Putting Data in the Driver’s Seat: Unlocking data for decision-making with the PEPFAR Management Dashboard

Danilo Rayo

Consultant

The PEPFAR Management Dashboard Webinar took place on December 15th, 2016. It was co-facilitated by Lourdes de la Peza and Danilo Rayo and included presentations by Dr. Doreen Agasha (Senior M&E Officer, Protecting Families against HIV/AIDS (PREFA)), Peter Njuguna (Acting M&E Manager, National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE)) and Peter Muganga (Head of Internal Audit, Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU)). The facilitators provided background information on the dashboard development and piloting process, as well as on its features, requirements, principles and capabilities.  The three afore-mentioned presenters shared their own lessons learned and experiences linked to the implementation of the PEPFAR dashboard. They focused their presentations on answering the following questions:

  • Why did their organizations adopt the PEPFAR Management Dashboard?
  • What were the main challenges encountered?
  • What are some examples of success with the PEPFAR Management Dashboard?
  • What is the way forward?

Why adopt the PEPFAR Management Dashboard?

PREFA:  Dr. Agasha explained that monitoring a project involves following up on progress against set targets. It also entails comparing achievements to resources used during implementation. Accordingly, PREFA needed a captivating way of displaying this information in a way that would easily enable implementers to measure their own performance and set plans for improvement.

NOPE: Peter Njuguna explained NOPE’s interest by emphasizing that the dashboard is a simple way of capturing performance in a simplified format and presenting a summarized picture of the project to stakeholders.

RHU: Peter Muganga highlighted the dashboard’s ability to break the monotony while presenting to stakeholders during review meetings.  RHU needed a tool that could give a snapshot of key performance areas as multiple result areas needed to be presented to various stakeholders.

What were the main challenges encountered?

PREFA: The MoH required districts to use the ´District Health Information Software 2 ( DHIS2*) rendering the PEPFAR Management Dashboard irrelevant at that time as the software already showed  routine health facility data, staffing, equipment, infrastructure and population estimates.  In spite of this, PREFA has maintained the dashboard for use at the head office where it is used in performance review. An important challenge that PREFA faced is linked to sustainability—the dashboard generation process requires clearly defined roles for all members of the M&E team.

NOPE:  Initial challenges included general acceptance among staff and the process of linking the dashboard generation process with reporting needs. Initially, the staff could not see how the dashboard could help to improve their work and thought that annual/quarterly reporting did not provide a clear picture of programs’ performance. Accordingly, an advocacy process was required to demonstrate the benefits of the dashboard.  Another challenge included linking NOPE report indicators with dashboard indicators and working with projects to improve data collection on time.

RHU: Dashboard generation know-how was lost due to staff leaving RHU. In addition, the licensing of the software posed a financial challenge at the start as the package can only be accessed on computers with a licensed version of SAP Dashboards. Furthermore, there were many indicators in the project and selecting those that were going to be monitored in the dashboard was challenging at beginning.

Success with the PEPFAR Management Dashboard

PREFA: Dr. Agasha emphasized that the dashboard facilitates quick interpretation of data, thus enabling sound decision making. In addition, the dashboard provides a visual description of project performance at the district and NGO level. In this way, PREFA has used the dashboard to track progress across quarters that can be analyzed with ease.

NOPE: NOPE used the dashboard as an opportunity to improve the involvement of the Advisory Board and the management team overseeing programs ́ performance. Currently, the M&E presentations to the Board always include the dashboard.

RHU:  The dashboard was used in quarterly review meetings for the CBHA project in 2012 and 2013. It provided a better appreciation of the need to compare indicators against targets. Also, graphical presentations have helped both RHU headquarters and field staff to identify weaknesses and strengths in program implementation. The dashboard has helped project managers to focus on areas of improvement and develop action plans during reviews.

The Way Forward

PREFA: Institutionalizing the PEPFAR Management Dashboard has been a work in progress and a learning process. For PREFA, the way forward includes uploading their third project onto the dashboard together with financial information, which will enable tracking outputs versus costs. PREFA expects that the organization will make full use of and institutionalize the PEPFAR Management Dashboard by June 2017.

NOPE: NOPE plans to include an online presentation of the dashboard on the organization’s website and in its online newsletter.

RHU: The organization will continue working as a team to generate the dashboard periodically and will involve more stakeholders to spread understanding of the dashboard throughout RHU andinstitutionalize the intervention to ensure continuity.

Key messages linked to the Dashboard implementation process

  • The dashboard is not an MIS Database nor does it replace an organization’s financial management system, as it only facilitates data utilization.
  • The dashboard is not a generator of new data but rather a tool for using pre-existing data.
  • Except for financial indicators, the dashboard programmatic and management indicators are not standard. They are user-specific and can change per organization depending on the focus of the program being implemented.

Reflections from the webinar and the way forward

  • During the webinar, one of the most recurrent questions was linked to the dashboard’s capability to adapt to different settings such as health care centers and clinics.  The answer is “Yes, as long as certain requirements are met.” The dashboard can be implemented in multiple settings ranging from social development organizations to healthcare settings and facilities. In addition to the IT requirements of the dashboard, however, the planned setting must have a framework of performance indicators, M&E and financial reporting processes and a team whose members can act as dashboard champions. 
  • The future of the dashboard depends on a change in the culture of organizations. To take advantage of the dashboard, organizations need to be ready to evolve from a report preparation mindset to one focusing on evidence-based decision making and analysis and from a “we’ve always done it that way” perspective to one that is more open to analyzing the vital signs of the organization’s performance. In addition, they must be ready to commit human and technical resources to implementing the dashboard generation process, analyzing the produced information and implementing a strategic dissemination strategy for different audiences.  Furthermore, the future of the dashboard depends on the agreements between donors and SAP to continue providing Dashboard licenses in a cost-effective way for organizations in developing countries.


*An open source software platform for reporting, analysis and dissemination of data for all health programs, developed by the Health Information Systems Programme (HISP) and supported by NORAD, PEPFAR, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNICEF and the University of Oslo.