5. Manage development of the evaluation workplan

Planning for the implementation of an evaluation project should incorporate good practice in project management.

Developing a clear workplan, with realistic timeframes, clear deliverables and milestones is crucial for ensuring the evaluation stays on track and achieves the intended results. The processes are similar for internal and external evaluation projects.

Who develops the evaluation workplan

Who develops the evaluation workplan depends on the type of evaluation. For some evaluations, a partnership approach between the commissioners and the external evaluators can be most valuable; the external evaluators typically bring expertise and a fresh perspective, which is valuable both for learning and for the quality of the evaluation workplan.

If the workplan is developed collaboratively, it is important to state who is responsible for which aspects of the evaluation and outline clear timeframes and milestones. Evaluation plans prepared by an external team should be signed off by the relevant project manager.

Clear milestones and deliverables

Whether prepared by an internal or external team, the evaluation plan should reflect the order of evaluation phases and activities. It covers all activities, from contracting through to submission and dissemination of final evaluation deliverables, usually a report.

When developing the evaluation plan, first consider the timing and impact of large constraints, such as funding cycles, planned reference group meetings or holiday periods. The timeframes for each phase of the evaluation should reflect a balance between what is desirable within the limits of what is feasible and possible.

Stakeholder communication strategy

A key practice principle in the NSW Government Evaluation Guidelines link is that evaluation process should be transparent and open to scrutiny. Evaluation is a negotiated process with stakeholders likely to have varying views about the program and the evaluation.  You may consider keeping stakeholders informed throughout the evaluation process by including them in the governance mechanisms for the evaluation, and communicating with them at key stages through the evaluation.

Because evaluations have many audiences, from internal stakeholders to evaluation participants, the communications strategy should specify how and when the evaluation team will engage with each audience. This can range from sending a newsletter to consumer participants to preparing a progress report. For large evaluations this may be published on a relevant website.

Provisions for revising the plan

Things that you cannot anticipate during the evaluation planning phase happen during the course of a program evaluation, and you may need to reconsider the timing of certain activities, or review the intended evaluation methods.

While you cannot control for every unforeseen event, you can ensure there is sufficient flexibility in the evaluation workplan. That said, evaluation managers should ask external consultants to identify potential risks before the evaluation commences, and to have a plan for addressing them. Consultants should include a risk management matrix in their workplan.

Clear lines of management communication

Part of ensuring an evaluation stays on track is specifying how, and by whom, issues should be raised, escalated and resolved. It is particularly important to specify governance and management processes when an external team is involved, so that all members are clear who is responsible for which aspects of the evaluation.

1. Workplan  including timeline of milestones and deliverables