There have been lots of debates and discussions around the theme of green IT and 'sustainable computing', an example of which is the BCS video debate that indicated some useful quick wins and considered the IT policies that could/should lead to greener IT provision. What this discussion did not consider was the role of individual project managers, who wield enormous power and influence in terms of how systems and technology are designed, developed and implemented within specific project constraints. So what if sustainability was made explicitly a project constraint? And how exactly could we do that? Can we find sustainable project management as key curriculum in the PM bodies of knowledge, PRINCE 2, MSP and ISEB qualifications, and if so where?
It is argued that the contribution of the IT industry world-wide is as significant as the airline industry, but in theory the longer term impacts are better given that ICT developments actually help to reduce and replace the more damaging carbon generating activities elsewhere. For example, greater use of videoconferencing is expected to replace business travel, and green fleet management has been advocated to reduce the carbon emissions of transport, logistics and distribution. These are ICT solutions, and will be delivered by project managers. Everything from printing strategies, to obsolete technology disposal, to data storage, to power consumption and monitoring have an ICT involvement, and so awareness of these implications is a 'must have' in the IT project manager's tool-set. It is arguable that most IT project managers (whether they have this title or not, given that such projects are actually about business or organisational change, and not necessarily just about IT) have some awareness of the issues, but are they adequately prepared for their implementation? Some existing technology programmes that we have recently encountered acknowledge that they are making very slow progress (enabled through virtualisation, shared datacentres, recycling policies, etc.) but often talk about constraints such as diminishing budgets, restrictive legacy technology procurement systems, limited awareness of options, lack of time or skilled human resources, user resistance, political obstacles, and apathy at a programme level. Whilst we may understand the difficulties, we should not view them as insurmountable.
The BCS Project Management Specialist Group (PROMS-G) is running a series of workshops on 'Environmental Awareness for IT Project Managers' as its Spring School 2009, and invite your participation. These will allow the active involvement of participants in discussions specific to project management and IT projects, and we anticipate these will be invaluable in terms of continuing professional development (CPD) as well as realising future impacts and practical benefits. We would hope that IT managers would want to send their staff as much as IT project managers attending independently. This school would also be highly beneficial to computing and IT students given the emerging 'green collar' jobs of the future, which will inevitably involve ICT.
The classic feasibility study questions are now more relevant than ever. Irrespective of the business case, the cost-benefit analysis and earned value or governance structures, sustainability in IT-related projects should be much more than just a 'watch word'. We welcome your thoughts and comments...