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ED-84lWSl60 October 84

P .M.I.S
Project Management Information System

For the Management of Operational Activities of Unesco
AUDIO- VISUAL PRESENTATION Accompanying Document

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

P,M,I.S. PROJECT MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR THE MANAGEMENT

or

OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES OF

UNESCO,

AUDIO-VISUAL Accompanying

PRESENTATION Document

United Nations Educational. Scientific and Cultural Oryan1zat1on.

FOREWORD

You will find in this audio-visual quide a synthesized description of the information system for the management of operational activities. A more complete description can be found in the "Guide for the Computer-assisted Management of Operational Activities in the F'ield of Education - PMIS". Refl ED-82/WS/17 December 1981 - available in Rnglish and French. However carefully this audio-visual guide has been prepared, it is only by using it that its quality and pertinence can be improved. This is why we would be happy to receive your opinions, remarks, comments and suggestions, which you should send tOI Division of Operational Programmes, Education Sect,.':,
UNESCO,

7 Place de Fontenoy, 75007 PARIS.

P MIS

PROJECT MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR THE MANAG:MENT OF OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES OF UNESCO

AUDIO-VISUAL PRESENTATION

Section 1
2 3

Title Nature of ·the problem Objectives and background of the PMIS Characteristics of the system and its implementation . Results and development prospects

Slides 4 - 18
19 - 31 32 - 62
63 - 76

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Within the framework of the activities aiming at the development of computer-assisted procedures for the management of operational projects in the field of education, UNESCO presents :

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P MIS

- "Project Management Infonnation System".

An infonnation system for the computer-assisted management of operational activities.

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CONTENTS Section Section Section Section 1 2 3 4 Th~ nature of the problem. The objectives and background of the PMIS. Characteristics of the system and its implementation. Results and development prospects.

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The naturt' of the problem

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Managing operational programmes entails at one and the same time the enatysts ofon-go1ng projects, of projects that have already been terminated, and of projects under preparation which have not yet been submitted to the National Authorities concerned or to the financing Agencies.

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UNESCO participates in, and provides technical support for,the preparation and execution of operational activities. These consist of field projects to be executed u~~~~ t~e responsi bl1ity of Nationa 1 Authorities. The financing for these activities comes either from international financing sources or from the countries concerned.

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In addition, UNESCO executes under its own responsibility a wide range of substantive activities with1n the framework of the Organ1zation's Regular Progromme. Such activities are undertaken 1n accordance with the gu1de11nes given and the f1nancia1 resources approved by the General Conference of the Organization. It is 1mportant for max1mum efficiency of the Organ1~at10n to facil1tate the 1nteraction between these two types of act1v1ties (operat10na1 and substantive), in Such a way that they mutually reinforce each other at all levels (at Headquarters, 1n Regional Off1ces and at project level).

08

The problem of interact10n is extremely d1fficu1t to handle g1ven the scope and complexity of both the Regular Programme and the Operat10na1 activities of the Organ1sation.

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First of all, let us set out what are the main features of "a techn1cal cooperation project". It is a coherent set of activities. identified on the basis of nat10na1 needs, and having its own budget. The util1 zation of the available resources is the responsibility of the Nat10nal Author1ties concerned, A project can be made up of several of the following specific r.omponents : ..personnel (experts. consultants. local staff. etc.) ..training (tra1ning courses. fellowsh1ps, study tours, etc.) ..equlpnent of various kinds; - othel' elements (sub-contracts. building progranmes etc.).

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Every project is conceived using a methodology that covers the preparation of the project, as well as its execution and evaluation, This methodology is described in the following guides, prepared by the Operational Progr~s Division: - Guide for the "Preparation of technical cooperation projects in Education", - Guide for the "COOlputer-assisted management of Operational Activities in the field of Education", - Guide for the "Evaluation of technical cooperation projects in Education".

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As far as Operational Programmes are cencemed ;: the role of UNESCO is first of all to assist Member States in identifying their priority needs and to help in searching for international financing. To this end, the Organization contributes to the preparation of requests and to their presentation to financing Agencies in concise and preCise tenms, such requests being based upon national priorities as expressed in sectoral studies, country programmes, national development plans and whatever appropriate mission reports might be available.

