How Artificial Intelligence affects Project Management

The International Project Management Association (IPMA), together with PwC in Romania, has conducted a study on Artificial Intelligence and its impact on project management. The publication contains some interesting findings, which will be summarized here.

The results of the survey show that most organizations have a long way to go and apply AI. The adoption of Artificial Intelligence seems still in its early stages – only 23% of the respondents have own experience in using AI and embracing the change. Yet, more than 90% of the PM professionals are excited and interested in applying AI in projects and project management. They feel empowered through the application of Artificial Intelligence, which is in my eyes an interesting observation as one could imagine the exact opposite. Only a minority of respondents is concerned.

A majority of the respondents (56%) stated the fact that they know about the digital transformation strategy within their current organisations and that it deals with the adoption of Artificial Intelligence. However, only 4% are currently using at large scale AI technologies. Around 65% have either a plan to implement AI in the next 3 to 6 months or are already stated this journey with three main type of solutions being mostly testes or used in equal proportions: Predictive Analytics Tools, Chat Bots (Digital Assistants) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

In terms of decision level nearly half of the respondents are seeing the Executives as the right level of decision making, followed by 19% which consider the project or programme governance level as the right decision body. Functional levels were selected by 14% respectively and only 13% consider the project team as the proper level for implementation decisions.

In terms of utilizing Artificial Intelligence technologies, the ones with the highest potentials of improving the project management practice and project delivery, the first three technologies ranked with high or highest potential are machine learning (78%), diagnosis (76%) and deep learning (74%). An interesting fact was the high percentage received by Blockchain and Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) technologies which scores were the highest with over 18% of low or no potential for improving PM practice.

Two thirds of the respondents stated that they are currently considering time as the main project management processes with the highest potential for AI process automation, followed by quality (56%) and change & transformation. Other AI solutions mentioned by the participant as having high potential for project management practices were related to augmented analytics and drones, i.e. taking a photo of a project site could be processed automatically, addressing several project management processes including but not limited to planning, controlling and quality assurance.

The application of AI has also barriers: talent gap is one of them. Perhaps it is not surprising the fact that the that companies are competing for specialized skills when sourcing projects with the right people. Over 56% of respondents highlighted the experience in using basing functionalities of Artificial Intelligence and basic digital skills as key requirements in the process of AI adoption for project activities. Digitization is core. In the same time, IT skills are not sufficient. Complementary skills are necessary, including  analytical, creative and strategic thinking, alongside with skills in problem solving and learning skills.

Three drivers are considered as important or very important for adopting AI in the field of project management. Key drivers are certainly the availability of AI driven systems within the organization, the available experience and stakeholder’s demand for innovation and value. Increased productivity, decision making and overall performance within project management are among the key benefits of adopting AI technologies in projects.

The change most frequently indicated by PM-related professionals and the respondents working in organization using AI was People flexibility and Responsiveness (approximately 58% and 55%). The TOP 3 future roles were business analysts for interpreting AI results, AI software developers and data scientists. Project managers will not be replaced by AI, yet they benefit from getting more time for complex managerial tasks and leading project teams and spare time on routine managerial tasks.

Some respondents summarized the developments in the following statements: “They [projects as smart workspaces] will play a very central role in every company. Artificial Intelligence won’t replace workforce, it will make the new workspaces more efficient and more strategy-oriented”; “Project components will become more and more standardized and componentized, and the project path will become easier to predict and control” and “It is clear that most organizational work is become project-based work. Routine operations are a prime target for automation.”

Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Management Consulting

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