Program process monitoring is an assessment of the process of a program or intervention. Process monitoring falls under the overall evaluation of a program. Program evaluation involves answering questions about a social program in a systematic way. Examples of social programs include school feeding programs, job training in a community and out-patient services of a community health care facility. Questions about a social program can be asked by program sponsors, developers, policymakers and even taxpayers who want to determine whether or not a particular program is effective. More specifically, purposes of social programs include identifying a programs’ strengths and weaknesses, assessing the impact of a program, justifying the need for additional resources and responding to attacks on a program, among others.
Apart from measuring the needs, inputs and outcomes of a program, evaluations also monitor the process of a program. According to (p. 171), program process monitoring “is the systematic and continual documentation of key aspects of program performance that assesses whether the program is performing as intended or according to some appropriate standard.” Therefore, program process monitoring involves a systematic and continuous way of monitoring certain aspects of a program’s process which would indicate how well the program is performing, if at all. These activities help to facilitate the effective management of the program because continuous assessment allows for regular feedback about the program’s performance.
Tools for data gathering
Management Information Systems (MIS) are tools often used by evaluators to monitor the performance of the program. An MIS is a compilation of data regarding the services that are routinely provided by the program, the staff that have provided the services, the treatments that have been provided and the costs involved in the program. Many evaluators use MISs as their major source of data when monitoring the process of a program because MISs contain all the relevant information about the program that is needed for an assessment.
Process monitoring from various perspectives
The specific activities that form part of the monitoring process are aimed at generating information that is appropriate from the perspective of the consumer group, who the monitoring is for. Three key consumer groups are discussed below:
From an accountability perspective
Due to outside funding, program managers need to provide regular information to funders and program sponsors about the implementation of the program, problems that have been encountered and how these were handled. Program managers are accountable for and how the program is run, which leads to either the success or failure of the program.
From a management perspective
From a management perspective, process monitoring is not only aimed at finding out how the program is going, but it is also aimed at putting in place corrective measures to ensure that the program performs as it should. In this case, process monitoring can take place during the pilot testing of the program in order to find ways of dealing with unexpected problems. Management-oriented monitoring can also take place in already-developed programs in order to obtain information about the performance of the program and whether or not the target population is being reached by the planned intervention.
From an evaluators perspective
In order to evaluate the outcomes of a program, the evaluator first needs to monitor the process in order to assess the implementation of the intervention. The reason for this is that many program failures are due to failures in the implementation of the program. Therefore, in order to determine whether or not the planned outcomes have been reached, the evaluator needs to assess how the intervention was implemented.