“Everything that we have electrified, we are now going to cognify. And I would suggest that the formula for the next 10,000 startups be very very simple: take X – and add AI” – Kevin Kelly.
Technology has picked up steam lately and is aggressively pushing borders beyond the realms of human imagination. Artificial intelligence is a much broader term which embraces automation (rule, intelligent), predictive analytics, sophisticated algorithms with heuristics and deep learning capabilities etc. Organizations that were in existence even before the pre-internet era like GE, major automakers including GM, Toyota etc. have streamlined their processes (take for ex. assembly line) manned by labors for operational efficiencies. The project managers also have executed the projects for a long time with these standard practices and methods. There were also lots of manual processes (repetitive) at enterprise level to fulfill the application needs (for ex. invoice, claims and tax processing if you take Finance domain). The applications that were developed in those days were also on legacy systems, too tightly coupled and made it difficult to remodel or keep pace with the evolution. With limited set of tools, it was virtually impossible for the project managers to derive insights from massive amount of data. The dawn of world wide web and access to internet coupled with mobile explosion defined the beginning of internet era or the inflection point. The organizations that were so lucky to be born in the early internet era (Amazon, Netflix) developed their business models around customers and data. The advent of open source tools and cloud further accelerated the development by slashing the costs and also freed the developers from typical top down approach. What important role does artificial intelligence play today especially in the area of project management?
Role of AI in Project Management Profession
AI and its application has wide range of benefits across all sectors. There is no doubt that the technology power behind the AI will overtake us and the fear of losing the battle is completely plausible by some of the brightest minds in the industry. It would never be a great surprise, if AI sneaks into your cube and potentially replace you from doing mundane work. Standish group’s chaos report claims that 52.7% of projects cost 189% of their original estimates.
PMI’s Talent Triangle
Technical Project Management, Strategic & Business Management and Leadership skills are three sides of talent triangle defined by PMI ®. Artificial Intelligent can aid project managers in all of these three sides for better efficiencies.
Artificial intelligent with digital management assistants like bots and various algorithms can play role in providing project or program level insights and recommendation to manage the activities. Project manager’s effort towards operational activities would be significantly reduced.
Business and Strategic
Project Managers also need to be visionaries and think strategically as the industry is changing rapidly based on the customer needs. Project managers should align themselves with the values that they can bring to the organization through the project success. Artificial Intelligence can greatly help project managers in predicting market trends and provide various business models depending on the needs of the project.
Leadership skills are critical to project managers when managing stakeholders in the project as well as motivating the team members. These skills have profound influence and impact on the project outcomes and can be supplemented with AI tools for maximizing benefits.
Managing a project well takes more than just making astounding plan in advance and running through to it. Interdependencies within the project and external changes could make outcomes erratic. Estimates and forecasts are at best perception; at worst, guestimates. Modern management techniques such as agile and continuous delivery target to reduce unlikelihood by working incrementally, but that still doesn’t promise final delivery. Project managers now have machine learning algorithms at their disposal that can help in predicting the outcomes of projects using data the projects already have, such as the planned start and end dates of various phases of the project to learn the completion rate of the team and predict the likelihood of schedule delay or completion. The fine-tuned and tailored algorithms can be integrated to any application life cycle management tools to predict confidence of task estimates and the likelihood of completion.
Artificial intelligence can help project managers greatly in maximizing the value to the clients by optimizing the effort there by maximizing project success. It can also help the team members in freeing up from repetitive operational (mundane) tasks. With the help of AI tools project managers would be able to work towards accomplishing project goals, improve quality, optimize cost, align seamlessly with multiple stakeholders and their expectations. As Elon Musk rightly put “Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in the AI Age”.
It took more than sixty years for artificial intelligence to gain popularity and make itself omnipresent, but now that it’s here, it’s here to stay. Gartner also predicts that by 2020, artificial intelligence will actually create more jobs than it eliminates. “Cognification” will lead to change of job roles, rather than their eradication. It’s also a curious thought to see what AI can bring about in upcoming decades and what it will leave humans with. Project management is one of the professions that has dramatically improvised over years. Project management has become highly efficient with the usage of tools and technology and has no doubt that the workplaces have become quite productive. It’s high time that project managers replace their day to day manual project management tactics and techniques with smarter ones driven by technology and intelligence.