With the release of ChatGPT at the end of 2022, the world is using AI more than ever before. As these AI tools become more capable and intelligent, those in the project management will be able to utilise these tools for our advantage. So, here’s your handy guide on how to prepare your PMO for AI, so you can take full advantage of it’s capabilities.  

How AI will change the project management space

According to Gartner, AI will eliminate 80% of the current tasks completed in the project management discipline ranging from data collection, tracking, reporting, and much more. The predictive analytics, machine learning and pattern identifying capabilities of AI will bring massive efficiencies and improvements to a majority of key tasks in project management. 

At pmo365, we are already using AI in our project management activitiesTo learn more about AI in Project Management, check out our blogs on:

AI will change the roles of project managers and the PMO

AI does not mean that project managers and PMOs lose their value. Instead, it simply means a shift in roles.

The role of project managers will shift from being a ‘manager’ to being a ‘leader’ who integrates AI into project practices. This will change the focus of teams to soft skill activities such as ideation, communication, problem-solving, and more. As a result, the desired skills of project managers will also begin to shift to data and human-centric skills.

The same can be said for the PMO. They too will have to shift their approach towards developing training, cultures, tools, and processes within the organisation that best prepare everyone in the organisation to reap the benefits of AI. 

How to be an AI-savvy project manager 

As mentioned, the priority of project managers will involve active leadership and creative thinking to create processes that will utilise the full capacity of AI. But adapting to AI is not an easy process.

Key challenges of AI for project managers

Not understanding the full capabilities of AI

Due to all the tech hype and pop culture references, we can gain an unrealistic understanding of the capabilities of AI. Though AIs potential is seemingly boundless, its present state and applications aren’t the all-seeing, all-knowing capabilities we might see in media. AI solutions are only as good as the data and people behind its framework. As of right now, they require a lot of time, effort, and talent that is not readily available in the market. 

So, take the time to learn how AI could optimise your current processes, and what AI developments could optimise processes in the future. With accurate expectations, you can prepare yourself and your team to utilise AI now and in coming days.

Skills and knowledge barrier

Sadly, there’s no university degree or certificate for project management with AI. Only a small portion of highly skilled data engineers, data scientists and infrastructure engineers are at the forefront of AI. This causes a disconnect between the capabilities of AI, and the public’s understanding and abilities to use AI.

Most project managers depend on their PPM platforms or software to integrate AI tools and processes for them. But for those who want to truly get ahead of the game, gaining this knowledge and implementing is essential, even though it may require time and effort.

Legal, regulatory and ethical implications of AI

The realm of AI is constantly evolving, as do its dangers. Before you implement AI into your organisation, you’ll need to consider what relevant legal, regulatory and ethical standards you need to comply with. If you don’t, you could inadvertently put the whole project and organisation at risk. Take the time to dig into the nitty-gritty of what legal and ethical issues the AI you use could pose, and if you can still use this AI type as a result.

Key Skills Opportunities for AI-savvy Project Managers

Just because there are challenges, it doesn’t mean you should scrap AI altogether. A lot of these challenges come from a lack of knowledge and skills. So, we’ve read through research on AI in project management to bring you the top three skills which will be the most in-demand.

A good place to start is the McKinsey Global Institute report , Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce. It suggests that AI and automation will accelerate the shift in skills in the workforce, where technological skills, higher cognitive or decision making skills, and ‘soft skills’ will be valued (see image below).

Data Science

With everyone trying to get their foot through the metaphorical ‘AI door’, there is likely to be a spike in demand for AI, analytics, and data science-savvy project managers. Essentially, that means any project manager that can fully implement and execute new AI-based products. The reality is that the success of AI projects is still dependent on the knowledge and talent of its creators.

While we all can’t get a degree in data science, there are plenty of tools and resources readily available to help upskill yourself. Have a look at these university courses, academic research, and professional certificates to get a headstart.

Even if you are not thinking of pioneering AI or data science projects specifically, AI will become increasingly integrated into your project management software and tools. Having this prior knowledge, even on an elementary level, can help you bring the most out of the innovations for your team and projects.

Data-driven decision making

You’d be surprised by how many project managers still rely on patched guesswork to make their decisions. With machine learning and AI handling the large chunk of data processing, the biggest challenge is turning that data into meaningful insight.

To excel, project managers will need a good grasp of business intelligence and business analytics. Business intelligence is the combination of software and processes that help gather, store, and analyse large quantities of data. The aim of business intelligence programs is to give you intuitive, comprehensible visuals of data. Some popular tools in this space include the Microsoft Power BI platform. Data analytics helps you gain the ‘why’ behind your eventual decisions. You become an effective manager if you gather the right data and make informed decisions from this data, as you achieve greater security and assurance for project success.

Soft skills

The future is not just about data! A report by PMI suggested that the most sought after new skill for organisations are soft skills. Four out of five respondents in this report believing that soft skills are more important today than five years ago. As more technical tasks become supported by AI, project managers can focus on soft-skill activities such as communication, team-building, ideation, and problem-solving. This means project managers will developed soft-skills will become increasingly valued.