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Here we outline "project "project project.

the two phases

of and of to show the role

identification execution",

and preparation", in the attempt

of UNESCOthroughout

the li fe of a techni cal cooperation

Phase 1 This phase includes identi ficat10~ These activities National support financing. all activities related of a project. out j'ointly with the technical and. the preparation for international UNESCO provides to the

and preparation are carried concerned.

Authorities

not only for the identi:fication but ~lso in searching

of the project

13
This phase execution support, includes

Phase 2 all activities logistical available the process staff, related to the

of a project. technical, support takes and administrative national resources. consultants, etc. is carried Authorities. out thus reinforcing

UNESCOsupplies The technical trainingsch!mes In addition, jointly

10nn of experts, equipment, of evaluation

for national a continuous

by the Organization

and the National

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To acqut re a genera 1 idea of the extent of these activities, it should be recallerl that in the period 1979/1983 219,5 mil l ton doll ars of extra-budgetary funds were employed, for theexecut10n of 628 projects in 123 countries.

A distri bution of these resources by region, type of action and major area of concern isgiven in thOetable •

15

In the same period, operational activities were financed by the following agencies: - United Nation~ Development Programme (UNDP) which provided 133,8 million dollars or around 60,9% of the total. - Funds-in-Trust (donations and self-benefitting funds) which provided 27,2 million dollars or 12,4% of the total. - United Nations Fund fo~ Population Activities (UNFPA) which provided 14,9 millin dollars or 6,8%. - Regiona 1 Ban ks which provided 7,3 million dollars or 3,4%. - The World Bank which contributed 22,2 million dollars or 10.1S. - Other sou rces accounting for 14,1 million dollars or 6.4% of the total funds made available.

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,.For effective implementation of the entire range of operationa 1 activities which has to rely upon transparency of information and decentralization of management responsibilities for each project, as well as upon the strengthening of overall coherence in management control at Headquarters, three types of needs were highlighted: 1st: The need to make available a flexible management information ~ool that would facilitate, in the case both of on-going .and "potentia 1" projects, p1anning and execution follow-up by level of responsibility.

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2nd

Jhe need to create an infOrmation system which permitted not only the memorization of descriptive information concerning the projects (no matter whether they were in preparation, 00-gGin9 or terminated), but whi~h also 'guarantees easy, open and rapid communication of this informa~io~ to all concerned persons (both at Headquarters and in the Field). In brief, there was a need for a systematic and standardized information ... , exchange mechani sm linking Headquarters, Re-g,i~n~lOffices and project staff.

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3rd

The need for all personnel 'involved'in operational activities whether located in Headquarters, Regional Offices or in the Field to have available a regular flow of basic information concerning the pro.1ects for which they· were responsi b1e. Such information could emanate fran the Divisions, Offices and Central Services of the Organization as well as from the projects themselves.The aim is two-fold: - on the one hand, to identify, formulate, prepare and plan more effectively the technical and financial support needed by each project ;. - on the other hand, to increase the autonomy and the accountability of all concerned staff for the activities associated with the current execution and management supervision of the projects.

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TR~SITION

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Objectives and background of the PHIS

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In response to the informatioA requirements associated with the overall management of operational projects, an information system has been. designed and developed, accessible to all concerned Headquarters and Field personnel. The objectives which were pursued while gradually developing the PHIS system can be set out as follows :

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1st objective : To set uP. an information instrument for the current 'management of on-going projects able to : (i) process at the same time descriptive information (technical data describing each project) and information of a numerical nature (financial data, planning, etc.); (tt ) assist in planning r.lnd supervising the execution of each project.; (iii) provide periodical information syntheses responding to different needs in the area of management supervision (syntheses of data prepared by projects, project status reports, . regional syntheses, synt~ses prepared by financing source, by project cORlponen't.by field of activity. by responsi ble staff member, etc.).

