Project Management

The Money Files

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from RebelsGuideToPM.com.

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Saving 14 minutes a day with AI

Research amongst Microsoft Copilot users highlights that on average they are saving 14 minutes a day (1.2 hours per week) by using Copilot, which is an AI-add in. Some users reported saving over 30 minutes a day, and using the time gained for focus work or additional meetings (*gulp*).

If you’re wondering how GenAI is going to change the way you work, Copilot is an example of something quite easy to use that speeds up completing your daily tasks. For example, you can draft a new presentation from a prompt or summarise an email thread or chat thread. I can see how this would help you catch up on meetings too as you can ask it questions based on a meeting transcript, or get a recap of the whole meeting.

I think that nothing really beats the aha moments in a meeting where you are working with others and finding a way forward, but there are also plenty of meetings that should have been an email. And I don’t know about you, but my diary is often double-booked with invites, and it’s hard to find time to squeeze more calls in, especially with senior leaders. Summarising a missed meeting can save people 32 minutes, which you could fill with another meeting, or take a lunch break, or write that project proposal that’s been sitting on your desk for a week.

Fourteen minutes per day does not sound like much, but it’s worth having, if the overall burden of admin work is reduced, freeing up time for us to do more project leadership and less creating slides, typing minutes or searching for files (the study said users were 29% faster in a series of tasks including searching, writing and summarising information).

The most important thing that I took away from the survey is that it doesn’t take less effort – it also feels like it takes less effort. The mental load of work is substantial. There are tasks to juggle, unending To Do items, stakeholders to keep engaged and lots more that we hold in our heads every day. Sometimes I end the day with decision fatigue. Sometimes it’s hard to switch off and the mental energy expended throughout the day has been exhausting.

If I can feel like I’m doing less burdensome work and more value-add work, that has to benefit my mental health and my enjoyment of the job.

Personally, I think this kind of GenAI has more practical use for project leaders than the ChatGPT-style interfaces that are available, including PMI’s own Infinity. I checked that out too, and it’s good for learning. I asked it to work out some potential risks for an example project for me, and it did a pretty good job of coming up with some basic risks I could include in a risk log as a starting point for discussion. A huge benefit of Infinity over my ‘normal’ ChatGPT account is that it provides the sources, so you can be confident you’re getting reliable, trusted information, which is very important if you’re building out work products based on the guidance.

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I can see a workplace in the not-too-distant future where we’ve got a pop up GenAI tool on the desktop to support everyday tasks, and a ChatGPT-style interface for research and more in-depth (or even quick) questions. What do you think about the way GenAI is influencing how work tools are built and the features on offer to you? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: March 12, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Testing ChatGPT!

I was inspired to do the Generative AI for Project Managers course (which is currently free, and definitely worth looking at on the PMI website) and from there, to sign up for a ChatGPT account. In parallel to that, I was asked to deliver a webinar on AI-proofing your career (spoiler alert: AI takes away the parts of the job that I didn’t like so much anyway, and frees up more time for you to shine in human relationships), so I seem to have embedded myself in the world of AI recently!

I thought I would put ChatGPT to the test by asking it a question I get asked frequently:

What are the top 5 challenges affecting project managers in the world today?

This is an edited version of what it said. It gave me 246 words, and I’ve added my own thoughts after each point to add a human-in-loop spin on the feedback. The GenAI course explains human-in-loop if you have not come across this term before.

(Sidenote: I feel weird calling it ‘it’ when you can have a conversation with it. I think I would like to give my ChatGPT bot a name, I just don’t know what!)

As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the following were some of the top challenges affecting project managers worldwide:

  1. Resource Constraints:
    • Limited availability of skilled resources, both in terms of human capital and specialized tools or technologies, can significantly impact project timelines and deliverables.

Elizabeth says: So far so good. This seems to be a perennial problem across the ages. It’s not particularly new, but I’m sure it is true. Every project manager I speak to seems to have issues with resourcing and capacity planning.

  1. Scope Creep and Change Management:
    • Managing changes to project scope and requirements can be a major challenge.

Elizabeth says: Again, this is not new news. It’s not the modern, fresh take I was hoping for. Perhaps there isn’t one: we’re stuck with the challenge we’ve always had, which is reassuring and disappointing at the same time!

  1. Remote and Distributed Teams:
    • The shift to remote work, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has posed challenges in team collaboration, communication, and ensuring productivity across geographically dispersed team members.

Elizabeth says: I’m sensing a theme here. These are all true, but as project managers, we’ve been overcoming the challenge of remote and distributed teams for years, even before the pandemic.

  1. Risk Management and Uncertainty:
    • Identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks is critical to project success.

Elizabeth says: I agree that risk management and working in uncertainty is a challenge, but we have whole project approaches designed to minimise the impact of that and maximise user engagement through short deliverable sprints. Yes, the world is an uncertain place, but again, project managers have been looking out for the things that will bite us in the backside for years. That’s the job!

  1. Stakeholder Management:
    • Balancing the needs and expectations of various stakeholders, including clients, sponsors, team members, and end-users, is crucial.

Elizabeth says: I would not have put stakeholder management as one of the challenges for project managers. In fact, it’s one of the fun parts! I do understand that it is challenging to manage competing priorities, but again, our processes are set up to identify those and work through them.

Then ChatGPT goes on to add:

Please note that the landscape of project management may have evolved since my last knowledge update. Factors like emerging technologies, evolving business models, and global events (such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) can introduce new challenges or shift the emphasis on existing ones. It's recommended to stay updated with current industry reports, trends, and insights to understand the most pressing challenges faced by project managers in 2023.

Elizabeth says: I agree that it is important to stay up to date with the pressing challenges, and the best way to do that is to stay connected to the industry. Conferences like the PMI Summit and publications like project management magazines provide timely insights into what is important. For example, sustainability isn’t on the ChatGPT list and I would have thought that would have been a concern back in 2021.

I haven’t yet paid for an upgraded account, so perhaps a paid account would have better outcomes and give me a different take on what the current challenges are, so there’s that to consider.

Meanwhile, I’m curious! Do you agree with these challenges? Do you think there are others more pressing for us as project managers? And what do you think of the output of ChatGPT if you’ve used it? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted on: November 14, 2023 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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