An indicator is a qualitative or quantitative measure of program performance that is used to demonstrate changes and which details whether the program results are being or have been achieved.
For indicators to be useful for monitoring and evaluating program results, it is therefore important to identify indicators that are direct, objective practical and adequate and to regularly update them.
Keeping these points in view, we emphasize that good indicators should possess the following characteristics:
- Relevant to the program.
- Relevant to the national standards.
- Feasible to construct.
- Easy to interpret.
- Enable tracking of change over time.
The way the indicators are developed varies by the organizations/project and objectives therein. DOPA criteria encapsulate the most important requirements of useful indicators. In DOPA, the letters D, O, P, and A stand as follows:
D: for Direct, meaning that an indicator must be able to measure the intended change directly closely;
O: for Objective. This means that your indicator must be unambiguous with a clear operational definition of every term stated in the objective;
P: for Practical, which means that an indicator must be practical in terms of data collection, budget and timelines to be helpful in decision-making;
A: for adequacy, which says that an adequate number of indicators must be considered so that they can capture the progress made adequately towards the desired output.
Types of Program Performance Indicators
An indicator can be classified as;
- Input indicator
- Performance indicator and
- Output/outcome indicator.
Input indicators are quantified and time-bound statements of resources to be provided. Information on these indicators comes from accounting and management records.
Input indicators are often left out of discussions of project monitoring though they are part of the management information system.
A good accounting system is needed to keep track of expenditures and provide cost data for performance analysis of outputs. Input indicators are used mainly by the managers closest to the tasks of implementation and are consulted frequently, as often as daily or weekly.
Here are a few examples of this indicator:
- Vehicle operating costs for the crop extension service
- Levels of financial contributions from the govt, or co-financers
- Appointment of staff
- Provision of building
Performance indicators measure what happens during implementation.
Often they, are tabulated as a set of contracted completions or milestone events taken from an activity plan. Examples are
- Date by which building site clearance must be completed
- Latest date for delivery of fertilizer to farm stores
- Number of health outlets reporting family planning activity
- Number of women receiving a contraceptive counseling
- Status of procurement of school textbooks.
Output indicators show the immediate physical and financial outputs or outcomes of the Project: physical quantities, organizational strengthening, and initial flow of services.
They include program performance measures based on cost or operational ratios. Examples include
- Several teachers trained in textbook use.
- Cost per kilometer of road construction.
- Crop yield per acre of land.
- The ratio of textbooks to students.
- Time is taken to process a credit application.
Indicators may be qualitative or quantitative. They can also be categorized to reflect the development aspects.
In some instances, we look for efficient indicators. Following is a list of such indicators:
- Quantitative indicators
- Qualitative indicators
- Compliance with
- Quality of
- Extent of
- Level of
- Efficiency indicators
- Cost per unit of (clients served, student, patient, etc.)
- Economic development indicators
- Average annual household income
- Earned income level
- Per capita income
- Percent of people below the poverty line
- The growth rate of business
- Social development indicators
- Death rate
- Life expectancy at birth
- Infant mortality rate
- Literacy rate
- Percent of dwellings with safe water
- Student-teacher ratio
- School enrolment rate
- Political/Organizational development indicators
- Number of community organizations
- Type of organized sports
- Participation in the youth groups
- Participation in public meetings
The quantitative indicators are designed to provide hard data that permit rigorous statistical analyses, while qualitative indicators provide insights into changes in organizational processes, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of individuals.
There are, however, ways to transform qualitative indicators to quantitative indicators and be used to illustrate changes.
Efficiency indicators should tell us if we are getting the desired output against our investment.
Common Problems in Specifying Indicators
The UNFPA in Bangladesh, while running its development programs in Bangladesh, has identified some common problems and weaknesses the indicators suffer from.
- The indicators are irrelevant and do not correspond to the output level;
- The indicators do not include an objective standard against which achievement can be assessed;
- The indicators constructed are without reference to the baseline;
- The indicators are numerous and redundant with little consideration of time, human resources and cost required to collect data for the construction of the indicators;
- The indicators are unrealistic and sometimes very difficult to conceptualize and measure;
- The indicators are not representative of the universe.
To address the above problems in the identification or construction of good indicators, UNFPA put forward some suggestions that can be practiced. These include, among others, the involvement of the stakeholders in the process of selecting the indicators, procuring baseline data, the involvement of all those who are partners in the program, following the program design.
As an illustration, we list some performance indicators as used in monitoring and evaluation of Emergency Obstetric Care (EmOC) services in the health sector:
- The proportion of deliveries assisted by skilled health personnel
- Amount of basic and Comprehensive EmOC facilities available per population
- Geographical distribution of EmOC facilities
- Cesarean sections as a percent of all births
- Obstetric Case Fatality Rate
The Ministry of Education, Govt, of Bangladesh, with the assistance of the World Bank, has undertaken a Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). The general objective of the Project is to improve the quality of teaching-learning and research capabilities of the tertiary education institutions of the country through encouraging both innovation and accountability and by enhancing the technical and institutional capacity of the higher education sector.
One of the most important components of HEQEP is Academic Innovation Fund (A IF).
This fund is designated to be awarded to participating public and private universities on a competitive basis to establish enabling conditions to improve the quality and relevance of teaching, learning, and research. The University Grants Commission of Bangladesh is the implementing agency of the Project.
A HEQEP Unit has been established in UGC to arrange implementation, management, and monitoring and evaluation of the project activities. The project outcome indicators of HEQEP against the performance indicators have been identified as follows:
- Increased level of satisfaction of students and faculty staff regarding the relevance of teaching and research program;
- Increased proportion of students and faculty members with access to advanced internet connectivity;
- Institutionalization of a competitive funding mechanism for teaching and research through increased allocation in the Medium Terms Budget Framework (MTBF).
It is expected that;
- if the projects are implemented according to plan,
- faculty members participate in the projects according to plan,
- there is a significant increase in the enrolment of Ph.D. students,
- Higher Education Management Information System is established, and
- The Digital library is established, then the Project will achieve the outcome indicators stated above.
Plan for Dissemination of the Evaluation Report
Taking action on the evaluation results is an essential component in the process of evaluation and monitoring. The process has little value if the organization or Project does not act on the information that comes out of the analysis of the data that have been collected.
Once the findings are reported, conclusions are drawn, and recommendations are made from your monitoring and evaluation it is necessary to;
- Report to the stakeholders;
- Learn from the overall process;
- Make effective decisions about how to move forward, and if necessary.
- Deal with any resistance to the necessary changes within the organization or Project.