5 Implications of Artificial Intelligence for Project Management
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer relegated to advanced IT and technology applications. AI has already begun making its way into more traditional settings to enhance or supplant tasks traditionally done by humans — including project managers.
What does that mean? What do project managers need to know to stay on the cutting edge of this emerging technology that has vast potential to impact the future of the profession?
- Organizations — and project managers — see an imminent impact from AI.
Over 80% of respondents to a recent PMI “Pulse of the Profession®” survey report that their organizations are seeing an impact from AI. Over the next three years, project professionals expect the proportion of projects they manage using AI to jump from 23% to 37%, according to PMI’s “AI Innovators: Cracking the Code on Project Performance.”
- AI-powered tools will take over administrative tasks for project managers.
AI-based tools can take over functions like meeting planning, reminders, day-to-day updates and other administrative tasks. This will free up project managers and team members to focus on higher-level, complex activities and planning.
According to a report from KPMG, “AI Transforming the Enterprise,” organizations who have invested in AI say they’ve seen, on average, a 15% improvement in productivity. In PMI’s “AI@Work” report, project leaders who are at the leading edge of AI and other technology frequently report that use of AI has cut the time they spend on activities like monitoring progress, managing documentation, and activity and resource planning.
- AI systems can help keep projects on schedule and on budget.
“We’ve not been terribly good at estimating how much projects will cost and how long they'll take,” said Tom Davenport, professor and author of ‘The AI Advantage: How to Put the Artificial Intelligence Revolution to Work.’ By using AI-powered data analysis that looks at data from past projects, we'll be able to predict, with a much higher degree of confidence, how much a project will cost and how long it will take,” he explained on an episode of the PMI Center Stage podcast.
- AI tools can analyze data from current and previous projects to provide insights.
Data analysis can do much more than estimate costs and schedules, however. Project managers will continue to steer projects through difficult decisions and unexpected obstacles, using AI for guidance and insights based on data.
“The real value of AI is in the algorithms that support decision making,” said Mohamed Hassan during a recent PMI webinar on AI Advances and Ethics. “AI will be an assistant to the project leader.”
Wanda Curlee echoed that sentiment in the webinar. “AI can bring forward important lessons learned to help project managers address risks and deliver better results,” she said.
- Project managers will increasingly be called upon to implement AI-focused projects.
Rolling out AI implementations will require project managers to lead those projects. Does that mean project managers need to be AI experts? Not necessarily, but they do need to understand that these aren’t typical IT projects.
AI projects require extensive experimentation, and it is difficult to set KPIs for them. As a result, “traditional project management practices seem to be of limited effectiveness when applied to DS (data science)/AI projects,” added Snehanshu Mitra, CEO, Center of Excellence, Data Science & AI at NASSCOM, India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies. NASSCOM is working with PMI to develop a playbook for project management in data science and artificial intelligence.
AI projects “call for high levels of innovation, creativity, speed and agility,” said Srini Srinivasan, Managing Director, PMI South Asia.
As organizations move full speed ahead to embrace AI and the advantages — as well as disruptions — it will bring, project managers need to be prepared to use AI to help run more traditional projects, and think differently in order to manage AI projects.
Go deeper on project management and AI through PMI’s Center Stage podcast and Podcast Club. Listen to Tom Davenport and the AI Advantage with host PMI CCO Joe Cahill, and watch Center Stage Podcast Club Explores AI: Advances & Ethics, with Mohamed Hassan and Wanda Curlee, hosted by Tammy Ashraf, PMI-ACP.
Digital Exclusive article developed for Project Management Institute, Inc. by staff content writer Jill Diffendal.