There’s a whole lot of data out there. That’s all well and good, but it does leave us with one small problem: There’s not enough brainpower to turn all that information into sound decisions.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and all that other disruptive tech we hear so much about could be the antidote to the data deluge. But that’s been the mantra for an awfully long time. So PM Network® asked three project leaders to weigh in on where AI really stands… and where it could go.
It’s not about robots helping us choose what to wear or what to order from the market (although that is pretty cool). For project teams, it’s more about the potential to process loads of data to reveal relationships, identify risks and predict outcomes.
“AI can then derive patterns … that we can use to make better-educated estimates, like whether you’ll finish a project on time,” says Audrius Zujus, founder and CEO of Aresi Labs.
AI can also help plug the holes left by human nature, says Geetha Gopal, PMP, assistant manager, product owner, bot services and projects at Daimler South East Asia. “Ultimately, data-driven decision making will help project managers to look beyond common intuitive biases.”
AI has its limits, however.
“People misuse the terms ‘AI’ or ‘machine learning’ as if they’re magic that can do anything we want,” says Bruno Rafael de Carvalho Santos, CAPM, PMP, project manager at the Sedimentary Geology Laboratory and Coppetec Foundation. Spoiler alert: They can’t. Not yet.
Still, things are moving pretty fast. Over the next three years, project leaders expect the share of projects they manage using AI will increase from 23 percent to 37 percent, according to PMI’s 2019 AI Innovators: Cracking the Code on Project Performance report.
What does that mean for careers? Will AI will replace human project managers? Not likely—although it may change their role. “Machine learning tools and automation will free people from tedious, repetitive activities so they can focus on strategic activities,” says Ms. Gopal.
It’s admittedly easy to get caught up in the swirl of negative news about technology. Some of this stuff is legitimately scary. But harnessed in the right way, tech can also help project managers achieve amazing things. Case in point: The same issue of PM Network covers how next-gen tech is helping teams map plans to restore the nearly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral. A 3D laser scan of the historic structure has generated documentation that can tell teams the precise curves of a flying buttress or the original thickness of support beams that might need to be replaced.
That’s how we should be using tech. But are we?
Fast. Digital pioneer. Hyper-efficient. Customer-friendly. Not necessarily the first things that come to mind when someone mentions government.
“In general, governmental organizations have long been behind the private sector in technology,” says Horacio Barbier, PMP, director of modernization and digital government for the City of Vicente López in Argentina.
He’s not wrong. While companies around the world are launching projects around AI, blockchain, drones and the like, governments have been relatively slow on the up-take. Only 17 percent of government CIOs plan to increase their investment in digital business initiatives, versus 34 percent of CIOs in the private sector, according to a Gartner survey from earlier this year.
It’s not to say governments aren’t trying. The latest issue of PM Network® has the intel on how some innovative public-sector project teams are challenging the digital status quo.
Estonia, for one, has been an e-government trailblazer for years. The former Soviet republic was the first nation to offer virtual residency to anyone in the world wanting to conduct digital business in Estonia. Since the program was launched in 2014, 50,000 people have become e-residents and 6,000 e-businesses have been established.
In the United States, the governor of Vermont signed an executive order in 2017 establishing a secretary of digital services. One of the first projects? A pilot that uses AI to help the U.S. state’s transportation agency predict road and bridge degradation.
Cool—and useful. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Done right, technology just means government will do what it’s meant to do: serve the public.
What are you seeing in your own governments?
by Cyndee Miller
As a newbie, it can be tough to push back, even if you know deep down you’re right. What’s a project manager to do—without sabotaging their career?
Back when he was just starting out, Justin Fraser, PMP, was working with a team member insistent on doing work that would have pushed the project out of scope. When Mr. Fraser pointed that out, he was dismissed. So he called in backup from a more senior team member, who endorsed Mr. Fraser’s point and convinced the stubborn team member to drop the work.
“I was able to keep the project in scope by using someone with more credibility,” says Mr. Fraser, now project manager and founder of 88 Real Estate Capital, Milltown, New Jersey, USA.