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2nd objective : To set up an information instrument able to cope with the ~rocessing of descriptive and numerical data related to projects not yet approved (potentials), serving as a support in planning the corresponding activities and in supervising progress by level of responsibility.

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3rd objective : To build up gradually a central memory" .._{~··"Sort . of institutional memory of the Organization) able to be accessed rapidly and selectively and containing the basic infonnat1on describing the operational activities. undertaken by the Organ1 zat ton •

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4th objecthe : To create and maintain an information circulation network for the management of oprat 1ona', activ1 ties (both on-going and potential) permitting systematic exchange of data between the Headquarters of the Organization, the Regional Offices and the projects. (The greater part of the problems encountered in this regard arises, in fact, more frem poor 1nfonnat10n-flow than from a real lack of information).

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5th objective: To make the basic data concerning operational activities easily accessible to all concerned, mainly at Headquarters but also, as far as possible, in Regional Offices and to project staff. In particular, to provide at Headquartel's an on-line interrogation capacity covering all the related computer files according to criteria to be establi shed on a case .. y-case b basis and responding specifically to the needs of the various users of information.

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6th objective: Finally, aware that all of the above objectives,while constituting a necessary basis for the implementation of effective management,could not by themselves ensure the achievement of this goal,to make available a range of ~thodological and training materials describing the approach to be followed by the various persons responsible for the operational activities,: in order that the appropriate infonnation be used in the most effective way. This audio-visual kit constitutes one of many elements developed to strengthen on-going training of all concerned personnel at Headquarters and in the Field.

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The PHIS information system was developed to meet these objectives. At present, the system allows access to information : - Either directly, through interrogation at a computer !!!]Iinal, if the .staff member wishes·to be provided with a specific se~ of data. Examples : - Searching for candidates with experience of systems analysis and of computer-assisted instruction. - Searching pipeline projects in the field of education . . concerning a given country (Angola). . - Searching for on-going projects, financed by UNDP in Africa corresponding to sub-progrillllle IV.1.2 ("Strengthening Of educational planning, aaninfstration and management") of the
22 CIS.

- Etc.

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- Or indirectly, through a range of computer print-outs issued periodically, should one wish to dispose of an aggregated set of data extracted from different computer files (for example, the complete set of data describing a project - Project Status -, or a synthesis of financial data by region, by field of activity (CIS programme), by type of assistance, by financing source, etc.).

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'THE PM'S DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

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THE PMIS DEVEL'OPMENT PROCESS

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To develop such a management information system, a certain number of efforts had to be made, part; cul arly in the Operational Programmes Division of the Education Sector and in the other central services involved. The development process can be summed up as follows: - 1976, end of the preliminary study phase and start of system development. - 1977, preliminary establ1shnent of a "users' guide" ancl continuation of software development. - 1978/1979, gradual storage in the compwter memory of the data relating to on-going education projects and further improvement of software.

30

- 1980/1981, development of a complementary information

sub-system for the management of "potential" projects (provisional management). - 1981/1984, gradual tuning of the whole system, preparation of a comprehensive users' guide, extension of the utilisation of PHIS to tile Science Sector and preparation of this audio-visual .presentation.

31

It is worth noting, finally, that on the 26th July 1978, the PHIS was the subject of a report submitted to the eeo· . at its 32nd sess10n~ In 1980, PHIS was also made the subject of an evaluation by CCO and of a .seccnd report approved at the 69th session of that C0IIIII1ttee.That report reconnended the extension of such a system to all Programme Sectors.

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Coord1nati~ of Operational Activities.

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TRANSITION

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Caracteristics of the system and its implementation

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Whether it concerns a country or a geographical region, management of operational activities in the broad sense of the tenn implies the knowledge of a wide range of basic data. In particular of : - data resulting from the analysis of the present status and evolution of '8" given educat tcn (or systems) in its'relation with the overall national or regional development; - status of each project, 'on-going or ~otential.

