By Cyndee Miller
It’s Earth Day and this year’s event comes with an even greater level of urgency—and action. Two-thirds of people say climate change is a “global emergency,” per a survey by United Nations. And some high-profile government and business leaders are stepping up. The United States rejoined the Paris climate agreement, and after unveiling its bold Green Deal in 2019, the European Union announced yesterday it’s increasing the number of companies required to publish environmental and social data. On the business side, General Motors proclaimed it plans an all-electric vehicle future by 2035 and BASF is sharing its map to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. While acknowledging Asian companies have lagged on investing in environment, social and governance efforts, Loh Boon Chye, chief executive of the Singapore Exchange, called 2020 an “inflection point.”
Of course, turning that sort of big thinking into reality requires an exceptional mix of capital, commitment, creativity—and projects.
Consider this your whirlwind tour:
As you might expect, there’s been serious action on the renewable energy front. Some are small-but-smart efforts, like the Spanish city of Seville launching a biogas pilot, turning its abundance of oranges into the power ingredient for clean energy at one of its wastewater treatment plants. And some are larger. Campos del Sol, number 43 on PMI’s Most Influential Projects 2020 list, is a US$320 million solar plant under construction in Chile. At full capacity, the 382-megawatt installation will generate enough energy per year to help slash annual carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 900,000 metric tons. That’s the same as taking nearly 200,000 cars off the road for a year—and could put the country a whole lot closer to meeting its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Project leaders are also mobilizing to reimagine urban development in more eco-friendly ways. Danish design studio C.F. Møller Architects is working on Storkeengen. What’s especially interesting about this project is that it balances needs on three fronts: urban planning to satisfy the city’s expansion needs, climate-change adaptation to help mitigate the impact of flooding and nature conservation to stabilize the local ecosystem.
Another approach that’s gaining traction is nature-based solutions, which promote climate resilience in urban areas by tapping into nature itself. One example is CityAdapt, a project by the United Nations Environment Programme. In El Salvador, the group reduced surface runoff from a coffee plantation, which can cause erosion and flooding in the ecosystem. Here, too, the project wasn’t just a good move for the local environment, it also improved coffee productivity, meeting local business needs. (For more on that one, check out the Projectified interview with Leyla Zelaya, the national coordinator for the CityAdapt project in San Salvador, El Salvador.)
A core piece of any urban development is mobility, and project leaders are making big, bold moves here as well. One of the biggest changes: bike and pedestrian paths—and lots of them.
Even fashion, not exactly known for its high sustainability cred, is coming around. Ecoluxe designer Stella McCartney is working with Google on a pilot project using data analytics and machine learning to give brands a more comprehensive view of their supply chain, with the goal to better measure the impacts of its raw material sourcing on air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water scarcity. It’s not just the posh designers, either. Fast-fashion giant H&M launched Looop, billed as the world’s first in-store garment-to-garment recycling system. And footwear giant Nike is embedding sustainability into its product development projects. Look no further than Space Hippie, a line of eco-friendly sneakers made from yarns containing at least 85 percent rPoly made of recycled plastic water bottles, T-shirts and yarn scraps.
We can’t talk about Earth Day without mentioning some of the amazing projects to protect and preserve the plants and animals that we share our planet with. (They also happen to be some of my very favorite projects to follow.)
Case in point: Elephant World Cultural Courtyard, a sanctuary designed to bring the Kui people and their elephants back to their homeland in northeast Thailand. Launched in collaboration between the Surin Provincial Administrative Organization and architecture firm Bangkok Project Studio, the space spans 8,130 square meters (87,510 square feet) and includes a programming space, elephant hospital, temple, graveyard for elephants and museum dedicated to showcasing the Kui culture.
