Project Sustainability – Part 3: Planning and Execution

I would like to continue my blog on communication management and sustainability within the project life cycle. In my last two blogs I started this conversation on sustainability within projects.

I’ve already discussed the initial communication planning and the typical kick-off meeting. Now, let’s look at the planning and execution phases of the project. On average, the projects that have the highest amount of waste surrounding communication processes are projects constrained by regulatory compliance, quality assurance and any other type of checks and balance. These projects require many sign-offs and documentation that’s backed up. This process costs time and money. Arguably it has to be done. The question is, “can we fulfill these demands in a more sustainable way?” A great deal of paper trail is created world-wide as plans are created, checked and double checked. After we base line our plans, we manage ongoing change with additional paper, wasted ink, extensive storage space, overloaded e-mail in boxes and ongoing meetings.

Earlier this year, I was involved in discussions about paper documentation stored for approved work within petroleum plants across Canada. Due to regulatory compliance, the standard approach was to print paperwork for every work package for every person, for every day in every plant. Each piece of paper had to be duplicated, signed and stored in a library. The problem was that thirty years of paper was adding up in physical storage space and the basic need for librarians. The question was asked, “Can we switch to digital documentation?” This single question caused a title wave of discussions and negotiations across the planet. From a regulatory stand point, can we use digital documentation? What type of document management system should we use?

Today, many organizations around the world have switched to digital document management systems. Signatures are collected on tablets and stored on databases. This dramatically reduces paper usage, ink supplies, square footage of storage space, and unnecessary redundancies. Entire libraries are now available through share-point sites and custom management systems. In addition, we now have many social media tools. These tools enable collocation of data around the world, wikis, various types of threaded discussions, net-meetings, and virtual teams working in every time zone around the planet.

There are many tools that can help make our projects more sustainable. The world is adapting as we speak. I spent last week consulting for the government of Prince Edward Island in Canada. They have attracted organizations from around the world that provide services remotely. Although east coast fishing is declining, high-tech business is growing. A sustainable approach is not only helping the ecological environment of PEI, it is also helping grow the local economy. Local economies around the world need to be revitalized, but that’s another blog.

Larry T Barnard
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