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It should be clear that the job of the manager in possession of such infonmation is not simply to supervise the progress of on-going projects but also to prepare forecasts of possible future activities translated into project ideas. These project ideas represent the "potential" of technical cc-operat ton in the field of education. Since their management must take place before the management of the corresponding on-going projects, we shall first study the 1nfonmation elements that PMIS foresees at this 1evel •

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There fore. 1nfonnat ion foreseen for the management of ~otential activities can be grouped into 6 sets of data as follows: - a general country profile; - general education problems and their context; - specific problems faced by the existing education system - possible areas for co-operation·; - project ideas i - prepared project documents. Obviously. only the most significant data of these sets ~s selected for computerized processing.

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The entry fonn you see here is being utilised for the computer storage of this data. The form is filled in for each project idea concerning a given country by the officer responsf ble for technical cooperation (the Field Pro{)ralYllle Officer). working in liaison, of course, with the other officials fnvolved in Headquarters and fn the Field. The descriptive data is given in English or in French.using, as far as poSSible, a standardized terminology. The choice of language is made on the basis of which of the two, English or French, is more readily understood by all staff concerned including National Authorities.

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It is worth noting that a project idea ("potential project") is entered into the corresponding canputer file ("PREVDATA" file) only when it is established that it corresponds to real needs recognized by the national authorities. The corresponding record is withdrawn fran the computer file when the project reaches the approved stage or if the project idea,js no longer of any interest to the National Authorities.

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Right from its approval a new project is identified and dcscri bed for computer processing through the "Project Descriptive Data" fonns. As for "potential projects", this task falls under the responsibility of the Field ProgrMllle Officer. in close collaboration with the other concerneci officials and services of the Organization and particularly with Programme specialists. Fonn

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Was designed to collect the following data
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- Mninist:--ative identification of the project (budget code, title, region/country concerned. names of responsible officials, etc.). - Project description (preparatory activities. duration of project, the institutional framework. resources involved. specific project objectives).
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- The objectives (now pr(?3rilllllles)the CIS under which the of project may be classified.

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were designed to collect:

- Project planning details, in particular the "milestones" of technical and administrative development of the project. - Dates foreseen for the preparation of technical reports and for tripartite reviews of the project. - Basic references of each technical document produced by the project.

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Form~ foresees a periodic assessment (evaluation) of the progress of the project (objectives achieved. problems. corrective actions necessary. developments foreseen). And finally, form (;) allow3 the computer storage of the address of the pro~t (of the Chief Technical Adviser or of the national director in those cases where there is no permanent international staff member).

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The whole set of information identified in this way for each on-going project may be entered into the computer file ("DESDATA") and updated at any time •

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All descripttvedata for each potential or on-~oing project is supplied by the FPO to the Computer-assisted Aanagement Unit of the Operational Programmes Division for entry into the computer files. The FPO also plays in this respect the role of "focal point", collecting and sorting for this purpose the infonnation he receives not only from .' eadquarters H staff (Programme Specialist, CPX, ED/AO) but also, most importantly, from project staff (Chief Technical Advisers, experts, national directors). The collection scheme . represented here is generally being followed.

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For each on-going project, other complementary data, essentially of an amninistrative and a finarlial nature, are automatically collected every month from the various computerized files of the corresponding management sub-systems. Such data comes from the following Offices and Divisions: - Bureau of the Budget (budgetary allocations and allotments). - The Sector's Administrative Unit (obligations). . - Bureau of the Comptroller (obligations and expenditures). - Bureau of Personnel (data relating to recruitment and administration of experts and consultants) • . The Fellowships Division, for basic data related to non-decentralized individual training activities (fellowships, study grants). - The Reports Division for the planning of periodic project reporting.

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Since 1978, a'series of procedures covering the initial establishment and updating of these files has been developed and distributed by the Computer-assisted Management Unit of the Operational Programmes Division. In 1982, a User's Guide was issued in English and in French whic~ describes the main methodological and operating aspects of the PMIS system. This audio-visual presentation completes the existing descriptive material. ,It is understood of course that PMIS~like any other management system, is subject to continuous development and it is therefore necessary from time to time to update the user-oriented documentation.

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Following the development process described above, a computerized data base has been created which integrates several files. In particular: - A file containing all basic data concerning potential projects ("PREVDATA").

