AI Trend in Project Management

Artificial intelligence is a key project management trend.  It is having a tremendous effect on business and our lives. Look to your local bank or pharmacy to experience the impact of improved voice recognition software or see how certain ads follow you as you navigate the internet.

There is no reason to believe that project management will not be affected by artificial intelligence. Indeed, AI and machine learning are already in use in the field. As project managers, it is important to embrace new technologies.  We see that with tools such as Clickup, Polydone and Clarizen. Those tools represent a beginning of an AI revolution and promise to make a project manager more productive. However, to be successful, a project manager will still be required to understand the principles of project management. AI is helpful but it is not a substitute for project management knowledge.

Basics of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been defined as “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.”  It is also defined as “a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.” These definitions are fairly broad and bring to mind things like the Turing Test and I Robot. The Turing Test is named after the British cryptologist, Alan Turing. According to Turing, a machine may be considered truly intelligent if a person, interacting with the machine is incapable of telling the difference between the machine and a human. I Robot refers to a novel by Isaac Asimov in which he set forth the three laws of robotics. The artificial intelligence we see in our world is narrower.  Much of the AI being used in agile and planned project management software is “narrow AI” or “narrow artificial intelligence.” This type of artificial intelligence is exemplified by speech recognition and data mining software.

AI in Project Management

For project managers there are software tools that can identify issues, bugs and project backlogs. For example, Clickup helps project managers select project team members. These tools are helpful.  From an artificial intelligence standpoint, they are in their infancy.

What matters is the fact that more intelligent software is coming. And it will inevitably have an impact on project management. The following is a wish list of capabilities that we are likely to see in the near future. They will impact all facets of the profession from team creation to project close out. To fully exploit these technologies, a project manager must be well versed in the principles of traditional, planned, project management, agile and their hybrids.

AI Improves Project Software

Let’s start with team creation.  Even now, smart computer systems are able to identify potential team members based on skills, education, experience and availability. These systems make recommendations to the project manager for inclusion on a project team.  This allows the PM to by-pass the initial vetting and better identify potential project resources. Clickup has some, but not yet all, of these capabilities.

In the near future AI will be able to take a first crack at putting together project tasks.  It will incorporate them into an initial schedule and rank them in importance to the project. Polydone has some of these capabilities. Once the project is going, intelligent software will be able to warn project managers of upcoming deadlines.  AI could know where the project has or is in danger of slipping, allowing the project manager to take action before the project falls behind.

Then there’s risk. Intelligent software will be able to scan past projects and other sources to identify potential risks specific to the project. Intelligence systems will be able to look at risks related to location, type of project, and environment. AI would even be able to evaluate strategic risks resulting from changes that would render the project impossible or pointless to complete. All of these capabilities can probably be added to existing project management software platforms.

Other AI Solutions for Projects

To effectively exploit these new capabilities companies will have to create systems to capture and organize data so that it can be utilized by these new artificially intelligent systems.

For an artificially intelligent system to be able to help with team selection it will have to access human resource records describing employee competence and experience as well as performance evaluations.  They also will have to be able to hook into calendaring software which looks into a potential team member’s availability to serve on a team.

There are employee confidentiality issues that need to be worked through for this type of capability to be used by a project manager in team selection. Once identified, however, a potential team member will still need to be interviewed by the project manager to see if they are a good fit for the project team.

Modified Systems to Exploit AI

Data storage and access systems need to be put in place for intelligent software to assist with other aspects of project management. An easy one is the data relating to work and schedule on a particular project. Another is how the project is performing against that schedule.  With this data a project manager can identify trouble spots.  However, they still have to figure out why the project is delayed and how the problem could be fixed. The distinction between AI and human is issue spotting versus issue resolution. AI might be able to identify potential problems, but the project manager will still have to solve it.

A more complex issue is found for software designed to evaluate invoices against project performance.  Software could analyze performance (work completed and accepted) against invoices.  This assumes work progress is captured by the project team and incorporated into a software readable system. To make this happen, project, budgeting and accounting software will need the ability to talk to each other. Some of these systems could be diverse and may require new code to allow them to efficiently transfer data between them. AI enabled software can spot a disconnect between work performed versus billed. However, the project manage still needs to dig into the disconnect and negotiate a resolution with the vendor.

Risk Management and Artificial Intelligence

To identify, quantify and potentially manage risk, an intelligent tool must have access to historic documents relating to prior similar projects, unrelated projects in similar environments and information relating to the industry in which the project is being conducted. AI can identify risk and even describe how a risk may have been resolved in previous similar projects. The PM still needs to create risk management plans and budgets for mitigating and managing the risk.

Artificial Intelligence has tremendous potential for improving project management efficiency.  To realize that potential companies will need to ensure that their computer systems capture and format all data relating to its projects in a way that is usable by these new intelligent systems. This may not just be a software fix. Business processes may have to be modified as well.

Importance of Project Management Skills

It’s key for project managers to understand the information being provided by these intelligent systems and creating plans for using it. To do this, a project manager needs to be competent. They need training, experience and skill in project management. These are the so-called hard skills of the art and science of project management. Equally important are the soft skills such as leadership, communication and negotiation. A project manager also needs to have the ability to see the big picture to see where their project fits an organization’s overall goals.

At RMC Learning Solutions we have the products and classes necessary for you to enhance your project management skills. Consider a hybrid agile or project management fundamentals live, instructor-led classes. Feel free to contact us to find out more about RMC’s skills training.

Cate Curry
Latest posts by Cate Curry (see all)