Step 5: Manage development of the evaluation workplan
When planning an evaluation project you'll need to consider realistic timeframes, clear deliverables and milestones.
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. External evaluators can often bring expertise and a fresh perspective that is valuable for learning and the quality of the evaluation workplan.
If the workplan is developed collaboratively, 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
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. It can be prepared by an internal or external team.
When developing the evaluation plan, first consider the timing and impact of large constraints, such as:
- funding cycles
- planned reference group meetings
- holiday periods.
The timeframes for each phase of the evaluation should balance what is desirable and what is actually feasible and possible.
Stakeholder communication strategy
A key practice principle in the NSW Government Evaluation Guidelines (PDF 543.64KB) is that the evaluation process should be transparent and open to scrutiny.
Evaluation is a negotiated process and stakeholders are 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
- communicating with them at key stages through the evaluation.
With many audiences, from internal stakeholders to evaluation participants, the evaluations 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
There may be unexpected events during the course of a program evaluation that you had not planned for. If there are unexpected events you may need to reconsider the timing of certain activities, or review the intended evaluation methods.
While you can't control for every unforeseen event, you can ensure there is sufficient flexibility in the evaluation workplan. To reduce risk, evaluation managers should ask external consultants to identify potential risks before the evaluation commences, and have a plan to address them. Consultants should include a risk management matrix in their workplan.
Clear lines of management communication
To keep your evaluation on track you should specify how, and by whom, issues should be raised, escalated and resolved. When an external team is involved is very important to specify governance and management processes, so all members are clear about who is responsible for which aspects of the evaluation.