If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’m not much into New Year’s Resolutions because they always seem hard to keep. It’s difficult to make new habits and stick to them.
It’s easier – I think – to try to refocus on the core competencies and behaviours that I know make a difference but because of one thing or another tend to have fallen by the wayside as we get busier.
For example, Quarter 4, the September to December period is always busy for me. Partly it’s because of family commitments: birthdays, school holidays, endless school-related events and things to remember, and of course the run up to the end of year holiday season. But it’s also because it’s financial year end, strategic planning for the next year and project review time.
I’ve just filled out the 2023 annual family planner with the key dates for the year and hung it in the kitchen. It always surprises me that the gap between December and January is literally going to bed and waking up and it being a whole new year. But the effort we put into prep – like getting a new calendar and forecasting forward – feels heavy. Why don’t we plan on a rolling cycle? Why do we get to December and think, “I’ll deal with that next year”? Next year is just a couple of weeks away. If the decision had to be made in April, you wouldn’t think, “I’ll deal with that in May.” You’d just do it.
So my objectives for the coming 12 months are simple, and things I have focused on in the past. There are no shortcuts in project management but there are definitely things we can do to help edge closer to successful results.
I’m going to work on the following.
Learning. On reflection, I’ve had a couple of years where I haven’t developed my skills in project management. I’ve been busy doing and teaching, but not learning. I think I need to find events and conferences to attend that are stretching and that will meet me where I am. In the past, I’ve ducked out of attending events because I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. That’s probably wrong: even a refresh of comfortable skills is worth doing. But I’d like to attend events that cover the topics for mid-career professionals, where I can come away with genuinely new ideas and having been inspired. If you know of any, let me know!
Setting my future self up for success. In the rush, I have found myself this year making brief notes on a process or doing something without documenting it. Then I’ve come to do it again and had to start it from scratch. I need to build in time to make life easier for my future self because I’ve done it right the first time. Proper notes, documented assumptions, records of what is included in financial reports (project monthly summary slide deck: I’m looking at you) so I can easily replicate the numbers and justify them.
And that’s enough. The idea of having too many things to focus on for the coming year is overwhelming. It’s enough to have one goal, or two. Or none. We’re all getting through the days the best we can, trying to get our work done, manage our relationships, support friends and family and get everyone fed and into bed at the end of every day.
Are you going to make ‘professional’ resolutions? Or is this really now a thing of the past as our ways of identifying self-development opportunities have moved far beyond needing the scaffolding of a new year to set goals?
And if you are going to make them, how do you decide on what’s enough for you? I’m genuinely interested in how you approach going into a new calendar year. Let me know in the comments!
How To Manage Using Artificial Intelligence
I’ve been thinking about a webinar I’m putting together and Artificial Intelligence is on the topic list to discuss during that session.
It’s a trend that project managers and business leaders can’t afford to ignore, but it’s not yet clear to me how it will help businesses do anything particular. In other words: it’s a good theory and I can definitely see the applications, but how do I use it?
In doing some research for that webinar I’ve been digging in to AI in more detail and clarifying my thoughts.
Here’s where I am up to.
Forbes shares survey results from Narrative Science that show that by 2018, more than 60% of all companies are anticipated to use a form of AI programming to manage some aspect of their business. They also cite a study from Forrester that says despite this growth, around 40% of companies currently have no plan for how smart technology can help manage their business.
So we know it has the potential to be great, we just don’t know how to harness it.
Smart software consists of customized algorithms designed to scan large amounts of data very quickly, displaying the output in an easy-to-understand, elegantly designed presentation. The tools don’t actually do any “thinking”; they just look like they do.
You will likely need to do some work to set the any AI programme with your existing infrastructure. But, once you do, you can reduce a formerly mundane and repetitive task to the click of a button! At least, that’s the theory.
Where are the applications, then?
The internet has become a double-edged sword when it comes to hiring for your team. On the one hand, the rapid communication and social media sites allow leaders to be instantly linked with highly skilled workers from all over the world, with full access to their work history, résumé, and portfolio. On the other hand, there are simply too many sites and too many candidates to possibly review them all.
Project managers and team leaders have better things to do than sift through CVs and this is where AI can help.
Organizations have begun using AI software to scan through the millions of online CVs, across dozens of social media sites, to find the skills and experience that they are looking for, leaving you more time to actually sit down and interview only the most suitable candidates.
You may have noticed that more and more websites now offer round the clock support on their websites. Many don’t even have any waiting time when you open a chat. Intercom does this, and there are Facebook bots that run through Messenger doing a similar job if you engage with a page, sign up to an event or similar.
And yet...the advice you receive sounds too human to be a pre-programmed response.
Those pre-programme responses aren’t a human waiting in the wings. Chatbots are AI programmes designed to take the pressure off your customer service teams. As a replacement for first-line support, chatbots analyse a customer’s message for key words, scan a database of predefined answers, and then customise a response so lifelike that most humans can’t even tell the difference.
I think that will change in time though, as customers get used to dealing with bots and can pick them out.
Making sense of your project financial data is another area where AI can help. Whether it is scanning projects in the portfolio to better manage investment across the business and capitalise on projects with the most attractive profit projections, or isolating key products and departments where money is being lost, AI can help keep your leadership team ahead of the curve.
This is definitely an area where portfolio management teams should be looking out for advances. We have so much financial information trapped in our project management tools that it’s ripe for processing in an AI way.
I’m sure many project management tools will catch up but for now I’ve seen this done mainly in financial management packages, the kind your Finance team would be using. For example, Sage’s chatbot, Pegg, monitors all your accounts, your income and your expenditure, and provides real-time data as though you were texting your accountant...only Pegg responds faster.
This could be great for small project management firms like design agencies, but even bigger companies using products like this could benefit from not having to dig into the Help files every time they wanted some info. Or maybe project managers could be given access to view some of the financials relating to their projects? It would be a huge help to me when dealing with suppliers if I could use a chatbot to find out if an invoice had been paid.
So, whether you’re already using Facebook’s “Insights” to track who is interacting with your PM training page, or if your heavy machinery could benefit from a programme which tracks sensory data and automatically orders replacement parts when they are needed, AI is the means for taking all that data you’ve been collecting about your company and finally making sense of it.
Do you already use AI in your business? On your projects somehow? Let us know in the comments. You never know, you could end up as a case study in my next webinar!