Before it is ever launched, a project exists in concept—as a design, description or plan. But once launched, the project faces on-the-ground realities: Is the organization adequately staffed and trained? Are responsibilities well assigned? Are all the financial resources in place? Are the intermediate tasks being completed on schedule? If the project is intended to provide recycling bins to households, for example, does the right number of bins reach the appropriate distribution centers on time?
Process evaluation analyzes the effectiveness of program operations, implementation, and service delivery. When process evaluation is ongoing it is called program monitoring. Process evaluations help us determine, for example:
- Whether services and goals are properly aligned.
- Whether services are delivered as intended to the appropriate recipients.
- How well service delivery is organized.
- The effectiveness of program management.
- How efficiently program resources are used.
Process evaluations are often used by managers as benchmarks to measure success, for example: if the distribution of recycling bins is reaching 80% of the intended recipients each week. These benchmarks may be set by program managers, and sometimes by donors. In many larger organizations, monitoring progress is the responsibility of an internal Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) department. In order to determine whether benchmarks are being met, data collection mechanisms must be in place.