PRiSM Project Management Explained

Sustainability is catching on in the project management world, but many organisations are merely adding sustainability measures to their current practices on an ad-hoc basis. For companies that have sustainability ingrained into their core philosophy and strategy, this ad-hoc inclusion might not be enough. That’s where the PRiSM project management methodology comes in! PRiSM emerged from the increasing need for holistic sustainability tracking and management across projects and is a critical tool for sustainable companies of the future.

What is the PRiSM Project Management Methodology?

PRiSM is an abbreviation of PRoject Integrating Sustainability Measures. It is a principle-based methodology that applies a value-maximisation approach that focuses on integrating sustainability into the entirety of the project lifecycle. It predominantly leverages existing organisational systems to achieve unilateral sustainable benefits realisation with a clear focus on process and the final product sustainability.  

PRiSM is built upon Green Project Management’s P5 Standards for Sustainability in Project Management. The P5 standards expand on the traditional sustainable project management focus on the triple bottom line, also known as the 3Ps (people, planet, profits), to consider five elements – Project, Process, People, Planet and Prosperity. These standards aim to combine project management goals with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and accurately capture the holistic impact of projects and/or products throughout their entire lifespan, along with service activities.

The PRiSM methodology thus lays out a comprehensive model of tools and processes to enable holistic sustainability tracking, management and optimisation in projects by hitting the five aforementioned elements. The graph below helps break down the extended factors and responsibilities required to excel at all five core elements.

(Image reference: Green Project Management)

Key Characteristics of PRiSM Project Management Methodology

For some organisations, adapting the P5 standards to their own pre-existing project management processes may suffice. But what makes PRiSM different from traditional sustainable project management processes? There are four key characteristics that make PRiSM stand out:

Ingrained social and environmental project objectives

Often, sustainability measures are added onto projects for overarching accountability and reporting purposes, typically to hit general sustainability strategic goals or compliances. However, these overarching sustainability measures often fail to accurately capture the everyday impacts of everyday project management activities and only provide organisations with generalised understandings of their sustainability impacts.

By incorporating social and environmental objectives into each project, organisations can better track and monitor their sustainability activities on a project level which helps easily identify areas for improvements. This also allows organisations to provide greater levels of accountability and transparency than portfolio-wide sustainability goals.

Defined Sustainability Management Plan

Taking this a step further, the PRiSM methodology not only makes sure that every project has clear sustainability objectives, but every project must also have a robust Sustainability Management Plan (SMP) that outlines how those objectives will be realistically met. The SMP helps define the plan, monitor benefits and ensure the strategic alignment of all project activities.

Typically, the SMP consists of an executive summary, the project’s sustainable objectives, qualitative and quantitative performance indicators, and an environmental impact assessment. It can also include sustainability risk management and an outline of review methodologies and sustainability metrics templates. The SMP helps give organisations clarity on the specific responsibilities, accountability and objectives of all project activities.

Undertaking Impact Analysis

This is where a lot of traditional sustainable project management approaches find themselves limited. Projects that use the PRiSM methodology must conduct an impact analysis that measures and maps out the impact of the project’s deliverables on the P5 elements. It takes it a step further from its traditional counterparts by not only analysing the final deliverables of the project but also analysing the entire project process as well as all ensuing maintenance and updating activities that might be required. 

With its holistic analysis of both the final product and process, the PRiSM method is able to give organisations the ability to assess, evaluate and improve their activities across many different dimensions ranging from equality, diversity, environmental sustainability and much more, to ensure best practices are in place. This approach also helps prevent long-term unforeseen cost overruns as future potentialities are accounted for and mitigation plans are put in place.

Using Green Vendor Scorecards 

Reaching sustainability goals is not only about managing internal processes, but also making sure all your external contracts and suppliers are aligned with your sustainability strategy. The Green Vendor Scorecard helps assess and evaluate the sustainability activities of a company through defined criteria.

Evaluation criteria can be adapted to suit your organisation’s specific requirements. They typically include a combination of quantitative and qualitative criteria that can evaluate factors such as internal environmental policies, product production process, potential pollutants, environmental competencies or even the companies ‘green image’. 