The need for these kinds of projects has only been accelerated by the climate crisis. When wildfires consumed half of Kangaroo Island, they decimated one of the world’s most iconic biodiversity hubs. Tens of thousands of creatures—from kangaroos to cockatoos—were left stranded in a barren wasteland without food, water or shelter. As the smoke cleared, rescue teams raced in to launch the Kangaroo Island Recovery, number 11 on our list of Most Influential Projects of 2020. Now the team is out to minimize the impact of future bushfires by planning buffer zones, fire breaks and small-scale ecological burnoffs. “If we can protect lots of small patches, it gives these threatened species a greater chance to survive a bushfire in the future,” says Pat Hodgens, a fauna ecologist at Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife.
Last year around this time, I wrote about prospects for a green economic recovery: With the right investments in the right projects led by the right people, we can conquer the coronavirus, rebuild our fragile economy and protect our planet—all at once. Now I had no idea we’d still be in that same situation, but I still believe that’s the path forward.
And on Earth Day this year, it’s worth considering how project leaders can step up and take responsibility for delivering a more sustainable future.
by Cyndee Miller
It takes a certain swagger to be in a rock and roll band—and to launch a retail project in the middle of a pandemic. And yet defying conventional wisdom, The Rolling Stones and Nick Cave launched their own retail fiefdoms, each one a fitting distillation of their respective brands. For the Stones, it’s an in-your-face boutique on London’s famed Carnaby Street. For Cave, it’s a new site hawking “things conceived, sourced, shaped and designed” by the man himself.
Purists might cringe at the blatant commercialization, but that’s poppycock. Rock and roll is—and always has been—a business. Mick Jagger might be known as the lead singer of the Stones, but he himself was a student at the London School of Economics—and clearly knows a solid project opportunity when he sees it. Billed as the first permanent retail space by a musical act, RS No. 9 Carnaby Street is a collaboration between the band and Bravado, the merchandise and brand management arm of Universal Music Group, the Stones’ label for more than a decade.
Make no mistake, these folks are no retail dilettantes. They picked a prime spot in the Carnaby Street district and worked with GH+A Design Studios to create a stop-shoppers-in-their-tracks boutique—starting with the massive 3D-printed statues of the Stones’ signature tongue-and-lips logo in the window. Inside, the studio brought in glass floors graffitied with Stones lyrics and five huge screens looping exclusive archival performance footage. The band even collaborated with the Pantone Color Institute to create a Stones Red hue featured all over the store and its line of goods.
This clearly goes far beyond the merch stand at concerts or even the pop-up shops dedicated to musical acts ranging from Rihanna to The Clash. (Those projects come with their own issues as PM Network reported a few years back.) But launching a brick-and-mortar store right now is an audaciously bold move even for the self-proclaimed world’s greatest rock and roll band. With Euromonitor predicting global retail sales to dip by more 3.5 percent this year due to the pandemic and more shoppers flocking to ecommerce, the Rolling Stones did what all good project leaders do: They adapted. Along with the new shop, there’s a dedicated RS No. 9 Carnaby hub added to the band’s existing online shop, with an interactive 360-degree feature that lets shoppers move around the London boutique and score digital-only options. “We had to pivot our strategy a bit and there’s a much heavier online component,” former Bravado CEO Mat Vlasic told Rolling Stone magazine.
The pandemic did delay construction and stalled the opening by a couple months. But make no mistake, unlike last year’s pop-up shop in the United States, the London outpost is built for the long haul and will follow the best practices of traditional retailers, with plenty of buffer in the schedule for new product design. Vlasic told the magazine that building out a longer timeframe allows the team “to be much more creative … and not be confined by ‘Oh you can’t do this because you don’t have the time.”
Cave’s retail empire is a bit more modest and a whole lot more esoteric, but this project too was born of the COVID crisis.
“I feel very free, free to do what I like—the music industry has been atomized, the rulebook has been torn up, few of us are working, but there can be an energy to disaster, a feverish need to respond to a crisis that is weirdly compelling.” Cave told Financial Times. Out of that came Cave Things, what he calls s “a mysterious, subversive, super-playful enterprise where anything can happen.”
Launched in early August, the ecommerce site offers everything from erotic wallpaper to what’s being promoted as the first and best bunny bowl designed by a rock star.
