Can Data Analytics Improve Project Execution?

All over the world, projects are being designed, rolled out, executed and closed every day and at any given point in time, billions of dollars are passing through the project life cycle. The implementation of these projects provides constant learning opportunities for important knowledge that could be applied in the future. However, despite the large volume of project management literature floating around, many projects continue to face challenges with meeting completion deadlines and accessing sufficient resources to deliver planned outputs and outcomes.

One of the strategies used to attempt to mitigate these shortcomings is the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) of project execution on an on-going basis. Some may say that M&E are two separate processes; however, others are of the view that they are intrinsically linked. For me, monitoring is an ongoing process that involves ascertaining that what was planned has indeed been implemented and to take any corrective action if need be.  Evaluation, on the other hand, is a continuous assessment of project activities during and after the intervention. Finding new strategies to improve the M&E process is, in my view, integral to advancing the field of project management.

In recent times, companies have been using data analytics to capture and forecast prospective trends as part of their ongoing monitoring process. Consider the fact that shopping online in the “privacy” of one’s own home is not private at all. As you browse online, behind the scenes, data is being collected on your online purchasing habits – which later is later manifested in the recommended items that pop up in your web browser and seem to follow you across websites.  It is quite intriguing that because of your online search requests, digital data collection companies know more about you than your spouse or even your closest friends.

Can a similar process be applied to development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean? How can we extract data from all of them to provide valuable insights that will make projects more successful, thus further improving people’s lives?

Consider how data capture could be used to improve project execution by compiling information on what problems have been experienced in project design and execution. For example, if there is a set period of time for a project to fulfill conditions prior to funds being disbursed to the borrower, data could be collected through a project management software programme to benchmark the average time it takes to fulfill this condition in one country or region.  Consequently, based on the results of data analytics, the timeframe could be increased or decreased based on further data analysis and closer examination of various factors, to ascertain what has contributed to reaching, or not reaching the set time period.

Going even further, a project management software programme could be developed to process information received from the evaluation reports to review the projects’ relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. Data on the reasons for delays, bottlenecks in execution, qualifications of the project human resources team, risk mitigation measures implemented, amongst other data, could be of excellent value to an organization. With the availability of data analytics in project management, this unique field could reach an unprecedented level of cooperation and efficiency. Can you imagine the propensity for knowledge sharing among development partners in the areas of project risks, best practices, outcomes, and impacts?

Data analysis could have a tremendous impact – not only on the way projects are executed – but on the ability to effect greater improvement in the lives of people throughout the world.


About the author

Janette Archer-Headley is a certified Project Management Professional and is an Operations Senior Associate currently working with the Inter-American Development Bank in Barbados. In this role, she monitors the execution of several loans and technical co-operation covering various thematic areas within the portfolio of the Bank.

Prior to joining the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), she was employed with UNWomen and the United Nations Development Program in various roles.  Janette worked in the areas of Procurement, Project Monitoring, and Finance for Barbados and the OECS countries.

She holds a bachelor degree in Management Studies, masters, in Project Management and Evaluation from the University of the West Indies. She earned her MBA from the University of Leicester, and a diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Janette is passionate about workplace Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and spent two years (2014 and 2015) at the IDB headquarter, in Washington DC working with the implementation of the Organisation’s D&I Strategy.


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