I, for one, welcome our new PM AI overlords

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
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My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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A frequently asked question in the main ProjectManagement.com community discussion group is about the perceived impacts of machine learning on project delivery.

Some contributors worry that sufficient advances in AI will render the role of a project manager obsolete whereas others remain bullish about the prospects for the profession.

A recent Harvard Business Review article by Stephen M. Kosslyn titled "Are You Developing Skills That Won’t Be Automated?" would support a positive outlook on this topic. In the article, the author asserts that roles in which emotion and context play a strong influence will still need to be performed by human beings. We have enough challenges with human leaders struggling to inspire team members or effectively align stakeholders to expect that machines will have an easier time doing so.

I'm expecting that enhancements in current machine learning technology will free us from rote administrative activities which even the most senior project manager finds themselves having to perform from time to time. While such advances might reduce a full-time requirement for project administrators on large, complex projects, it might enable such roles to support a larger number of projects at the same time.

What might projec managers do with all of this extra time?

Being assigned to more projects concurrently is not the answer! If we believe that project management is a strategic role then we should be encouraging greater focus, not less.

Freed up capacity could be better utilized on frequently neglected practice areas such as stakeholder engagement, risk management and knowledge creation. Envision the potential benefits to your projects if you had even 10% more time to devote to such practices.

We could also invest more in our own personal development or giving back to the profession or the community.

Is it possible that at some point in the future, AI will have the ability to independently manage a project staffed with humans?

This seems realistic if we agree with Gene Roddenberry's vision of intelligent sentient machines such as Commander Data, but I'm equally optimistic that the next one or two generations of project managers will have little to fear so long as they continue to invest in developing their soft skills.

Posted on: September 29, 2019 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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Will certainly be interesting to see how things go. Seems there are many tools and capabilities out there to support, simplify, bolster, improve, augment, etc. our professional lives. As we help organizations to transform and when we think about new ways of working, we also need to consider ourselves and the options we have at our disposal and the influence our own personal actions can have on those around us.

Good points Kiron. I am very curious to see how things will shape up and how AI will affect the different industries. I totally agree that if PM’s freed up, they should not take more projects but instead concentrate on what wasn’t given appropriate attention.

I can definitely see AI augmenting our reality. There are certain nuance's of the job that cannot be duplicated by AI. Those are often the areas I wish I had more time to devote because they are often the areas the client needs the most of my attention.

Thanks for posting this, Kiron and I'm looking forward to see how AI will assist project manager with its ability to monitor patterns.

Very realistic perspective about AI and role of Project manager. Thank you Kiron for sharing nice article!!

The promise of WorkFusion is that in the short term it will replace project managers.
One idea, in the late 1970s, was that computers did the work, and humans dedicated themselves to thinking and living with other humans.
A reputed, IVAN ILLICH, author published Tools for Conviviality
At that time, 40% of the world's population owned 60% of the planet's wealth.
Today the reality is different: 1% of the world's population owns 50% of the planet's wealth.
This reality completely changes the paradigm.

Thanks Kimberly, Anish, Alok, Luis & Eduin!

Thank you for sharing! The comic is funny. No thing to worry about. The question is that who will invest in applying AI in products that help automating PM works?

Thanks Kiron. Good thoughts. My concern is the high rate of project failure - being unable to deliver the project scope, on time and on budget. AI is the ONLY way to change this intolerable situation. I also believe that any spare time from the project manager needs to be applied to achieving project success and that means providing more and structured data to AI tools.
We have to think about both sides - an AI project manager or a Human project manager managing a team of AI members. As for needing a project manager for the human side I think it's a collaboration between the PM and AI. Facebook and Amazon already know us better than we know ourselves, something that would be useful for a project manager.

A very interesting piece Kiron, thank you for sharing. I have recently read the PMI, Pulse of the Profession, AI@ work and AI Innovators.
As your comic strip depicts, AI will only be as good as its programming. I look forward to our every changing tides.

Hello Kiron: Thank you for writing another insightful blog. I agree with your assumptions. AI will never be able to replace the personal/relationship building/inspiring/team-building/motivational aspects which to me are very important keys to project success!

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