According to a survey by PMI, over 80% of respondents can see the impact of AI on their organizations. What’s more, in the next three years, it’s predicted that the number of projects that use AI will increase from 23% to 37%. Is this a reason for concern? Quite the opposite!
In today’s piece, I am going to focus on AI in project management, and how it can help PMs in their daily work.
What is artificial intelligence in project management?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer viewed as technology from the future, or something that’s reserved for big tech players only. It has become more democratized and has entered various domains, including project management. It helps PMs automate the dullest, most repetitive tasks, and grants them more time to focus on activities that generate business value.
How AI can help Project Managers
As Project Managers work across all industries and operate in diverse team setups, their responsibilities differ across organizations. It’s highly doubtful that technology will ever take over all of their work, but there are a few areas where it can certainly give PMs a helping hand. Below, we discuss the top applications of AI in project management, starting off with one of the most powerful uses.
Tools that leverage AI are capable of automating a lot of mundane, repetitive work. Project managers can use it to create calendar events, set reminders, and schedule daily standup calls, on top of other administrative work. As a result, the PM can focus their brain power on more complex activities, i.e., ones that genuinely require human touch.
To fully comprehend just how powerful automation has become for modern organizations, it’s worth referring to KPMG's "AI Transforming the Enterprise" report. To date, it’s one of the largest and most reputable studies on the topic. The report takes a look at how automation supports some of the world’s largest organizations.
KPMG analyzed the impact of automation on 30 fast-growing enterprises, all part of the Global 500 list. These companies employed a staggering 6.2 million workers around the world and reported a collective annual revenue of $3 trillion. After implementing automated, AI-powered processes, these organizations have seen an average 15% increase in productivity. More recent analyses, such as estimations from the World Economic Forum, put AI-powered productivity potential at a much higher level, i.e., 40%.
AI comes in handy in creating forecasts based on past data. This helps Project Managers to accurately estimate the time and costs required to complete specific tasks or even entire projects. As a result, they can reduce the risk of project delays or failure. However, AI in Project Management can be used way beyond cost estimation. PMs can turn to it to aid them with decision-making and spotting unforeseen problems, which would otherwise be difficult to identify.
AI also helps in maintaining business efficiency thanks to its objectivity. People are emotional and tend to focus strongly on their problems and might overlook some issues. Meanwhile, AI can analyze all factors that impact the project and make valuable predictions. For instance, it can monitor budgeting and scheduling, and, over time, spot factors that impact these processes.
Business intelligence is a system that automates large data collection, processing, and analysis. All for the purpose of improving business processes and decision-making.
One of the examples of how AI can help Project Managers is uncovering patterns in customer requests and feedback – these, in turn, can help prioritize product development. Instead of manually reviewing tons of conversations with users, PMs can use AI to analyze the data and draw insights. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities to develop rules that will identify words associated with urgency, such as crisis-prone terms or sentences like “I cannot log into the app”. This helps PMs with two things:
Notice urgent issues, which call for a quick resolution as otherwise a user might churn
Better prioritize the tasks, and focus on those which will have the biggest business impact.
Impact of AI in the Project Management Field
While discussing the role of AI in project management, it would be biased to focus on the sunny side up only. The more powerful artificial intelligence gets, the more concerned PMs become about their roles in the long-term perspective. Most wonder – will AI take over project management? Or will it simply remain a facilitating technology? This question is as relevant for PMs, as it is for companies deciding on their PM hiring strategy.
What’s more, this worry isn’t isolated to project management only. In fact, according to the Global Workforce Hopes & Fears 2022 survey, 30% of all respondents admitted that they fear being replaced by technology. And not just in the unforeseeable future – they worry that it will happen within the next three years! How justified is this concern, and how does it reflect on the future of Project Management?
As mentioned earlier, AI is a great way to make the daily work of PMs easier. It’s perfect for automating time-consuming, undemanding tasks, avoiding manual data input mistakes, and driving more informed project decisions. Still, it’s highly doubtful that it will deem the Project Manager’s role obsolete. There are plenty of tasks AI is incapable of solving. To give you a sense of just how much human PMs are indispensable, take a look at the list below.
Tasks that AI in project management is incapable of solving
Active participation in conversations and meetings (AI can listen in on discussions and use NLP to interpret what it’s hearing, but it can’t emulate the human brain and communication quality)
Handle cross-team and client communication
Networking at business events and building strong relationships with customers
Resolving team conflicts (particularly, if they’re based around emotions and convictions)
Creating materials and presentations that rely on the PM’s own experiences (AI can only relate to what it’s fed – so, it won’t be able to find an analogy with a situation at the project manager’s former company)
Keeping the team motivated
Prioritizing the project timeline through the prism of stakeholders’/clients’ expectations
Spotting risks and issues, often hidden from hindsight
Identifying improvement areas (particularly around areas like user experience)
Negotiating to find a solution acceptable for everyone on the team.
Another argument against the threat of AI in project management? Introducing sophisticated technologies requires handling multiple dependencies. Managing projects is arguably the most complex, multi-faceted area in the business. It functions at the crossroads of multiple departments, requires collecting and synthesizing business requirements, constant project roadmap adjustments, and handling ‘sensitive’ situations tactfully. Artificial intelligence is only as smart as the data it’s provided with, so it won’t be able to tend to tasks as professionally and effectively as an experienced PM.
Advancing in Project Management alongside AI
If you’re a project manager, rest assured that the current state of AI makes it impossible to replace you with technology – no matter how sophisticated the models are. Instead, look at AI as your project management ally. It can relieve you of repetitive, exhausting work, boost your productivity levels, and help make the most of your data. So, whether you’re looking for a new project manager job or are a hiring manager looking for new PMs, make sure to embrace AI with an open mind. It will pay off in the long run!