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First steps with program data toolbox

3.5 Key challenges to effective Information Management for NGOs


3.5.1 Is it worth making the time to improve IM systems when I’m too busy to spend the time learning the first steps?

Almost all organizations are already conducting some form of information management, such as project managers receiving feedback from field teams or field teams enacting instructions from management with regards to distributions. IM is inherent in any staff interactions with program data, such as project decision-making and reporting.

Given that organizations are already engaged in the process, improving IM by implementing digital tools will in fact reduce time spent on already existing tasks. As such, improvements in IM will instead make time available for staff on the most important tasks of NGOs: responding to crises and adapting activities to fit the needs of beneficiaries.

Through making data more understandable and faster to access, improved IM will in fact improve programs while opening up opportunities. For more information on the benefits of how IM can improve program quality, please see Chapter 3 of the CartONG 2020 study ‘Program Data: The Silver Bullet of the Humanitarian and Development Sectors?’, found here.

3.5.2 We’re always dealing with emergency situations, which takes up the majority of our time. So is this really a priority?

Information management (IM) systems enable faster emergency response and program quality. If your organization is already responding to emergency situations, then it is inherently engaging in IM as the basis for decision-making. However, improving IM can lead to timely access to data, which can facilitate emergency response. Therefore, investing in improving IM is a time saving activity. For example, MDC solutions can be used for rapid needs assessments or beneficiary validation forms and will reduce time for data to be input and analyzed (as seen in the data collection workflow diagram on page 2, here)

3.5.3 Capacity building in IM: why invest in it?

Our organization has higher priorities for capacity development, such as program management and M&E. Why should we invest in Information Management?

IM in the humanitarian and development sector includes all stages of a ‘data management cycle’, which is everything needed to produce and use data for humanitarian and development programs. In sum, IM is needed for M&E to conduct surveys and provide data, while it is also needed for decision making processes of the program teams.

Therefore, focusing on IM has cross-cutting value associated with all teams in the program management cycle. Through streamlining and including digital IM, M&E teams are able to improve the quality of their data and communicate more accurately to program teams. Through facilitating access to timely and comprehensive (and comprehensible) data, program teams are able to adapt programs based on evidence and share findings with communities. Through rapid access to program data in relation to indicators, management is able to make strategic decisions across programs. Finally, all of these processes along with rapid access to program data promotes more streamlined and efficient donor reporting.