Sadly, unlike technical skills, there is no one-hit course that can certify your soft skills. While courses can definitely help build certain skills, practice and experience are important elements that take time. But that does not mean you build your soft skills blindly. Make sure to download our free guide to help you get started on building up your soft skills for an AI future.

How to be an AI-savvy Project Management Office

The PMO will play a critical role in the effective integration of AI-based processes and tools into the organisation’s structure. This process is a key task of any future-proof organisation. 

Unfortunately, AI is a complex and somewhat elusive topic. So, there is no clear consensus on how to integrate it properly. Just as every PMO is unique, every AI digital transformation strategy will be unique as well. To help you craft your strategy, we highlight the key challenges and opportunities areas that come with integrating AI into the PMO.

Key Challenges of AI for the Project Management Office

Research from PwC shows that the top three barriers to transformation initiatives in organisations are:

  • Inflexible processes,
  • Lack of skilled teams, and
  • Outdated technologies.

Inflexible or Slow Processes

Digital transformation is no clear-cut process. It involves changing attitudes, cultures, practices, and technologies across an entire organisation. However, a slow and inflexible process threatens to delay the transformation initiative, and threaten the effectiveness of projects in the present. A survey found that in 2018, project professionals believed poor change management was the primary cause of project failure in the past 12 months.

With any PMO initiative, it is best to achieve results early on so there is effective buy-in from both leadership and employees. Slow and inflexible processes that do not actively consider employee input can undermine the entire initiative. In addition, setbacks in the digital transformation towards AI could become extremely costly for organisations down the line.

Lack of skilled team members

As mentioned, present AI tools and technologies rely heavily on the input of project managers and the data engineers who created them. Without the proper knowledge or training, the quality of the data input and, by extension, its outcomes are significantly impacted. The reality is, while the demand for project managers and professionals with skills in AI and data science is sky-high, the supply is scarce – making the entire initiative highly costly and potentially risky. Gartner research shows that 80% of AI projects remain unscalable, and in the hands of the talented few. For some, the risk and barrier may be too high compared to its rewards.

Outdated technologies

Many organisations are running on legacy platforms that cannot handle the changes that an AI integration will bring. For many, patched updates and reconfigurations may have sufficed for the past few years. However, these patchy legacy systems won’t be able to support the inevitability of AI and its sweeping changes. Successful digital transformations are all about ease and speed, so outdated technologies pose a significant barrier to success.

Key Opportunity Points for PMOs

Skills, training, and development

A digitally savvy workforce creates the best foundation for future digital developments to flourish and grow. Investing in skills and training development early is what could stop your organisation sinking behind the wave of change. Depending on your organisation’s digital transformation strategy, you may upskill and train current staff, expand your teams with specific skills for digital transformation, or a mixture of both. 

Most PMOs will likely integrate AI tools into their processes, rather than building them from scratch. As a result, PMOs will have the strategic task of selecting and building the right methodologies, processes, and protocols that will enable employees to efficiently use new tools. There is no point in implementing a great new system if no one knows how to use it. 

You may not even have to wait for an entirely different system to get started on skills and training development. Many organisations fail to tap into the full capacity of their pre-existing platforms. Microsoft365 is one of the most used systems, yet many are failing to bring out its full capabilities such as diagnostic reporting with Power BI or automating processes with Power Automate. Make sure to have a chat with one of our experts to see if you are making the most out of your systems.

Organisational Culture

Adopting AI will rely on building a culture that both adapts and thrives on AI. Unfortunately, many organisations have the opposite culture, with surveys showing 38% of respondents worry they could lose their jobs to automation. One of the future core tasks of the PMO is encouraging employees and leaders to move into the AI future. New tools mean new processes, and of course, not everyone is ready to change.

It is the task of the PMO to reduce resistance to change by communicating, collaborating, and adapting to employees’ responses and feedback. It’s not enough to just communicate the benefits of AI on an organisational scale. People need to know how pursuing this change will benefit them on a personal level, and perhaps require the reassurance that using AI will allow them to become more successful, not replace them. Full-scale buy-in is the winning ingredient for successful digital transformation.

Tools and Processes

Preparing your organisation for an AI future often leads to a serious update or a complete overhaul of tools and processes. However, there are plenty of software and tools with multitudes of AI features. While they may be helpful to a certain degree, there’s no point in investing in high-end features if your organisation does not actually need them. Rather, too many features and overly drastic changes can instead confuse employees and lead to higher resistance to other digital transformation initiatives.

Like when selecting any other PPM tool or software, make sure you take these 5 steps before selecting your PPM tool for AI:

  1. Identify your organisation’s strategic goal
  2. Identify your organisation’s AI maturity and readiness
  3. Identify your key challenges (culture, technology, costs, etc.)
  4. Assess every feature and prioritize the ones your organisation genuinely needs
  5. Evaluate the overall tool’s return on investment

Keeping up with Artificial Intelligence

AI will only continue to shift and revolutionise the project management space. Keeping up and getting the most relevant information in the sea of news is getting harder and harder. Make sure to check out our blog for some more practical knowledge on how AI is relevant for your organisation.

Laith Adel
Laith Adel