When looking at how to use more analytics in program evaluation, let’s start by getting a standard definition.
Per Wikipedia, “Program evaluation is a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies and programs, particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency”.
This is very much like business analytics in how business leaders look at the analysis of business data to answer questions, identify opportunities and mitigate risks.
Program effectiveness can be measured many ways. Like how a cost-benefit analysis or market penetration report could be used by a company to assess the success of a new product or service.
Program efficiency can be measured using elements of Six Sigma or Lean. Looking for waste or defects in the end results of a project can lead to discoveries of poor implementation or biased data collection.
Another primary goal of project evaluation in both the public and private sectors, is providing stakeholders with information on “whether the programs they are funding, implementing, voting for, receiving or objecting to are producing the intended effect.”
To achieve this goal, you need a system to gather, analyze and report data. Like in any analytics project, the key is finding the right data and using it to answer questions, educate your audience and provide meaningful insight.
Answering questions like, “how much the program costs per participant, how the program could be improved, whether the program is worthwhile, whether there are better alternatives, if there are unintended outcomes, and whether the program goals are appropriate and useful. will indicate the level of success the program achieved.
There are many analytics techniques like data blending to bring in supporting data form outside the program. Predictive models can show where the project would go if it continues to get funding. Data visualization can also be used to help illustrate findings that can be useful in program evaluation.
Just off the top of my head, I can see a lot of opportunity for the use of a business analytics approach to Project Evaluation. There is a lot of common ground in methodology and reporting, but I think bringing in some cutting edge business analytics to the mix would allow even more insightful and actionable project evaluation.
Let’s find out.
Evaluators can learn from the ways that the corporate sector uses business analytics to understand, interpret, and display Big Data. Key aspects from the corporate sector that are useful for monitoring and evaluation include identifying what data is important, and finding ways to visualize it for consumption. In my upcoming webinar with American University on analytics solutions, I will be talking about how analytics is relevant to measurement and evaluation.
February 15, 2017
Webpage with webinar registration links: http://programs.online.american.edu/msme/webinars
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