Saturday, November 20, 2010

Green Project Management: 4 Dimensions To Consider

First published in June 2010 by Project Management Institute, San Francisco Chapter

Definition of Green Project Management
A green or sustainable project considers its impact on the planet and people while achieving organizational goals such as profits. Gone are the days where environmental goals are in conflict with organizational goals. In fact, sustainability will decrease costs, reduce risks, and enhance brand value.

Benefits of Green Project Management
Wasting natural resources hurts the environment and the bottom-line. Projects focused on operational efficiency to eliminate waste will reduce your company’s costs. DOW Chemical has been working since the 90’s to reduce waste at considerable profit. For each dollar invested on environmental efficiency, DOW achieved a $5 return.

Poor environmental practices are risky. When they become known, poor practices could lead to fines and legal proceedings, hurt sales, poisoned relations with the host community, make recruiting talent more difficult, and trigger stock prices to crumble. When Coca Cola who bottles its drinks in-country wanted to expand in India a few years ago, the local community objected given the excessive water required when bottling. That same water was needed to irrigate crops and provide drinking water. By finding ways to conserve water during bottling, Coca Cola is now welcome in the 50% of its markets where water is under stress.

Your company’s brand may be enhanced by either improving environmental operations or providing products that are environmentally sound. Wal-Mart who just a few years ago was considered least likely to be green by many environmentalists, is now lauded as a role model by investing millions of dollars each year in operating efficiency and promoting greener products. Wal-Mart remains a competitive for-profit company who credits sustainability with improving its triple bottom line (people, planet, profits).

Project Manager’s Role
Sustainability is a new frontier. Similar to globalization or IT a few decades ago, methods are still evolving and environmental considerations are often overlooked. That’s why creative, entrepreneurial, and hard-working projects managers are required to embed sustainability into each and every project.

Some areas that will pay green dividends are already familiar:
1. Scope.
Ensure that features and functions that are deemed “must-have” will be used. Otherwise those functions are a waste of resources and development costs. The National Science Foundation completed a study a few years ago that found that 50% of system features were never used and a significant percent were used sparingly. Those extra features also make products more difficult to use and frequently add to the on-going operating costs.

Iterative or agile development is a useful technique to help your team focus on a limited scope to start. The team may find that the smaller scope achieves the project goals with even better ROI when compared to a bloated solution. Google often uses this approach as it did when developing its Google Docs product to provide the best of Microsoft while losing the rest. The features cut were not missed by the typical user.

2. Design.
Instead of adding more features, direct your team’s creative effort to ensuring that the remaining features are usable and hence used. Apple excels at this by making its products appealing to kids, grandparents and all those in-between.

Look to leaders in the industry or lessons from other industries for design inspiration. For example, Cisco took its engineers to a recycling plant to learn how dismantling costs directly correlate to recycling profitability and how to design for end-of-life.

3. Implementation.
When acquiring equipment or expanding infrastructure to support a new project, more environmentally efficient products will pay-off in the time. Often the expense to operate equipment is overlooked, which leads to higher total cost of ownership. For example, a less expensive unit that uses more energy, does not hibernate when not in use or uses constant power regardless of load will be much more expensive to operate than an energy efficient unit.

In addition to energy consumption, also include green criteria for materials used, transportation, packaging, maintenance and disposal at end-of-life.

Deploy infrastructure whenever possible in phases to increase its utilization. Infrastructure tends to be overbuilt. In 2009, McKinsey reported that Data Center utilization is typically less than 20% utilization.

4. Administration.
When managing a project, reducing travel and printing of project documents can also contribute to a sustainable project.

To ensure that the project you deliver stays green throughout its life, include on-going measurements such as operating and environmental costs, utilization of features and infrastructure and the financial and environmental benefits.

Your current skills are critical to delivering projects within budget, on schedule and with quality. By adding a green dimension you can further enhance your project while making a positive impact to the environment.

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