Being the new kid on the block is tough in any career. But project and program managers have the extra-daunting task of commanding respect and fueling collaboration up and down the org chart from day one.
Fear not. For the latest issue of PM Network®, we recruited project professionals of all backgrounds and levels of experience to weigh in on what every rookie should know. (Even you grizzled veterans might learn a thing or two.)
It’s good timing. With talk of an impending global recession looming, project management is looking like a pretty darn futureproofed career option. By 2027, employers will need some 88 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles, according to PMI’s research.
Still skeptical? Understood. But consider this from Thabang Molefe, CAPM, project manager at SHL, Johannesburg, South Africa. “To be honest I wasn’t really sold at first, from my research on what project managers do. It took working on a project firsthand for my love of the profession to take root, and I haven’t looked back since,” she tells PM Network. “On the first big project where I reported to a project manager, I watched this lady work her magic and move mountains every day, and I thought, “This is what I want to do. I want to make things happen.”
Ready to work some magic and make things happen? The PM Network Project Manager’s Starter Kit has everything you need.
“Going digital” has been the transformation goal in many sectors for some time now. But there is one industry that has just recently jumped on the digital bandwagon. That industry is real estate. An article in May PM Network® examines this newly opened playing field.
Both startups and established companies are launching projects to bring technology into the realm of selling and renting property, homes and offices. That technology runs the spectrum, from use of big data to more accurately assess a home’s value, to virtual reality platforms that will enable prospective buyers to view offerings without actually being there, to crowdfunding that will allow people to invest in international real estate.
The numbers show the growth of “proptech”: Investment in this field rose from US$1.8 billion in 2015 to US$9.6 billion in 2018. And 97 percent of real estate executives told KPMG that they expected digital and technological innovation to significantly impact their businesses.
Bringing tech into real estate is a little different than bringing tech into other industries. The resistance to change and lack of awareness of emerging technologies makes it difficult. And testing products with minimum viable products generally doesn’t work because of the high value of transactions, the article reports. Project managers might consider testing products in simulated transactions.
Software dealing with mortgages have similar considerations. In this part of the real estate industry, automated helpers for approval decisions have to take into account variables on loan applicants’ income that might affect these decisions.
Proptech project managers walk a fine line between designing their products to accommodate variables and keeping the cost down to prospective customers. But that might be a line worth walking because of the growth opportunities in this late-to-the-digitization party sector of the world economy.
PMI members can turn to PM Network every month for trends news that you can use in your career.
Right from the start, a project manager’s goal should be creating and maintaining a cohesive, engaged team. As noted in an April PM Network® article, this can be challenging—even more so if the team hasn’t worked together before and the deadlines are tight.
What project managers are working against is a greater lack of engagement. A Gallup survey indicated less than one-fifth of employees globally are engaged in their work.
It is possible to seed team members’ engagement right from the start of a project’s kickoff meeting. The trick is to create an engagement strategy that is tailored to the situation. One way to capture interest is through friendly competition that can be generated by use of a project storyboard to track the team’s major milestones.
Experts say there are other techniques to gaining engagement through the kickoff meeting. They recommend a large invitation list for the meeting as a way to unify the larger team around the project’s goal—as well as making sure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
The kickoff meeting should be sharp and to the point, with the spotlight shone on key messages and headlines, not minutiae.
Team cohesion, of course, is a key element of engagement. It’s worth taking the time to get team members acquainted with each other and finding the common threads that can create cohesion. Fancy ice-breakers are not necessary; something as basic as a team lunch can do the job. And site visits to remote team members are useful for this purpose. This cohesion—especially that between the project manager and the team—may come in handy when conflicts arise regarding shared resources.
If the project timeline is going to be long, maintaining engagement is key. One expert advises scheduling frequent, short meetings to gauge both engagement and progress.
And, of course, very important to the project is the engagement of the project’s sponsor. Make sure you understand their views on the project landscape. Don’t be shy about communicating, and make sure messages come over in the way the sponsors prefer them. And let sponsors know that while they will be kept in the loop, there may be a time or two that critical needs will require their attention and action.
How do you gain and maintain engagement on your projects? Please share your techniques.