This page is part of our successful commissioning toolkit.
What is ’intelligent monitoring’?
‘Intelligent monitoring’ is the term used for putting into practice the principles of good monitoring and for avoiding the pitfalls of poor practice in monitoring.
In carrying out intelligent monitoring, there is a series of practical considerations. These are set out here as:
- Rules of thumb to use when monitoring
- A set of validating questions you can use to check your approach.
Rules of thumb
There are three rules of thumb to be applied to monitoring practice.
First, start early: begin the discussion about monitoring early, that is, before implementation. You may need to consult potential providers at this stage. Be clear about your monitoring requirements when you invite applications or tenders and be prepared to discuss them at that stage. Too often, the discussion about monitoring starts during the tender or application process, or even after the financial agreement is made. This does not allow time for proper planning. It makes it hard for the provider to cost the monitoring requirement and build that cost into its proposal for funding. All this tends to lead to disproportionate and badly-managed monitoring.
Second, justify your need for information. It is not sufficient to impose a requirement; public bodies and third sector organisation (TSO) providers should agree the requirement. Public bodies should expect providers to ask them to justify requests for information. This contributes to good decision-making by funders.
Third, give feedback: tell the provider what you will do with the information you ask for. Providers are more likely to engage with monitoring requirements if they can see how they contribute to higher goals. Sending information into a ‘black hole’ is demotivating. If a provider knows what information is needed for, it may be able to suggest a better piece of information or a better source.
All three rules of thumb depend on good dialogue between public body and provider. Monitoring that is based on open dialogue helps to build trust between the funder and provider, identify and overcome risk and helps improve how public services are delivered. This positive working relationship between public body and provider can be achieved by recognising and implementing the Compact commitments [Note], which this guidance is consistent with.
You can use the eight questions below to test and validate your approach to monitoring. They should be asked at regular intervals throughout the course of a financial agreement to ensure that reporting remains proportionate. For each question, further explanation and an example are given in our guidance on Intelligent Monitoring.
Can the information be provided less frequently?
- Can the information be provided in time with the provider’s own reporting systems?
- Can the information be reported only by exception?
- Is there an alternative item of information, perhaps more cost-effective, that could be used instead?
- Can information that the provider already collects for another funder be used instead?
- Can this information be collected on a sample basis?
- Can this information be collected other than from the provider – such as a survey?
- How can you assure the reliability of this information?
Note: The Compact (pdf – 295KB), Cabinet Office 2010