AI is transforming project management and is changing how PMs operate on three levels: automation, assistance and augmentation.
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“58% of respondents in a PMI Customer Experience (CX) survey believe AI will have a major or transformative impact on the profession, and 91% believe it will have at least a moderate impact.” PMI1
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way all businesses operate, and as a number of surveys conducted by the PMI show, this is as true for project management as it is for every other sector. But before delving into those PMI findings, let’s begin by clarifying some of the terminology used.
AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Generative AI
AI allows machines to mimic human behaviour by using large data to perceive, learn, reason and make decisions. Machine Learning is a subset of AI, or, if you like, the next step. It enables machines to learn from the results they get from the instructions they’re given, but without any extra input from humans.
Deep Learning is the next step after that, and is a subset of ML. This allows machines to trawl vast quantities of data and identify patterns in the neural networks that connect them.
While generative AI is a subset of DL, and uses all of the above to create new content that resembles content made by humans, in the form of text, images or music. ChatGPT, which is a Large Language Model, is probably the most famous recent example of what generative AI is capable of producing.
AI in the World
AI is transforming all manner of processes. It’s what makes possible virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, autonomous vehicles, facial recognition and is used for large quantities of content creation across social media platforms.
Similarly, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) has propelled many businesses to re-imagine how they operate, with the creation of smart factories connected by their digital thread. Self-driving vehicles, drones, robots and cobots can count, catalogue and monitor, and sort, pack and deliver. While analytics everywhere, 3D printing and digital twins are transforming the factory floor and the manufacturing industry.
AI and Project Management: 3 Levels
When it comes to project management, AI is, and is going to continue to impact how project managers work on three different levels:
Level 1: Automation
The general rule of thumb is, the greater the complexity, the more that humans will need to intervene to more precisely direct and monitor what the AI produces. So the first and most basic level is automation, with requires no human involvement at all.
The two things that AI does best are quantity and speed. It quickly and logically analyses large and even enormous groups of documents and statistics, that have been compiled using multiple formats and data sets, to instantly generate reports, perform calculations and summarize meetings.
This saves PMs time and gives them insights from what would otherwise have been unstructured and, very probably, un-used data. Freeing up time that can be used more productively and profitably.
Level 2: Assistance
You can use AI to do the groundwork needed for more complex operations and tasks, to compliment the analysis that you and the team bring to the project. You could, for instance, task it with performing the data analysis needed for the first draft of a scope change recommendation, a cost benefit analysis, a schedule plan or a risk analysis.
You and your team would then need to go over what it produces to check for errors and omissions, because there will be things that it misses or gets wrong. But a huge amount of the donkey work will have been performed for you. And you will inevitably glean any number of insights that would otherwise have been missed. This will allow you to take mitigating actions, which will reduce risk and create efficiencies.
Level 3: Augmentation
The most complex level is augmentation, where you task the AI with performing a deep dive into all the available data to analyze your project history, to help with project planning, prioritization and optimization.
This will help you to see the strategic implications of previous decisions that were made and the outcomes that resulted. Which will help you to communicate more effectively with senior management, and to coordinate your activities more efficiently.
These insights, and the further analysis that you can then task the tool to preform, can help you identify targets and construct business cases for proposed projects. Which will provide you with invaluable support around complex decision-making, and will help you to successfully coordinate with a wide range of connected stakeholders.
But all this will need careful monitoring and oversight from you and your team. Because, although the vast majority of what the tool will come up with will be extremely useful, buried within all of its insights will be a handful of potentially disastrous errors. Which, if they’re not corrected and weeded out, could prove extremely costly.
So the experience that you and your senior managers bring to whatever the task is will be crucial.
An Exciting Opportunity
Wherever you are in your journey to incorporate AI into your project management practices, the most important thing is to avoid getting left behind. AI isn’t a threat, it’s an exciting opportunity. The best precedent to look to is chess.
When a computer beat world champion Garry Kasparov in the 1990s, many warned that this marked the end of chess. But in the decades since, chess, and especially online chess, has exploded and is booming, precisely because of the way that AI and chess engines are being used. Everyone’s using them, from beginners to grand masters. And the better you get at using AI, the better you get at chess.
Project management, like everything else, is going down the same path. The better you are able to make use of AI, the better equipped you’ll be to benefit from this new world.
Cora and AI
The AI-enabled Cora Assistant is already proving extremely popular with all our existing customers, who are using its predictive insights to significantly improve onboarding and up-skilling, thanks to a wide range of customized content and product videos.
While we have recently partnered with Queen’s University, Belfast to further research how generative AI can contribute to our AI roadmap. We also have a full-time data scientist working on the investigation and implementation of contract management and natural language processing during portfolio execution.
And we will soon be releasing our AI-assisted Risk Assessment tool, which will help PMs to gain a better understanding of the uncertainty and variability associated with their project schedules.
Find out more about Cora’s industry-leading PPM software.