This is actually an interesting question. As PMs we are generally charged with carrying out the project according to the requirements that were agreed to at the beginning of the engagement.  Rarely, if ever, do we have full rein on how a project will be developed and run and implemented.  While we are professionally obligated to do our best to serve or customers and our organizations, that usually does not include substituting - on our own - green practices and technology that can have a significant impact on the final solution, the budget, or the timeline for the project.  It just doesn't happen that way.  It's a project, it's the customer's project, it is certainly their money and how the entire solution is developed and implemented is never going to be left up solely to the project manager to decide.

Now, with that said, do you think that project managers have an obligation to the environment and to the customer to incorporate green practices throughout the project that won't have a direct significant impact on the solution?  I'd really like to hear from our readers on this. I personally feel like we do.  I think of it not as best practices for project management but rather best practices for the environment.  What are your thoughts?  And furthermore, what can we – as project managers – do on our projects to incorporate those best practices for the environment?  How can we make a difference without really ‘making a difference’ – meaning disrupting or changing the course of our project in the process?  What tasks can we plug into our project management software that will show environmental sustainability action is taking place?

Here are a few thoughts I have on the subject and/or practices that I have put into motion on one or more projects in the past:

Go electronic

We can focus on electronic communications and electronic delivery of all or most deliverables.  Gone are the days when a 150-page functional design document needs to be printed, boxed, and mailed or handed to your customer.  That is the case – as well – for all or nearly all of the deliverables on your project.  I led a project awhile back that lasted for just over 6 months, had more than 140 conference calls, more than 1400 emails, and not one printed document.  I created and revised project schedules at least weekly – meaning more than 25 times – using my web-based project management software solution, but never once printed a schedule even for my own review.

Work in the cloud

Go web-based with software and software solutions when possible.  Collaboration is easier when you use online project management software so that’s just a nice plus, but it’s cheaper, it’s greener (less equipment, licenses, server space, personnel for support, etc.), and it’s available anywhere for any machine you’re using at the time.  The same is true with all other web-based software and cloud storage solutions.

Manage virtually whenever possible

Managing the project remotely – and allowing your team to work remotely – reduces pollution from driving, increasing worker productivity, reduces your carbon footprint by requiring less office space in the corporate headquarters, and reduces the consumption of fossil fuels in the process.

Limit travel

That same project I mentioned up in the first point also resulted in zero travel even though it was a critical project for the Department of Defense.  And it was a very successful project with a very satisfied customer in the end.  As long as you manage the customer well and communicate in a timely, effective, and efficient manner, then you don’t need to always be sitting in front of them.  And if you can show extreme value to the customer without using a lot of their funds on your travel and your team’s travel, then you’ll definitely win customer points.

Summary

We can’t do everything on every project to promote green processes.  We’re bound by what has been paid for by the customer, what the customer’s preferences are, and what the specific needs of the project are at any given time.  We can, however, run our projects with one eye on how and if the environment is being affected and ask ourselves at each phase or at periodic points in the engagement, “Is there anything I can be doing or having my team do right now that will help the project and our efforts be more environmentally sustainable?”

 

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland, IT/Project Management Consultant

Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is a married, Christian father of 7 living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

 

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