The key benefits of applying Green Vendor Scorecards is the ability to gain a greater understanding of supplier capabilities and enable more transparent and objective decision making. It gives organisations a bigger picture understanding of their environmental and social impact as well as helps identify potential opportunities to reduce costs and risks.

PRiSM Principles

The PRiSM methodology is built of six core principles:

  1. Commitment and Responsibility

The recognition of the essential rights of all to a clean, healthy and safe environment, equal opportunities, fair remuneration, ethical supplies and adherence to rule of law.

  1. Ethics and Decision Making

Supporting organisational ethics with decision-making made in respect to universal principles through identification, mitigation and prevention of adverse short and long-term impacts on society and the environment.

  1. Integration and Transparency

Promoting the interdependence of economic development, social integrity and environmental protection across all aspects of governance, practice and reporting.

  1. Principals and Values-Based

Preserving and enhancing natural resources by improving the way technologies and resources are developed and used.

  1. Social and Ecological Equity

Assessing human vulnerability in ecologically sensitive areas through demographic research

  1. Economic Prosperity

Establishing financial strategies and objectives that balance stakeholder needs with the immediate and long-term needs of future generations.

PRiSM Project Management Methodology Pros and Cons

PRiSM Pros

There is no doubt that a project management methodology that has sustainability ingrained in every facet has its benefits in a world moving towards sustainability. Some benefits of the PRISM methodology include:

  • Reducing the environmental impact of projects

In a time where sustainability compliances are becoming more and more common, applying a methodology that accurately tracks and monitors the impact of all activities plays a critical role in reducing the environmental and social footprints on projects as well as organisations. 

  • Ensuring sustainability objectives are met 

PRiSM helps make sure that your sustainability goals don’t just stay as goals. With clear plans and breakdowns, it helps companies make sure their sustainability objectives can be realistically met and is in line with the organisation’s overall strategy.

  • Greater accountability and transparency to stakeholders

PRiSM helps lay down the foundations for greater accountability and transparency as it applies a holistic and comprehensive breakdown of all activities across the project and organisations. Down to the specific measures of energy use and CO2 emissions, organisations that use PRiSM can accurately report to their stakeholders and keep up with any necessary compliances.

PRiSM Cons

  • Requires extensive collaboration across the entire organisation

As a holistic methodology, PRiSM requires the participation of all levels of an organisation and will fall flat if used only within a departmental context. It depends on intra-departmental collaboration, transparency and support to truly bring out the best results

  • PRiSM success depends heavily on the organisation’s strategic alignment

The success of the PRiSM approach depends on how much an organisation and its executive believe in the overall benefits and values of sustainability efforts. If organisations do not have sustainability as a critical focus on their strategy, top executives would not be interested in spending resources to carry out the in-depth and detailed level of tracking and monitoring applied through the PRiSM methodology.

Is PRiSM the right fit for your organisation?

With sustainability and socially responsible behaviours becoming more valuable to stakeholders, organisations will be keen to tap into the power of sustainable project management. However, we always remind people that there is no one-size-fits-all methodology or ‘silver bullet’ project management methodology.

If your organisation requires extensive sustainability monitoring and reporting, PRiSM may be the right fit for you. But make sure to adapt it to fit your organisation’s unique context and needs. There is no use in overkilling on reports that will only bog down your team members if they are not necessary to your organisation’s strategic objectives.

Whether you decide to adopt PRiSM or build your own methodology, pmo365 is always ready to help you out. Make sure to check out our guide to becoming a sustainable project manager or chat directly with our PPM experts to see how our services can help you get a head start on your sustainable project management journey!

What is the PRiSM Project Management Methodology?

PRiSM is an abbreviation of Project Integrating Sustainability Measures. It is a principle-based methodology that applies a value-maximisation approach that focuses on integrating sustainability into the entirety of the project lifecycle. It predominantly leverages existing organisational systems to achieve unilateral sustainable benefits realisation with a clear focus on process and the final product sustainability. 

Key Characteristics of PRiSM Project Management Methodology

– Ingrained social and environmental project objectives
– Defined Sustainability Management Plan
– Undertaking Impact Analysis
– Using Green Vendor Scorecards 

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