3 April, 2023

How AI Knowledge will Help Your Project Management Career

By Mike Clayton


2023 is the Year of Artificial Intelligence in Project Management at OnlinePMCourses, so let’s review how AI knowledge will help your Project Management career.

I asked the now well-known Artificial Intelligence tool, ChatGPT, for ten titles I could use for this article:

Prompt: ‘Suggest 10 ideas for the title of a blog article about artificial intelligence and project management’

  1. “AI in Project Management: How to Stay Ahead of the Game”
  2. “Revolutionizing Project Management with Artificial Intelligence”
  3. “AI-Powered Project Management: The Future of Work”
  4. “Maximizing Efficiency and Productivity with AI in Project Management”
  5. “AI and Project Management: A Match Made in Heaven”
  6. “Project Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”
  7. “AI-Assisted Project Management: The Benefits and Challenges”
  8. “Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Better Project Management”
  9. “How AI is Changing the Landscape of Project Management”
  10. “AI for Predictive Project Management: Unlocking the Potential”

So, clearly, simple AI tools can give you a tactical edge, saving time and giving you ideas. But, equally clearly, the answers AI gives can only (as of March 2023) offer a starting place.

Here’s What We’ll Cover…

How AI Knowledge will Help Your Project Management Career

Anyway, in this survey, I want to help you kick-start your understanding of Artificial Intelligence, its role in Project Management, how that can impact your Project Management career, and what you should be doing next.

So, we will look at:

For More Valuable Information…

Artificial Intelligence & Project Management Professional Briefing

Artificial Intelligence & Project Management Professional Briefing

For just $27 (plus local taxes) you will get:

  • Fully edited Artificial Intelligence and Project Management video webinar
  • Decode the Jargon Glossary of 60 critical AI terms
  • Reading and Viewing Lists
  • Checklists of questions to answer and things to do
  • Bonus PMTQ briefing
  • Early access to all my AI content (including expert interviews)
  • Contribute to and benefit from community discussion and recommendations

And… I will add extra content, from time to time.

So, this product will help you stay ahead of the curve, and get:

  • content ahead of publication on YouTube or my website
  • additional exclusive content

What is AI, and What can it Do?

In my eBook, Decode the Jargon of Artificial Intelligence, I define Artificial Intelligence as:

Systems or machines that are programmed to mimic aspects of human intelligence to perform tasks. Typically, AI systems can iteratively improve the way they operate, based on new data. AI systems interpret data and use that interpretation to direct useful action.

Decode the Jargon of Artificial Intelligence
Available as part of our AI & PM Professional Briefing

Definition of AI from Examples

A definition is useful, but the term Artificial Intelligence is so broad that it only makes sense to define it in terms of the range of applications it has and the spread of technologies it uses. AI is really a portfolio name for a cluster of technologies that offer, for example:

  • Product recommendations
  • Image generation
  • Text recognition
  • Trading decisions
  • Automation
  • Voice recognition
  • Text generation
  • Fraud detection
  • Translation
  • Query responses
  • Data synthesis
  • Biometric recognition
  • Search results
  • Data processing
  • Image recognition

Currently, AI’s applications in Project Management are focused (by its limitations) on ‘Hard Project Management’ capabilities, like resource planning, scheduling, and data analysis. Effective use of AI requires collaboration between people (of HI – Human Intelligence) and machines (AI). When this works well, we see what is known as The ‘Human-Machine Multiplier Effect’. And this is the foreseeable future: AI as a tool for more efficient working. It is a productivity aid.

There is a whole array of technical jargon around the world of AI. Included in our Artificial Intelligence & Project Management Professional Briefing’ is an eBook with a carefully curated set of 60 plain language definitions of AI jargon words: ‘Decode the Jargon of Artificial Intelligence’

Short Video answering the Question what is Artificial Intelligence?

AI and PM: What are the Points of Contact?

