Designing and setting up a project management tool for the NGO

The desired outcome of the project was identifying and setting up a project management tool that meets the needs of the NGO
Akshay Tripathi
Senior Manager, Tata Motors
Lucknow, India

Having joined Tata Motors 7 years ago straight out of college, Akshay is working as a Senior Manager in the assembly plant operations currently. His work involves technical planning and developing of logistic materials. He has been volunteering since his college days in Ranchi through an NGO “ Kartavya “ there. Even after joining Tata group he had joined a club of trainees and supported 15 NGOs . As the workload increased, he ensured he took up at least one project a year through proengage and contributed to it. Being a Proengager since 5 years now , he was really drawn to the causes that the NGO was working for. He wanted to be a part of it as the environment is really suffering these days and this NGO was working towards the forest laws to eliminate deforestation.

Chandrakant Lohani
Senior Manager, Tata Motors
Mumbai, India

Chandrakant is currently working in the capacity of a Senior Manager at the Mumbai division of Tata Motors. This project was his first strike in the world of volunteering and first association with the Proengage Program. His responsibilities include looking after the cost reduction of the production vehicle and helping in developing the new vehicles. Apart from his work regime, Chandrakant had a knack of learning new things and helping the society through an NGO but he could not find time or a suitable platform until Proengage came along. He also wanted to meet, interact with new people and hence he went ahead and signed up for the Tata initiative.

Ramesh V, Project Coordinator
Bangalore, India

Junglescapes is a grassroots non-profit working on conservation of wildlife and biodiversity. They have three focus areas which includes restoration of degraded forest ecosystems and habitats, creating eco-based alternative livelihoods for local communities living in and around forest areas, through ‘inclusive’ methodologies. The third focus area is building capabilities within forest dwelling communities to demonstrate stewardship of the ecology that lies close to them. Their project sites are in the Western Ghats in India, a global bio-diversity hotspot. They work together on conservation with village communities that live at the edge of, or within the eco-sensitive zones of, national parks.


Project Execution

Explaining the need for the professional volunteering Ramesh, the founder of Junglescapes says “ Our NGO is working towards restoration of degraded wildlife habitats in  bandipur Tiger reserve. There we have plots for restoration, each plot is 125 acres. We have to monitor all our project activities ( 50-60) in these plots but it gets difficult to monitor them all at the same time, so we wanted to achieve this via this project. We needed a project management tool which can monitor all our activities and can show which activities are ongoing and which are delayed so that it could help us in managing our focus and time for completing every activity”. 

He further mentions that the project went quite smoothly. The volunteer first wanted to understand the problem areas and then came up with ideas and suggestions of building a tool on excel instead of purchasing it. After carefully planning the indicators and testing they came up with a simple and effective tool for the organisation.

Echoing Ramesh’s sentiments Akshay says “ If the volunteer feels that the NGO is  doing the right thing then the project always works well. Ramesh sir was very friendly with us and as an NGO he was able to tell us the story about what the outcome/impact would be. That is how we got the requirements from them. After clearly understanding the requirements, we suggested creating an MS Excel tool. The NGO appreciated this idea and then we prepared a timeline to work on the project and execute it”.  Akshay mainly focused on getting the requirements and the planning whereas Chandrakant worked on the technical part which was tool development

Fascinated by NGO’s technical skills, Akshay states “ We were really inspired by the NGO as they were very tech savvy. To our surprise they were making use of geothermal mapping to get the data which was rare for any NGO to use or understand. It was a great experience talking to them. Ramesh sir also gave us some insights about working in plant as he had experience there”

Praising the support received from his co-volunteer and NGO, Chandrakant says “ My co-volunteer was very helpful, he started all the conversation with the NGO as he had experience in working with them. With his help we were able to define requirements and our project objective.” After collecting all the data and aspects, he developed a dashboard for the NGO to handle all their  projects at once and also track their staff performances on those projects to increase efficiency. 

Recalling a significant moment during the project Chandrakant mentions ” Project started during Pandemic and all were connected through Google meet. Since the project was also online, I  have attended the meeting while travelling to Pune from my home and then I realized that the  online world has given us more opportunity to connect at any time and also help to work together. “

Challenges faced

“Frankly , no challenges faced with the volunteers at all” recollects Ramesh. He adds “Akshay was more experienced as he had handled proengage  projects earlier. There was nice synergy between the volunteers. Akshay was leading and planning, and Chandrakant was executing the project. They took our feedback regularly and made changes accordingly.”  The volunteers were following up regularly with Ramesh even when he was hard to reach and busy. This motivated the  project coordinator alot to continue with the project.

According to Akshay there were not any major hiccups but he did have some issues during the second outburst of Covid. “ The covid times are really challenging. During April we could not connect with the NGOfor a month and the meetings were delayed because of the second wave of covid. I had personal commitments with my family but the NGO understood it very well. Ramesh sir treated us like his children.” says Akshay Despite all the challenges and delay, when all of them connected they had a good insightful conversation.  

Applauding Chandrakant’s support throughout the project Akshay mentions “ I would say it was the support from my co-volunteer who kept me going. To have a parallely motivated person alongside the project is an amazing support. When I was not in touch with the NGO, Chandrakant initiated the conversation and scheduled the meetings. Also the requirement of ngo was something within our ability, we just had to understand how we can manage our time.”

From Chandrakant’s side the challenges were of different nature. He faced difficulties in the initial phase while integrating the NGO requirements on a dashboard which can be used by NGO staff easily. “Since I had not worked with macros and advanced excel earlier he had to add in extra hours to learn that through website and youtube tutorials. But the curiosity to learn and help the NGO kept me going with all the support from my team” he admitted.

Thousands of NonProfits have benefited using our platform

This was the first year when Junglescapes had gone for online volunteering and it turned out really fruitful for the organization. “ Onsite projects are more about physical activity and avenue to raise funding for the  NGO  whereas online projects  help us with capacity building which is an important requirement in the social sector. It is a great initiative and I have not been a part of any initiative like this before. Lots of NGOs are really small and giving them a platform to work with such professionals is amazing. We would love to continue to take part in the upcoming series of TATA and take advantage of it” says Ramesh.

The NGO has started using the Project Management Tool and is measuring the efficiency of it. While sharing the impact of the tool Ramesh explains “ It has been 2 months of using this tool and we can already see a major improvement in our processes. Our aim is to monitor all the activities in the restoration areas and ensure completion of it ”. 

The NGO thanks the volunteers for creating such an effective yet simple to understand tool that they are using on a regular basis. They have also invited the volunteers to come visit the Tiger Reserve and see the improvements themselves.

Appreciating the Proengage initiative Mayank states: “ If you help and bring a smile to someone in any way , it gives you inner peace and I try  to share this with anyone I work with or associate with. Proenage gives you a great opportunity to contribute towards this cause.” He has always felt immense pleasure in getting things done and creating  impact. So, he always makes a point to take up one volunteering project every year even when he is no longer working with TATA. 

For Chandrakant, the impact that the project had was great because it helped him gain new skills. He says “ The project really helped me to learn new things in Excel and with this acquired knowledge I help, few of my colleagues with excel to use macros and other tools which aids ease of working.” He encourages more and more people to come and participate in proengage as it enables a new thought of working and helps in learning new skills.