The Evolution of AI in Project Management

The AI revolution is coming and it is going to bring massive changes to project management. Gartner predicts that AI will take over 80% of project management activities by 2030. However, all this change won’t come crashing down in one sweep. AI in project management, just like any other monumental shift, will come in stages and it is organisations that are properly prepared for each iteration that will leverage the most from it.

So what will the oncoming AI  evolution in project management look like and how do you prepare your organisation for it?

What is AI? What is Project Management AI?

Before getting into the details, let’s cover the basics. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined by Gartner as the application of  ‘advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning, to interpret events, support and automate decisions, and take actions.’ They can take the form of machine learning, chatbots, artificial neural networks and more. 

Project Management AI is simply the system that incorporates AI technology and practices into the everyday management and activities of projects. It can come in the form of evolving softwares and tools that take advantage of AI, such as predictive analysis functions for risk management and intuitive chatbots. It can also encompass an evolution of practices and roles within project management itself to better leverage AI capabilities, such as the emphasis on data-based decision making and AI-integrated leadership. 

Make sure to read in more detail about the 8 key ways AI will change project management

No matter what form it takes, the goal of AI in project management is to assist project managers to work more efficiently, effectively and creatively. It aims to handle all the activities that require minimal human input so managers can focus on things that really matter.

But too often when we talk about AI in project management, we typically get either the doom dialogue or endless raving of its potential. Neither gives a truly accurate understanding of AIs real world capabilities and impact on the project management space. 

So here’s a little look into what the evolution of AI in project management looks like now and in the coming future.

Now: Limited project supporter

Early integrations of AI into project management will see it play a support role but to a limited capacity. Rather than being an almighty hand for all  projects from its inception, project management AI will focus on supporting specific teams and areas with low complexity tasks. This will allow for speedy and simplified integration, letting teams reap the benefits of AI in the here and now.

These capabilities are already open to us now. One of the most common forms of AI support in project management now is through AI chatbots. You’ve most likely come across a chatbox simply by scrolling through the internet and maybe you have even met our own handy PMO guide Lucy. But chatbots aren’t limited to customer service activities. They are being used across the spectrum from human resourcing to finance and accounting, marketing and more. 

Say goodbye to time wasted by project managers answering process-related questions or finding out details buried in files. Conversational AI chatbots take away those menial tasks and let project managers focus on more pressing tasks. 

PPM solutions are also making it easier than ever to set up and start your own AI chatbots such as Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service and Power Virtual Agents. You don’t have to wait to reap the benefits, so make sure to chat to our PPM experts to learn how we can integrate AI chatbots into your current project management processes.

Second stage: Upgraded project supporter

Overtime, AI will extend beyond its limited support role as they begin to better understand teams and projects. Though they started off as quick navigators and shortcut helpers, the capabilities of AI will extend much further, particularly in data collection, predictive analysis calculation and automation. 

In our increasingly fast-paced world, the pressure to keep up with all the moving parts of a project – from risk management to cost management, resource management, and more – is mounting and project managers can no longer keep up. With the help of historic data, machine learning and intuitive modeling, AI will significantly reduce the administrative burden of project managers. In fact, a study by Accenture revealed that frontline managers were using up to 54% of their time handling administrative tasks. AI is set to reduce that time to 25%.

What might this look like? For risk management, it could mean that risk modeling and analysis are in real-time, pulling accurately from multiple data sources so that every minute change across the project can be accounted and planned for. For resource management, it could be a real-time update of workloads and progress. If your teams work faster than expected, managers can be automatically notified to reallocate resources . 

Third stage:  Fully intuitive project advisor

In this stage, AI moves from being a passive supporter to an intuitive advisor. Collecting data and making calculations are highly valuable, but being able to give data-backed advice will take AI and project management to another level. 

Take the prior example of resource management. Instead of simply notifying managers, AI can automatically reassign resources to projects where they would be most needed and best utilized based on extensive calculations across an entire portfolio. As data collection improves, AI will have more metadata and knowledge to make accurate and suitable decisions. And this isn’t our own farfetched ideal. Surveys show that 78% of managers believe they will trust the advice of AI in making business decisions in the future.

Some other ways AI might be more intuitive and proactive include:

  • Using predictive analysis to fill in the blanks: With more data, AI can make increasingly accurate assumptions on missing data
  • Suggesting better practices: chatbots not only have the benefit of making jobs easier, but promoting the right ways of doing tasks. Encouraging team members to improve their data input quality results in an overall improvement across the project.
  • Forming new levels of metadata: As AI teams learn more about AI capabilities through experience, they can begin to incorporate and represent new layers of metadata that were not previously available. This will provide teams with an added depth to their decision making and ideation. 

As AI becomes more accurate and trustworthy in handling administrative tasks, project managers can focus on more things like stakeholder management, ideation, communication, and team building. With all the data-based support, project managers and teams can dare to think out of the box and have the confidence to pursue even more impactful projects with better guarantees of success.

Infinity and Beyond: The endless potential of AI in Project Management

Will AI fulfil all our sci-fi automated dreams or will they be hit with a wave of realism? Who really knows. The reality is that AI is still a developing space, albeit developing rapidly. There are still many avenues and problems it has yet to overcome – from questions of legality, morality, scalability and more. AI still sits in a grey-area in many aspects and it is how we navigate it in our present that will shape its future.

But don’t go burying your heads in the sand waiting for the change to happen once the dust is settled. One thing’s for certain. pmo365 will be waiting expectantly for the innovations that will emerge and we’ll be ready to bring you the best AI has to offer for your teams. 

Don’t wait to get started on AI

All this future talk does not mean there isn’t something you can do right now. We’ve built an introductory guide on how to prepare your PMO for the oncoming AI revolution. Make sure to check it out to find out the key challenges and opportunities for future AI-savvy project managers and PMOs.

Maurizio Marmotta

Maurizio Marmotta

Maurizio is a PMO Specialist at EPM Partners and has 25 years of experience in workflow software, data-driven decisioning tools, digital marketing.

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