There are many ways that we can expect to see Artificial Intelligence in use in projects in the short to medium term. These derive from is generic capabilities. All of these have been demonstrated in a range of applications already. However, the extent and reliability of these capabilities can only grow and develop with further investment in research and development.

Current capabilities of Artificial Intelligence include:

  • Decision-making support (recommendations)
  • Chatbots to aid with online tasks
  • Natural language interpretation and translation
  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Transcription from spoken words (used, for example in dictation and meeting transcription)
  • Virtual testing
  • Data summary and text generation (think of ChatGPT, for example)
  • Task automation

Likely future uses of Artificial Intelligence in Project Management

From these, we can extrapolate to a likely future uses of Artificial Intelligence in Project Management. These might include:

  • Forecasting and prediction, based on historic data
  • Scheduling and budgeting
  • Resource allocation and forecasting
  • Completing data sets by inferring missing data
  • Scenario analysis
  • Report preparation
  • Risk evaluation
  • Knowledge Management
  • Portfolio prioritization and optimization
  • Expert systems providing checklists and procedures
  • Process automation
  • Realtime translation services
  • Document translation

All of this, and more, will have a profound impact on the world of work in general and on the project environment in particular. In 2019, Oxford Economics wrote a report forecasting that, by 2030, AI could replace up to 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide. And Gartner and PwC have estimated that, by that date, up to 80% of Project Management roles will be eliminated.

How will AI Support and Transform the Work of Project Managers?

It is possible to envisage a world where Artificial Intelligence is a part of every project. Before we look at how you need to prepare for this, let’s consider the organizational benefits that AI could bring, to create a more robust project infrastructure. We can view many of these as both a threat and a benefit to the human Project Management teams.

The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence to Project Management

Artificial Intelligence could benefit our project deliver through:

Higher Levels of Compliance

If we ‘program compliance in’, the AI software will simply create compliant outputs

Productivity

AI tools simply do not get tired or make mistakes. They can operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. And it’s possible to envisage that machine learning will continuously test alternate procedures and select optimum ways to deliver efficient service. Like Sprint Reviews, but on an iteration cycle of seconds, rather than weeks!

Resource Utilization

Where a project needs human, asset, and consumable resources, the AI systems can optimize for total utilization and scheduling, drawing down a lower resource cost with minimal delays. And, where scheduling and cost constraints conflict, the software will find optima against the criteria we specify.

Planning

With a data set covering past projects and another with the requirements of this one, your Project AI will be able to propose one or more options for a project schedule and budget. And, with its access to historic data, it will be able to offer a robust risk assessment and confidence levels against both schedule and budget. Indeed, the toughest part of a Monte Carlo simulation is putting ranges and probabilities to each estimate. But the AI will have us covered on that.

Problem-Solving

In exploring alternate approaches, AI will not tire until it covers the whole space of options. And it will have an encyclopedic record of past ideas to draw upon. To the extent that human creativity is about transformative combinations of existing knowledge and ideas, AI can emulate that creativity.

Decision-Making

AI can already sift vast data sets to present optimum conclusions. Whilst we may choose to (or inadvertently) program bias into the routines, the process itself will be free from many of the human biases and decision-making traps. We’ll get more rigor in our decisions, to the benefit of project governance.

Communication

Translation, transcription, text to speech. These can all enhance communication by offering choice. And, maybe, there will be a time soon when we can speak in real-time to a colleague where we do not share a common language. Welcome to the Universal Translator of Star Tek or the Babelfish of the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Reporting

Linked to both communication and governance, AI tools can already synthesize data into natural language text. So, it won’t be long before your Project AI prints off your monthly project report, with tables, graphs, text, and an executive summary, with no need for human intervention. Want more detail to the analysis on page 6? Just ask. Need a version in Telugu, for the client’s manager in Visakhapatnam? No problem.