Cave already had an ecommerce site for him and his band The Bad Seeds. But it was pretty straightforward, whereas Cave Stuff goes “beyond merchandise but stops before art… the incidental residue of an over-stimulated mind,” as he describes it on the shop. And this indeed seems to be a project “that sits in a place entirely of its own.”
So what do you think? These rockers have definitely turned up the volume on innovation—can traditional retailers pick up a few tips?
by Wanda L. Curlee, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, PMI-RMP
As artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and other new diruptive technologies enter the business mainstream, how will this impact project management? And how will it affect your job?
In any business, understanding data is essential. However, there’s so much of it that no one human being can review it all and truly understand the trends and what’s relevant to the project at hand. That means those project managers who embrace these technologies will be lightyears ahead of their peers. And those who do not use these tools will struggle to be of value to the organization.
Back to School
First and foremost, you need to understand these emerging technologies and how they can help you lead and deliver a successful project.
While the project management profession is lagging behind in adopting AI, IoT and other vital technologies, there are myriad ways to increase your knowledge.
Take all the classes your organization offers and find out who knows or leads the areas you want to learn about. Come prepared with questions and suggestions on how AI and other technologies could help projects for the company. Why is this important?
Sell It Through
Even after you become an expert on technologies the company has to help further the success rate of projects, your work isn’t done. This is now your project to move forward. You’ll need to share your learnings and new ideas with trusted individuals because their feedback is essential. At the appropriate time, create an executive white paper and present it to your supervisor and a project management office lead or project portfolio office lead.
Remember, you’re looking for sponsors. If you’re not good at selling your ideas, get help. Ask other leads who don’t have a stake in what you want to sell to help you understand the hot buttons for the various ideas involved with your potential project. If those issues are covered, then your idea becomes easier to follow.
Whether or not your organization buys into your idea, you are now a valued asset. If the idea was rejected, make sure you receive feedback as to why and update your proposal. Then present it again.
Will AI replace you? No. It will be an adjunct. It will help you with decision-making and doing mundane things like chasing individuals to enter their time for the project, updating the schedule, suggesting the best what-if scenario or doing your first draft of a presentation, among other things.
How have you leveraged the benefits of AI?
by Lynda Bourne
The world of business is moving toward storing and exchanging documentation in electronic formats—and the transition is swift. While this process has its advantages, my team and I have been working on a major report based on a data set of more than 250,000 records, and the project has highlighted some problems. Namely, as it becomes easier to preserve every iteration of a document, finding useful information becomes harder.
There are two basic types of document storage and retrieval systems with a couple of nuances:
If your organization isn’t using one or more of these systems, it soon will be! You’ll probably find that they solve many problems typically found in paper-based systems, but they also introduce a new suite of issues. Here are some of ways in which these systems fall short—and ways to overcome these challenges:
Establishing one source of the truth. As people become more used to the system, they begin to rely on it. And if something isn’t uploaded, stored or created in the tool, it ceases to exist. You cannot rely on people remembering to do the right thing, and if someone is doing something unethical, they will try to evade the system. The solution lies in system design and automation. Discipline and processes are needed to make sure a document retrieval system contains all of the documents.
Creating one document, one record. Send an email to 10 other people in the organization and you immediately have 11 versions of the one document scattered across various email accounts. (And this is before “reply all” and email trails start to build.) Your document management system needs to be smart enough to recognize identical versions of the same document and archive the 10 copies. However, when someone changes the email (maybe by forwarding it), you have a new document, and the process gets more complex if there are attachments. Here, the solution is a system that can manage families of documents.
Finding what you need—easily. This is the biggest challenge with massive archives of documents (and was central to our work over the last few months). How do you find information? A search based on document contents may seem like the best option, but if you Google “PMI PMP exam change,” you get 891,000 results. And it’s Google’s systems that decide which of the pages it will show you and the sort order. That means if you’re looking for something specific, you may have to dig through a sea of hyperlinks and page titles. This gets even more difficult if you want to check if something did not get documented. A null-result may mean the alleged document does not exist—or it may mean your search terms are slightly ambiguous.
