are linked to outcomes and can be created from the right section, i.e. the details section of the outcome dashboard.

To create an output, first select the outcome of choice as described in the previous section. Now in the right section of the application, click on “Output” and then “Create”.
We would like to briefly describe the output fields:

  • At the very top we can see the outcome associated with the output we are about to document. 
  • In the unit panel, capture the output in good detail. An output is a reflection of an immediate change after an intervention, e.g. skills improvement after a training session. It can also be quantitative; usually at operational level, .e.g number of training sessions held.
  • In the “Budget” field, enter the budget planned for the output in question. Usually you will have already captured this in the results chain.
  • In the “Weight” field, enter the percentage contribution of this particular output to the outcome. The total contribution of all outputs to an outcome is 100%. Therefore, the sum of all weights attributed to outputs related to an outcome should equal 100. Weights are subjective; you will select them based on the importance you attribute to any given output in relation to other outputs associated with an outcome.
  • In the “Start date” enter the date when the intervention is supposed to start. A start date cannot be earlier than the start date of the project in question.
  • In the “End date” enter the date when the interventions related to this output are supposed to end. An end date cannot be after the end date of the project in question.
  • In the "Position" field, specify the location of this output among other outputs, i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc. Outputs will be displayed in the order of respective positions.

6.3.3       Display outputs
After creating outputs related to all outcomes of a project, you can display these. In the Data Sets unit, go to “Project Description” -> select “Show Outputs” -> in Navi-Bar-3, select “Outputs” and your project of choice, then click on the search button. In the left section of the panel, the outputs associated with the project you have chosen are displayed. For any given output selected in the left section, related details are displayed in the right section.

For any output selected in the left panel, output details are displayed in the right panel.  Within the right panel we have further buttons, the functions of which we shall briefly elaborate here:

  • The “Output” button can be used to edit the selected output.
  • The “Indicators” button is used for defining indicators for the selected output. 
  • The “Risks” button is used for adding output risks.
  • The “Comments” button is used for adding any comments related to the selected output.

6.3.4       Create indicators
Indicators are defined for each output. In this section we would like to explore indicators in a little more detail. AlSuite has three types of indicators: Trend indicators, cumulative indicators and qualitative indicators.

  • Trend indicators: These are indicators used for monitoring trend over time, e.g. the trend in skilled birth attendance over 3 years.
  • Cumulative indicators: These indicators track progress towards a given quantitative target, e.g. number of flyers distributed over 3 years
  • Qualitative indicators: These indicators do not track any quantity, but track qualitative changes or a change in state. Assuming you are constructing a house, your qualitative indicator could have specific progress states, e.g. building plan approved, sub-structure constructed, super structure constructed, windows fixed etc. You attach weights to these, to help you estimate progress towards completion.

In order to create an indicator, go to the output details section for any given output as defined in the previous section on “How to show outputs”, then select “Indicators” -> and then select “Create”. 

Select the tracking type, the weight, the target and baseline. We shall now explain the other concepts here:

  • The “Indicator Details” is actually the name or brief description of the indicators, e.g. “Knowledge of women rights by interviewees”. 
  • The “Weight” of an indicator is obligatory. The total weight of all indicators defined for a given output is 100. Weights are therefore subjectively set for any specific indicator, depending on the importance of the indicator in question in relation to other indicators for the selected output.
  • The “Target” and the “Baseline” is only obligatory for quantitative indicators. It must therefore be filled for indicators tracked through trend and cummulatively.
6.3.5       Create milestones
For each indicator in the system, quantitative or qualitative, we can define milestones that help in assessing progress towards defined targets and against preset baselines.

In order to create / add a milestone, in the Outputs dashboard, for a selected output in the left panel, go to the right panel and for the indicator in question, click on “Add Milestones”. 

For qualitative and trend indicators, milestones can be tracked with status: Open, Progress, Closed.

6.3.6       Manage risks and comments
Risks can be defined for outcomes or outputs. In order to add a risk, select the outcome or output of interest in the left panel -> in the right panel click on the button “Risks” -> then click on “Add”.

Risks can be rated as low, medium or high; and they are either active or closed. The risk ratings are displayed in the dashboard. Furthermore, for each risk, a proposed mitigation strategy can be documented.

Outcomes or outputs with high risk will have the risk button highlighting red.

Just like we can add risks, we can also add comments to any outcome and output. Comments are useful for tracking discussions and critical things to watch out for with respect to the achievement of an outcome or output. 

6.4       Set an intervention flag
There are situations when challenges associated with a project or a particular outcome of a project cannot be addressed by the staff team, but could be addressed by Management. In such situations, staff would define an intervention flag. 

The intervention flag is a communication to Management that there is a challenge with a particular outcome and this requires their intervention, without which the team would not be in position to favorably continue execution.

In order to set the intervention flag, go to the Data Set Unit and select the Outcome of choice in the left panel. In the detailed section in the right panel, click on the button “Outcome” and click on “Set Intervention Flag” as show in Figure 19 below.

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