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- Five files related to approved projects, both on-going and terminated. These are: • One file containing project descriptive data ("DESDATA"); · Two integrated files covering the planning, administration and follow-up of fellowships and other training activities; • One file concerning the planning and administration of expert and consultant services. • An accessory file ("ROSTER") that allows for selective searching for specialized personnel when recruiting project personnel.

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The PHIS data base also receives inputs on a monthly basis from two other pre-existing computerized systems: - liThe budetary accounting system". - The integrated IIPersonnel and Payrollil system. - Basic financial and administrative information concerning on-going projects is automatically extracted ~nd transferred into the PHIS main file after each monthly closure of accounts. A synthesis of financial data is also transferred automatically each month into the project descriptive data file (IIDESDATAII).

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The PHIS data retrieval and editing software extracts from these files different aggregates of information which respond to the basic needs of the various users, either in the form of computer print·outs or in displaying the information through computar terminals. These aggregates can be:

l} Printed statements produced at regular intervals or on demand, such as • Listings showing the rates of execution of projects by region, country, CIS programme, source of financing, etc. · Status by FPO, providing the related basic qualitative data. • Project status. • Sy.nthetic lists describing potential, on-going or tenminated projects, etc.

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2) Respon!:t.es queries corresponding to ~pe(df1c infonnation to requirements concerning operat,ional activities fonnulated and answered through the computer tenninal!i. Examples are given on the screen,

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- Identification of )rojects fini1nced by a given funt:ing source and/or related to a givl~n field of activity (C/5 PrograJllTle).

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- Search for candidates with the specific technical profile needed for a given expert or consultant post.

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~ Administrative or a project.

basic data about an expert, a consultant

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- A list of all projects which on a given da~ have an annual rate of execution lower or higher than a pre-detenmined value (for example, higher than 90%). Information can of course be selected in many other ways.

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In more general tenms, to ensure effectiveness, project management must be able to 'adapt itself to any necessary change at the level of project content, planning and execution. To this end, PHIS contributes to the provision of project status, .syntheses , and listings as well, as 'a capacf ty for direct and specff·ic interrogation through tenminals,to managers, specialists and the entire Organ1zation.These information tools can serve equally well as instruments for sel f,;,management staff di rectly i>r i.nvolved with projects, or as instruments for systematic information circulation for any other off1~ial not directly responsible for project development but interested in only certain aspects of the operational action.

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If the standard or specific outputs of the system h·lve been conceived, as far as possible, as real management tools, containing the basic information needed by a manager to conceptualize, co-ordinate and supervise operational activities and orientate his efforts, it remains true to say that the quantity and quality of the data available depend on the thOrOughness' with which the information entered into the computerhas'beenidentified, refined and kept up-to-date.

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Therefore, the system's entire effectiveness depends on the dynamism; thOroughness and commitment of the management personnel involved. Only under these circumstances will the system supply all concerned staff with the information necessary to follow-up the execution of their own work throughout the different phases of development of each project, from the first activity of identification to the final evaluation.

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For each project as also for any group of projects (by country, region, source of financement, field, etc.), PHIS provides the opportunity of monthly assessment of execution performances and possible problems. For example: - It will clarify whether or not the placing of any expert or a consultant took place on time.

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- It will reveal whether a project is developing in line with the initial or revised plan of activities.

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- It will provide relevant data allowing the assessment of whether or not the overall execution rate for all projects in a given country, concerning a given Field Progranme Officer, for a region, or for all projects funded from one source is too low .Qr.. for what reason.

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For example, due to what project component.

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- Jt will also reveal whether or not the descriptive data of potential or on-going projects has been prop~rly conceived and updated .•.

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•.. and will help in id!ntifying the necessary corrective actions in this r~gard. etc.

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TRANSITION 63 ~esults and development prospects

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PHIS system constitutes an evolving response to the multiple needs for infonmation arising from the planning and the execution of the operational activitfes of the Organization.
The

like any other system making use of advanced management and data processing techniques, it serves to perform automatJcally repetitive tasks, it creates a need for standardization of data for processing,as well as a growing need fur systematiC approiches~o planning, supervision and ~xecution~ FinallYi it facilitates the search for and thecorrelition and SYnthesis-of available data. -Time saved at the level.of information gathering and info~tion processing cln thus be used to improve overall ..nageaent perfor.anc •.

