Meet Your Next Project Manager: Artificial Intelligence?

Meet Your Next Project Manager: Artificial Intelligence?

Insights | 19 April 2017

There isn’t much in this world that won’t be shaped by artificial intelligence — in fact, plenty is already.

Think of connected home devices like Nest and Google Home, that awesome robotic vacuum, lane shift warnings on cars and the predictive anti-fraud technology behind all your major credit cards. Advancements in artificial intelligence are changing the way we live, drive and shop. But what will artificial intelligence contribute to the advancement of project management?

Here’s some of the latest thinking around how AI may transform project management — and the early consensus seems to be that it’s certainly here to stay.

Your smart PM assistant

Who doesn’t want a highly capable assistant at the ready 24/7? Dream scenario. With AI, that’s just the beginning. What if that same assistant pushed notifications to your smartphone when it uncovered something amiss with you project data or deadlines? Next level.

Writing in CIO magazine, Canadian project management expert Bas de Baat envisions a world where once the routine tasks have been delegated to the AI assistant, bigger projects – the kind that require true emotional intelligence – will be levelled-up to the (human) project manager.

The advantage: this new breed of PM can now “apply his [or her] creative and social skills on driving organisational change… The technology is there. It is a matter of when, not if.”1

One thing is for certain — PMs using AI won’t be alone.

One study by Infosys found that as many as two-thirds of large Australian companies are using artificial intelligence in some form or another. Several factors are driving this trend, most notably a need for automation to drive efficiencies and business agility.

In terms of spending, the same study found Australian firms second behind the U.S. when it comes to spending on AI.2

Globally, the expected impact is staggering.

Experts predict an AI market worth USD $16.06 billion by 2022, with natural language processing taking the lead in compound annual growth.3

What will stand in the way of greater adoption? CIO Australia, citing the Infosys survey, said that while nearly half of businesses in Australia believe AI adoption will unlock growth for their businesses, they are far less bullish when it comes to actually deploying AI solutions. Twenty-three per cent of respondents blamed “lack of skills”.4

Augmented, not ‘artificial’

Even a cursory dive into the latest thinking around AI will find plenty of examples of experts suggesting the use of the word “augmented” in favour of “artificial.” This is far from semantics. Artificial keeps the concept squarely in the science fiction realm, versus reality. It also creates a sense of time and distance. Augmented is here and now.5

Advocates for greater adoption of AI into project management also point to all the ways project management hasn’t changed over the past 30 years. In almost any organisation around the globe you’ll find a continued reliance on human inputs for tasks that seem tailor made for machine learning. Here’s a short list developed by the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence and shared via the International Project Management Association, or IPMA: 6

  • Data analysis and information sharing
  • Communication
  • Project updates

In the end, though, no augmented system can possibly replace all the experience of a skilled project manager. Projects are about people. Rather, the future will be about harnessing efficiencies in the pursuit of better outcomes.

“Human intuition, feelings, ideas, emotions and passion cannot be replaced by AI, thus a project manager will be needed in future.” 7

Fintech News Singapore states “Artificial intelligence, robots and automation will offer new opportunities for human endeavor…” 8

Your turn: How do you think artificial intelligence will change project management in the future?

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