Developing systems that balance providing information that you need against burying you under masses of content requires the wisdom of Solomon. Artificial intelligence can help if the search is routine, but for an important ad hoc search you are probably on your own. One way to help focus searches is by structuring the information, using folders or codes. The problems are minimizing misplaced information and persuading everyone to use the system. Again, system design is central to developing processes that work.
The concept of a paperless project has been around for a while now and electronic document management systems are becoming increasingly common. The challenge that remains is scaling this concept up to the enterprise level and developing tools that can quickly provide you with the information you need from a pool of several million documents.
What do you do to store documents and facilitate the ease of information access?
by Kevin Korterud
It used to be that projects that were typically small in size, localized to a single team, and compartmentalized to the point where they didn’t collide when it came to schedules and resources. Over time, projects began to be packaged into programs that involved larger teams as well as a greatly expanded technology footprint. To manage these complexities of modern-day project delivery, organizations are increasingly turning to enterprise program management offices (EPMOs) or enterprise delivery management offices (EDMOs) that span waterfall and agile initiatives.
The need—and demand—for enterprise PMOs and DMOs is only growing with the pandemic. Here’s why:
The business process landscape has become more imbued with technology— to the point where there’s no such thing as a business or technology project anymore … just delivery. And while the meteoric growth of tech has fueled success, it also creates challenges. It’s now common to have multiple delivery initiatives underway across a technically integrated landscape that can include everything from centralized enterprise resource planning systems down to personal mobility apps. In addition, project/program delivery and agile product delivery are taking place at multiple speeds and frequencies. Design, deliverables and testing all become much more demanding. All of this leads to the strong probability for delay on one initiative to cause schedule and resource conflicts.
EPMOs and EDMOs can provide technology enablement and assurance functions needed to keep delivery on track. For example, enterprise-enabled testing and scheduling tools whereby delivery teams can form, execute and implement requirements and user stories—without having to spend effort to acquire tools and train team members—saves precious time.
Early in my career, a senior project manager told me the best way to reduce costs on projects is to finish them on time. That advice remains relevant. As companies rely on technology as well as project, programs and transformations to create a competitive market edge, any sort of schedule delay reduces value. Delaying a market launch of a new mobile product entails parking resources, additional communication efforts, etc. Plus, given today’s landscape, a delay in one initiative can cause a chain reaction that affects other dependent initiatives, thus exacerbating the overall negative impact to business value.
Through integrated schedule, resource and dependency planning across delivery initiatives, EPMOs and EDMOs trigger early warning mechanisms and help marshal senior leadership decision-making to help mitigate delays.
Today’s delivery landscape is dramatically different from the past. Along with the size, scale and varying modes of project, program, transformation and product delivery, multiple third-party labor and hardware/software suppliers are more deeply involved. It’s also more common for delivery initiatives to have a global footprint, adding another layer of complexity. And COVID-19 further exacerbates these challenges by inhibiting communication, collaboration and impacting hardware/software supply chains.
Let’s use the analogy of a busy airport, where there’s a need for a centralized function to help harmonize the way different people, processes and technology components work together. In that case, distinct sector, tower and ground controllers organize the flow of traffic, minimize delays and in some cases avert potential disastrous conflicts.
The same rationale holds true for EPMOs and EDMOs, which are uniquely positioned to provide essential services such as: common delivery methods, third-party supplier and supply chain management, enterprise-level risk management, integrated scheduling management, resource management and dependency management.
I sometimes long for the simplicity of small, compartmentalized projects that could move at their own pace to completion. However, we all have to face today’s delivery reality. Some ways of working we were all used to may come back with the pandemic under control, but in the meantime we still have delivery responsibilities—and EPMOs and EDMOs can be a big help in making sure we meet those responsibilities.
To what degree are you seeing the need for enterprise EPMOs and EDMOs?