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Furthenmore, such a system also t~nds to spot bottlenecks concerning operational activities, reducing the overall reaction time and ensuring a betther "transparency" of operations to all concerned. It does not relieve the managerial function of its intellectual content; on the contrary, it permits this to be refined and improved in quality,providing whenever required the basic pertinent data upon which managers can rely in their periodical assessment of project implementation.

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But PHIS was not designed only to assist with current management of operational activities. By gradually storing project histories in an organized way in its memory, the system also makes it possible to carry out a wide range of analyses of past activities. In other words, this system will gradually build-up a centralized institutional memory of the Organization, easily accessible and selective, thus faCilitating enquiries which otherwise would be difficult, if not impossible, to carry out, given in particular the mobility of personnel in charge of operational activities and the difficul~y of accessing the existing manual files.

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One other important feature of this system is its generation and maintenance of ~ systematic flow of information about operational activity both within Headquarters and in the Field. In this way, the system cont~ibutes to the global approach of all problems related totechn1cal co-operation, reinforcing the 1inki.,S! between the Regular Programe and the Operation61 ProgrlmMe~.

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In fact, through its selecttvedistribution of information to all involved personnel and particularly to personnel working directly with projects as well as to specialists in the Substantive Divisions, PMIS promotes a better complementarity of work and a better process of mutual stimulation between those who generate and those who use the information. It thus contributes to the establishment of a close and systematic link between Field, Regional and Sub-regional Offices and Headquarters activities.

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To that purpose, in addition to the restr-icted monthly distribution of information within the Operational Programmes Division, computer print-outs are sent quarterly to the Substantive Divisions and to all other concerned services at Headquarters, as well as to the Regional and Sub-regional Offices and to each project. Each staff member directly involved is called upon to provide his contribution and expre$s his opinion on the accuracy- and clarity of the information as well as on the I . coherency between the operational activities foreseen and the overall trends and pol icies provided by the Regular Programme of the Organization.

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This collective participation of various services and officials,both within and outside Headqaar-ters , in the gradual enrichment of the PMIS data base is fundamental to ensure: - greater autonomy. accountabil ity 'and effectiveness of field operations parsonnel. strengthening in particular the concept of projects being 'implemented under national responsibility; - more linkages, synergies andinteract10n between the concerned central services of the Organization, the Regional andSub~tegional Offices and field staff.

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Transparency in manllgement

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As mentioned above PMIS already contributes to reinforce management transparency, intra- and inter-sectorial communication, and self - and joint - evaluation of the results obtained. But, of course, it must be able to follow up the evolution of management data requirements and it should be further improved. In its present state of development, it could appear to be: - an experiment to be brought to the attention of technical co-operation project managers aiming to improve their effectiveness; - a meaningful practical application of a methodological approach, making use of modern management and ,information processing techniques, that should find wide applicability also at national level.

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In this respect. it is i~)ortant to emphasize that the experience gained within t.he Education Sector of Unesco in the area of computer-assisted management has never been seen as an end in itself. It was intended not only as a way to respond to the information needs of the Organization and as a means of reinforcing 'technical co-operation with Member States. but'alsO above'al1as a reference application of a methodology Which may beof'great'advantage to all Ministries of Education seeking the ,improvement Of their management systems within' their national framework.

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During the last few years such conceptual work and the implementation of a modern information system responding to the management needs of operational activity, as well as the technical support provided to several operational projects bearing on computer-assisted management of national education systems, have allowed the Education Sector to accumulate considerable expertise in this field .•.

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.•• and to develop a set of"iUdio-visual training materials to initiate both national officials and Unesco staff concerned to the use of moder~ management techniques.

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The Operational Programmes Division has already participated in more than 20 national seminars, organized many individual training sessions at Headquarters, carried out more than 30 technical support missions and contributed to the inclusion af a "computer-assisted management" component in some 20 operational projects.

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