Will Artificial Intelligence Impact Your Job?

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Artificial Intelligence is in the news every day — actually it’s in our lives every day, from driving apps and email filters to the ways we shop, network and learn. Yes, smart machines and robots are already here, and yet it’s quite evident we’re only just getting to know them. That’s scary … exciting … and, for most of us, probably a combination of both.

So here we are on ProjectManagement.com, and I’m wondering — what does AI mean to the project management profession?

Gartner recently offered its latest analysis on the impact that AI will have on business strategy and human employment, predicting that by 2022, “smart machines and robots may replace highly trained professionals in tasks within medicine, law and IT.” Really? Please go on…

"The economics of AI and machine learning will lead to many tasks performed by professionals today becoming low-cost utilities," says Stephen Prentice, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "AI's effects on different industries will force the enterprise to adjust its business strategy. Many competitive, high-margin industries will become more like utilities as AI turns complex work into a metered service that the enterprise pays for, like electricity."

Apart from being conduits of (team) energy (and strategic effort), are project managers “like electricity”? And is project management a future low-cost “utility”?

Gartner qualifies that “the effects that AI will have on the enterprise will depend on industry, business, organization and customers.” Prentice cites the example of “a lawyer who undergoes a long, expensive period of education and training. Any enterprise that hires lawyers must pay salary and benefits big enough to compensate for this training for each successive lawyer it hires. On the other hand, a smart machine that substitutes for a lawyer also requires a long, expensive period of training. But after the first smart machine, the enterprise can add as many other smart machines as it wants for little extra cost.”

Can you do that with project managers? Isn’t each project a unique endeavor? (For that matter, isn’t each trial, client, judge and jury?)

The Gartner report does address the benefits of AI technology versus human interaction and decision-making — “while AI will hit employment numbers in some industries, many others will benefit as AI and automation handle routine and repetitive tasks, leaving more time for the existing workforce to … handle more challenging aspects of the role, and even ease stress levels in some high-pressure environments.”

"Ultimately, AI and humans will differentiate themselves from each other," says Prentice. "AI is most successful in addressing problems that are reasonably well-defined and narrow in scope, whereas humans excel at defining problems that need to be solved and at solving complex problems. They bring a wide range of knowledge and skill to bear and can work through problems in various ways. They can collaborate with one another, and when situations change significantly, humans can adjust."

Sounds like project managers to me!

The Gartner report continues —  CIOs should “develop a plan for achieving the right balance of AI and human skills. Too much AI-driven automation could leave the enterprise less flexible and less able to adjust to a changing competitive landscape. This approach will also help reassure employees about where and how AI will be used in the organization.”

Are these discussions happening in your organization? If you don’t know, you should probably start asking. If they are happening, you should start participating. Because you want to be part of an organization that doesn’t see project management as a utility, and that demonstrably values your very human role in its success — now, and in the scary, exciting future.

Posted on: May 23, 2017 11:12 PM | Permalink

Comments (38)

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Thanks Aaron. The distinction shared from Stephen Prentice b/t human and AI encapsulates the overall sense, or direction, of how AI will fit into our daily lives. The DA is, as you say, scary and exciting.

Thank you for sharing this information, Aaron. It's great to hear that a renowned research firm, like Gartner, sees the collaboration between AI and humans in our business strategy future.

A good post, Aaron!

As AI continues to advance, the impact will grow and more professional areas will be impacted.

Interesting topic, thanks for sharing.

Great post Aaron. Thanks for sharing.

Great Topic. Thanks for sharing. It would be interesting that PM could manage AI machines wherever it lags, adding AI SME skill would prevent scary future.

Great post, Aaron. AI is developing at a very exponential pace. Anything is a possibility. For example, IBM Watson is helping treat cancer patients at Johns Hopkins.

Great post, Aaron. AI is developing at a very exponential pace. Anything is a possibility. For example, IBM Watson is helping treat cancer patients at Johns Hopkins.

Interesting post, thanks for sharing Aaron.
Knowing that AI is the present and already part of our work environment, it is exciting to see how the collaboration between AI and humans will reshape (and hopefully improve) the way we do things.

Very useful. Thanks Aaron.

Oh dear, where is this ending RoboPMP...? Thanks for writing this up.

Good post. Thanks

Thank you for sharing.

Aaron, thanks for summarizing.
As to your question, if this discussion is happening in organizations I know? No, not at all.
Still, effectivity of project management is not where it should be (compared to supply chain and manufacturing as a contrast), and hence data insights, automation and standardization lacks. Not a good field for AI yet.
Decision making is mainly influenced by politics and gut feelings, not data and process. A successful project manager has played key stakeholders well.
In law, medicine and IT the situation is different: there is a lot of process and data available and patterns are useful to indicate problem solutions. Only if an organization introduces and utilizes project portfolio management, they can start thinking about AI.

Good post.

There is little doubt, AI, will change most professions in the years to come. In Project Management, ethical behavior is the expectation. If AI, at some point, performs some roles in PM, how does this pose an ethical dilemma of the profession? If, AI, makes automated decisions, that are not deemed ethical, is the AI to be held accountable, or the PM and team that choice to use the AI, with the best intentions? Hypothetical questions of course, but I do suspect as more AI comes into the profession, at some point in the near future, we will be faced with the dilemmas. Great article and thanks for sharing.

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