How to prepare your Project Management Office for AI

Your guide to building a future-proof PMO ready for the on-coming AI revolution.

The question of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in project management has become much less a question of ‘if’ and much more of ‘when’. As a result, organisations and the PMO should not wait for the coming change. AI offers businesses a multitude of benefits if they are able to harness it early enough. 

To help you better future-proof your organisations, we’ve put together a guide to help your PMO be best prepared for an AI-filled future.

How is AI changing 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. 

The top 8 ways AI will change project management:

  1. Optimized virtual assistants
  2. Enhanced predictive analysis
  3. Intuitive resource management
  4. Accurate risk management
  5. Precise cost management
  6. Improved data-based decision making
  7. Extensive error reduction
  8. Improved efficiency and productivity

Make sure to read in more detail all about how AI will change these areas of project management here.

AI will change the roles of project managers and the PMO

For some, AI may sound like doomsday for their jobs. But AI does not mean that project managers and PMOs lose their value, it simply means a shifting of roles.

The role of project managers will shift from simply being a ‘manager’ to being a capable ‘leader’ who can best integrate AI capabilities and tools into their project practices, giving teams the ability to focus on more soft skill activities such as ideation, communication, problem-solving and more. As a result of these changes, the most desired skills for project managers will also begin to shift towards both data and human-centric skills.

The same can be said for the PMO as 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. 

So how do you do this? Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the key challenges and key change opportunities for future-proof project managers and PMOs.

How to be an AI-savvy project manager 

As mentioned, the priority of project managers will be less on simply keeping track and managing activities within the project and will involve active leadership and creative thinking to create the most efficient and effective processes that are able to bring out 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 often have a very unrealistic understanding of the real capabilities of AI. Though AIs potential is seemingly boundless, its present state and application are nowhere near the all-seeing, all-knowing levels we might see in TV shows. AI solutions are only as good as the data and the brains behind the framework and as of right now they require a lot of time, effort and talent that is not readily available in the market. 

Before jumping on the AI train, make sure to take time to properly study what AI can do for your processes right now and what developments are being made. With the right expectations, you can prepare yourself and your team to make the most of what is available while also preparing for the future.

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 pioneering forefront of AI. The problem is that a genuine understanding is not readily accessible to all and requires some digging and in-depth learning to truly grasp.

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 it may be heavy on time and effort.

Legal, regulatory and ethical implications of AI

The realm of AI is constantly evolving but that does not mean it does not pose its dangers. Even if you manage to learn the nitty-gritty of AI and are able to build some amazing models that help take your data analysis to the next level, if they do not seriously consider legal, regulatory and ethical compliances, they could put the whole project and organisation at risk. 

As AI continues to grow, many grey areas surround how it can or should be used. This added layer of vagueness and complexity could be a massive deterrent for project managers who are thinking of seriously looking into AI.

Key Skills Opportunities for AI-savvy Project Managers

Just because there are challenges, it does not mean you should scrap AI altogether. A lot of these challenges stem from a lack of knowledge and skills. We’ve trawled through the research to bring you the top three skills professionals believe will be the most in-demand for project managers in the near-AI-future.

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 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 and it is nowhere as easy as the movies make them out to be.

However, we all can’t start from scratch and grab a degree in data science. But don’t worry, there are plenty of tools and resources readily available to help upskill yourself from university courses, academic research, to professional certificates

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 at an elementary level, can help you bring the most out of the innovations for your team and projects.

Data-driven decision making

This may sound like a no-brainer even in a non-AI context, but you’ll 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 now turning that data into meaningful insight.

To excel here, 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 big data to give you intuitive, easy to understand visualizations of your organisation. Some popular tools in this space include the Microsoft Power BI platform. Data analytics helps you gain the ‘why’ behind your eventual decisions. Pairing these two together makes you an effective manager that can gather the right data and make the most informed decisions to achieve greater security and assurance for project success.

Soft skills

The future is not just about data! A report by PMI reported that the most sought after new skill for organisations are soft skills, with four out of five respondents believing that soft skills are more important today than five years ago. With a majority of the technical tasks supported by AI, project managers can focus on more soft-skill activities such as communication, team-building, ideation and problem-solving. With this shift, project managers can put more of their efforts into creating, gathering and executing out-of-the-box ideas and building up critical innovation frameworks that better prepare your organisation for an increasingly fast-paced future.

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 the key task of a future-proof organisation. 

Unfortunately, AI is a complex and somewhat elusive topic and 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 the entire organisation. However, a slow and inflexible process threatens to not only delay the much-needed transformation but threatens 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 for there to be effective buy-in from both leadership and employees. Slow and inflexible processes that do not actively consider employee input threaten to undermine the entire initiative. Any further 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 create them. Without the proper knowledge or training, the quality of the data input and, by extension, its outcomes will be significantly impacted. The reality is that while demand for project managers and professionals with AI and data science skills is sky-high, the supply is scarce – making the entire endeavour a highly costly and potentially risky endeavour. 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 expected transformations AI integration will bring. For many, patched updates and reconfigurations may have sufficed for the past few years but the inevitability of AI and its sweeping changes is challenging that approach. Even still, many still see shifting to entirely new systems as too costly of an investment. Digital transformation is 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 makes for the best ground for future digital developments to flourish and grow. Investing early in skills and training development could mean the difference between your organisation being a future pioneer or sinking behind the wave of change. Depending on the organisation’s digital transformation strategy, preparing for an AI future can involve the upskilling and training of current staff, expansion of the team with specific skills for digital transformation or a mixture of both. 

Most PMOs will mainly be integrating 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 enable employees to practically and efficiently use the 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. Microsoft 365 is one of the most used systems in organisations yet many are failing to bring out its full capabilities such as diagnostic reporting with Power BI or automated 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 be more about changing skills and processes, it will be about building a culture that not only adapts to AI, but allows it to thrive. Sadly, many employees may not be as enthusiastic as you may think, with surveys showing 38% of respondents worried they could lose their jobs to automation. At the same time, 73% of respondents believed that technology could ever truly replace the human mind. Bridging this gap and giving employees and leaders the confidence to move into an AI future is one of the core tasks of the PMO. New tools mean new processes and not everyone is keen on change.

It is the task of the PMO to ease this process and reduce resistance to change by communicating, collaborating and adapting to employees’ responses and feedback. Just communicating the benefits of AI on an organisational scale is not enough. People need to know how pursuing this change will benefit them on a personal level to allow them to become personally invested in the ensuing initiatives that come with it. 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, picking the right tools may not be so straightforward. There are plenty of software and tools with multitudes of AI features they claim will help your organisation. 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 any other PPM tool or software, make sure you take the right steps to pick the right AI tool for you.

Here are 5 steps to take 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 disrupt 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.

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