Time

If you are not spending as much time on compliance, planning, problem-solving, decision-making, and reporting, this frees up a lot of time. And that means you can spend it on the things your AI won’t be able to do (or, at lest, not for a while). I would split this into two parts:

  • People
    Team management and leadership, developing people, and relationship building with your stakeholder. And… working the all-important political networks within the organization.
  • Strategy
    Thinking ahead about the big issues and business priorities that your projects touch upon. And, of course, your personal career strategy too!

The Issues Surrounding Adoption of Artificial intelligence into Project Management

All this is good. But it does seem likely to me that there are some issues we will need to contend with:

  • Societal Issues
  • Ethical Issues
  • Adoption Issues
  • Consequences for Professional Development

Societal Issues

Artificial Intelligence poses a lot of issues for society. Among the biggest are:

  • Accountability
    Can we understand and audit AI decisions that can impact people’s lives? There is a real risk of a loss of human autonomy and agency as AI takes on more of our problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Who owns the Data and the AI software?
    I can foresee an increasing disparity between the ‘AI Haves’ and the ‘AI Have-nots’. This is one more arena where human equality will be eroded by new technology. Corporations could have access to data – and therefore to knowledge – that some nation states do not.
  • Dependancy
    We may be creating reliance on something we don’t fully understand. And that will compound is, over time, we start to lose some of the Human Intelligence capabilities we currently have.
  • AI can control certain tasks
    What if it gets things wrong? What is the legal framework that provides recourse to fix things and for recompense?

Ethical Issues

There are a lot of overlaps between social and ethical issues. But, towards the more pure ethics end of the spectrum, we will need to contend with issues of:

  • Surveillance, analysis, profiling, recording, and even predicting behaviors.
    The potential for pre-judging responses (also called prejudice) is enormously concerning
  • Machine learning is trained on data sets.
    Data in – Results out. Bias in the training data can lead to horrible consequences, with inbuilt bias in the outputs.
  • Who owns your data?
    It’s likely that you, your image your data, your intellectual property, and your artistic interpretations can become part of the data sets from which AI both learns and makes predictions. What control can you have? And…
  • What about the copyright?
    If the AI exploits something that is, ethically yours, do you have a claim (or a liability)? There are already test cases before the courts in London and California.

Adoption Issues

Adoption of Artificial Intelligence by the Project Management profession, and adoption by enterprises is hampered by:

  • Lack of training and knowledge
    We are in the early days and few organizations have access to the courses, trainers, and ideas to train their teams. Under societal issues, I referred to the haves and have-nots. This is another case, where large corporations and niche specialists can offer training that other organizations cannot.
  • Tight budgets
    In early 2023, most countries and therefore their companies and governmental bodies are struggling against troubling economic conditions. Yet, AI will need a lot of investment. This is not least because we’ll need to invest in a portfolio of initiatives to be confident that some mature into value-generating assets.
  • And finally, because we are at the start, there is a poor evidence base and assessment methodology for constructing compelling Business Cases for AI investments.

Consequences for Professional Development

So what does this all mean for us? In the early days, I think AI represents a huge opportunity to those project managers who invest their time in learning about Artificial Intelligence. There are two principal ways you will be valued, if you do. Organizations need both:

  1. Project Managers who are able to implement, develop, and make effective use of AI technology to make their projects more effective, efficient, and transparent in delivering value.
  2. Project Managers who can lead AI implementation projects to successful delivery. Increasingly, this will also mean they will value project leaders who can take charge of AI-enabled transformation programs.

Becoming either of these will create a space for you in an engaging and high-value career niche.

But…

When AI starts to take over the roles of junior project team members, like project controllers and the more administrative members of PMO teams, I foresee difficulties.

I don’t really believe that, in the medium term at least, we will see a reducing need for senior project professionals. Arguably, the opposite is true.

But, I do see a reduced need for more junior project professionals. And that’s a problem. Because, where do we learn our craft? In junior roles. What I don’t yet have an answer to is ‘what will be the new junior roles that enable the Project Managers of the future to learn and gain experience?’

