Planning and coducting an imprementation research project

The key to a successful implementation research project is good planning.

A project plan should be: rational, objective, justified, coordinated, team-driven as well as meet the expectations of stakeholders. In addition, it should have adequate resource allocation. The planning process, requires team work, clear project goals, deliverables and timelines in addition to supporting plans for: human resources, costing and budgets, monitoring and evaluation, communication, quality and risk management, as summarized in Table 1. The project plan must be as explicit as possible with enough information describing the processes and procedures including roles and responsibilities of the respective stakeholders. Before a project plan is implemented, a consensus on its major components must be reached with all stakeholders including sponsors.

The success of a project execution relies profoundly on the project plan, a competent and coordinated team and well-managed resources. The composition of the research team and details of budgeting are addressed in theProposal development and Integrating IR into Health Systems modules.

It is also critical that while executing the research project, the project manager supports and monitors the execution of the other components of the project plans (i.e. human resources, budget, communications and the risk management plan) through interactions with the project team and stakeholders.

This module provides information on the activities involved in developing a project plan, and the steps taken once funding/resources for the IR protocol are secured. It covers the concepts of: (i) Project planning; (ii) Development of a monitoring plan for a research project; (iii) Project execution; (iv) Ethical issues in an IR project; and (v) Good practices in IR.

Effective project plans have five primary characteristics, as follows:

  • Describes a project process with a clearly defined beginning and end, a well-defined schedule of activities and milestones, and outlines the step-by-step approach that will be adopted.
  • Allocates specific resources to distinct activities.
  • Defines end results with specific implementation goals (e.g. in relation to time, cost, performance/quality).
  • Demonstrates a planned and organized approach to the project implementation, and uses information generated from continuous monitoring to make planning adaptations.
  • Development ideally involves and engages a broad team of people.

A project plan for IR is just like any other plan: A formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and control. Its primary uses are to document planning, assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among project stakeholders and record approved scope, cost and schedule. It describes the research problem being addressed, activities and related deliverables, who is involved and their specific roles and responsibilities, project timelines, indicators and milestones. An effective project plan provides a very clear vision spanning what needs to be done and why, the standards to which it should be carried out, who will do it, how much it will cost and how those costs will be met.

Effective planning facilitates the ongoing strengthening of project focus and ensures consensus around a project development strategy and plan. It also helps to ensure ownership of the project, that all stakeholders understand who is doing what, when, and how each action impacts the project as a whole. Good planning enhances teamwork and transparency, facilitates project monitoring and identification of issues, and provides management and donors with key information for reviewing project progress.

The project plan establishes the scope of the project as well as appropriate timelines and budget to carry it out. It helps stakeholders to anticipate and/or identify potential barriers or constraints in adhering to the timetable, implementation and/or completion of the project. A project plan also facilitates communication between and among stakeholders, coordinates procedures, teamwork and collaboration.

Project plans are generally presented in four major phases: designing, planning, implementing and follow-up (see Table 2).

TDR Implementation research toolkit

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References