Functions of communication in monitoring and evaluation
Communication performs several functions in social life and the environment. Such functions may include educating, informing, cultural promotion, social contact, integration, stimulation, counselling and expression of emotions and as a control function (management). In the practice of M&E of construction project delivery, the function of M&E cannot he overstated. It is a useful tool employed in the M&E process to share and create awareness of project progress information to all stakeholders. Communication in M&E also serves to educate, train and provide instructions to contractors to ensure performance. Persuading clients and other interested parties on the need for variations to work is also important. The relationship among stakeholders is enhanced which will significantly guarantee project success. The following three core functions of effective communication in monitoring and evaluation are examined.
7.4.1 Information sharing and awareness creation
According to Otieno (2000), effective and timely communication of information to users is a major strength of management in project implementation. It has also been established in the literature that a major challenge in M&E is the utilization of M&E findings (Tengan & Aigbavboa, 2016). Indeed, Otieno (2000) describes communication in project management as the catalyst in achieving the desired project objectives. M&E data and findings are relevant to all stakeholders and therefore the need for effective tools to disseminate such information to all interested stakeholders. Interested parties include direct and indirect stakeholders, the external funding organization and the general citizenry whose taxes are being used for developmental projects and who must rightly be informed about the progress (accountability). This sustains stakeholder confidence and ensures their constant desire to support future development (Umhlaba Development Services, 2017). In sharing information to create awareness of project progress at every stage, care must be taken to ensure such findings are accurate, timely and complete (Murray, Tookey, Langford & Hardcastle, 2000). This may take many forms such as verbal communication at a formal site or management/stakeholder meeting, submission of reports through emails and courier services. To ensure effective communication of M&E findings and information, it is appropriate to agree on the frequency of communication, how and what form the communication should take and the timelines to expect feedback for decision-making purposes.
7.4.2 Education and training
Organization learning is made possible and enhanced when effective communication is ensured in the M&E process. Projects are unique in several ways, including scope and implementation. Effective M&E will reveal challenges in project implementation which will help in making decisions and in adopting strategies in overcoming such challenges in future projects which may have similar features. M&E provides an opportunity to educate the public and labor involved in the project. Safety information is communicated widely to reduce fatalities at and around the site. M&E findings can also call for the training of
Aspects of communication in monitoring 97 team members or some stakeholders on some practices relevant to the project implementation.
Project implementation brings together several stakeholders to undertake such important activity like monitoring and evaluation. The M&E activity is usually led by the consulting team or the project manager. This leading role comes with numerous challenges. These stakeholders do not all report to the project manager; it is, therefore, essential to effectively communicate monitoring information to stakeholders at all levels particularly with the aim to influence them. Stakeholders get motivated by what is effectively communicated to them which will strengthen stakeholder relationship, commitment and participation in the project. This if done efficiently will ensure that project stakeholders are on the same level of understanding of what is happening on the project. The effect is assurance of project success ultimately.
The use of information communication technology (ICT) in construction project monitoring and evaluation
The effectiveness of communication on projects becomes increasingly challenged when the project scope increases when multiple concurrent activities need to be accomplished. It becomes imperative therefore to adopt strategies and technologies to mitigate any challenges to communication arising from increased scope and multiplicity of tasks on the project. It is important to note that while the benefits of using information and communication in construction have been appreciated and widely known, Peansupap and Walker (2004) report on the industry’s slow attitude towards adoption, confirming the poor adoption to change of many construction industries. Also, there is a culture of oral and face-to-face communication in the construction industry (Ballan & El-Diraby, 2011). Additionally, innovative technology adoption is said to contribute to productivity, quality and safety improvement in construction (Sepasgozar & Bernold, 2013).
In the M&.E of projects for success, any delay in communicating information can have dire consequences on the performance of projects. For example, communication regarding the clarification of instructions given by project manager, if not received and acted upon timeously, can be the basis for an extension of time or grounds for demolition and rework (increased project cost). Sunjka and Jacob (2013) attest to the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of facts on projects in the Niger Delta, Nigeria due to the poor or inadequate communication between parties. On the back of the challenges in technology adoption in the construction industry and the lack thereof in monitoring and evaluation of projects, Ballan et al. (2011) make some recommendations which include ensuring that the content of the communication is meaningful to the constructionindustry, that there is ready access at all times to project information and, finally, ensuring that communication systems are user-friendly.
The utilization of technology such as information and communication technology (ICT) in M&E is underdeveloped even though the potential impact on the entire project cycle, project diagnosis, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, reporting, sharing and learning is enormous (Raftree & Bamberger, 2014). According to Bohn and Teizer (2009), adoption and implementation of technology in construction have largely been unsuccessful as a result of the different understanding of the benefits and limitations of technology use in construction. M&E of the project is continuously undertaken throughout the project implementation process, making the practice time-consuming as well as a manual process with visual inspections adopted. The M&E activities such as tracking and updating project schedule can be assisted with technology such as the use of high-resolution automated cameras that can provide construction management and other users with project site images and videos (Bohn & Teizer, 2009). In using cameras, Senior and Swanberg-Mee (1997) argue that several imbalances such as time wasting, task completion time and inefficiencies can be recognized and adjusted for resource optimization. This is made possible through tracking of the workforce, equipment and materials’ inventory (Senior & Swanberg-Mee, 1997).
Technologies may operate either on wireless signals or optical measurement. Wireless signal technologies include the global positioning system (GPS) for machine site utilization and position control (Navon, 2008), the radio frequency identification which helps in locating and tracking material on- and off-site (Jaselskis & Gao, 2003) and the ultra-wideband for real-time resource tracking and work zone safety (Teizer et al., 2005). The laser rangefinders for machine guidance and position and laser scanners for three-dimensional point cloud measurement are regarded as optimal measurement technologies (Bosche & Haas, 2008; Lytle & Saidi, 2007). In other studies, mobile technology (mobile phones) have been adopted for M&E of international health and development programmes in developing countries to fast-track data collection (Bruce, 2013). Technology adoption in M&E has proven to contribute to the successful implementation of projects by eliminating rework and increased measurement accuracy (Bohn & Teizer, 2009). Further, data collection and handling are made easy and straightforward.