How can You Prepare Yourself for the Opportunities AI Offers?

You need to prepare. Luckily, reading this article is a start, so you already have some momentum behind you. Great.

I suggest four things to focus on.

  1. Embrace AI as the opportunity it represents
    There will be no bigger career opportunities for project managers in the 2020s. Back in 1996, I embraced the opportunity that ‘Year 2000’ offered to Project Managers. And it transformed my career, building it from a mid-tier functional PM to a role leading massive programs.
  2. Get yourself some basic training and keep yourself updated on developments
    I will be creating what resources I can to keep you briefed. But those will only ever be a starter. So, I shall be looking out for other resources I can recommend to you. Your career, your life, your responsibility.
  3. Get involved in discussions
    There are a lot of questions we need to answer as individual professionals and as a wider profession. The profession needs to do things like setting up forums and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in our professional bodies, and extend our bodies of knowledge. We need to think about how this will affect careers and career expectations, and craft a syllabus and training. My Artificial Intelligence & Project Management Professional Briefing has:
    1. 12 questions you need to ask yourself
    2. 12 things the PM profession needs to do
    3. 13 things organizations need to do
  4. Improve your PMTQ: Project Management Technology Quotient.
    PMI coined the term PMTQ a few years back. Take a look at our video, What is PMTQ – Project Management Technology Quotient? And our in-depth article about PMI’s report, PMTQ: PMI’s Vision for the Future of Project Management

For More Valuable Information…

Artificial Intelligence & Project Management Professional Briefing

Artificial Intelligence & Project Management Professional Briefing

For just $27 (plus local taxes) you will get:

  • Fully edited Artificial Intelligence and Project Management video webinar
  • Decode the Jargon Glossary of 60 critical AI terms
  • Reading and Viewing Lists
  • Checklists of questions to answer and things to do
  • Bonus PMTQ briefing
  • Early access to all my AI content (including expert interviews)
  • Contribute to and benefit from community discussion and recommendations

And… I will add extra content, from time to time.

So, this product will help you stay ahead of the curve, and get:

  • content ahead of publication on YouTube or my website
  • additional exclusive content

My Assessment of Artificial Intelligence and Project Management

I will close this article with my own personal assessment of AI in Project Management.

Short-term

  1. Project Managers need to know about AI
    Its day-to-day influence on our jobs is still largely low-key. Much of it is through AI components of familiar ‘standard’ software applications. But it won’t remain that way for long. And the projects we’ll be asked to deliver will, increasingly have AI components or be entirely about AI-enabled transformations.
  2. AI may not replace Project Managers, but…
    It may replace many members of our teams. The big job impact is likely to fall on project admin roles: Project Officers, Coordinators, and Controllers. Many of these roles may be eliminated in the medium term. How will that impact career development and learning opportunities? I don’t know.
  3. Things are developing fast
    The medium term is only 3 to 5 years away. The long-term is likely to be 10 to 15 years away at most. I doubt the early 2030s will look much like today!

Longer-term

  1. The long term is likely to see high HI-AI collaboration
    AI will be able to interpret human responses and we will increasingly grant it authority to act autonomously in a growing range of circumstances. The project collaboration of the future will be between Human and Artificial Intelligence.
  2. There is no currently foreseeable future in which AI is a dominant partner that will own the Project Management space.
    I do not see AI taking over the project leadership role of human Project Managers. But I do expect that AI and HI will ‘share ownership’ of the Project Management space.
  3. As AI becomes more capable, the question of trust will grow more important
    We are unlikely to question the credibility and reliability of AI, as we get used to its capabilities. But can AI ever gain the full trust of Human Intelligence (us)? Or will we increasingly question the value of human relationships in trust? Or maybe we will even start to question the motives of our AI colleagues?

What are Your Thoughts about Artificial Intelligence and Project Management?

Please do comment below. I shall be delighted to respond to any contributions.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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