Picture a dystopian future where artificial intelligence and project management are combined. Where project managers lose their jobs, replaced by soulless artificial intelligence (AI) systems.
In this nightmarish future, the machine plans for every stage of a project. It decides on the most effective allocation of resources to tasks; it chooses when project stages need to be completed by; it monitors everything your employees are doing. Perhaps it even sends team members angry reminder emails when they don’t complete their tasks on time!
Of course, this example portrays the ‘worst case scenario’ (for project managers, at least). But there are strong arguments for AI being highly beneficial for project managers and their organizations.
Whether you think that the idea of artificial intelligence and project management being combined is a dream-come-true or your worst nightmare, we are gradually getting closer to a future where AI will at least play some role in project management.
Gartner, the analysts, have suggested that AI chatbots will be widely used in a whole range of enterprise productivity apps – including project management tools – by 2021. Further down the line, we can expect even more advanced technologies in this space.
So, what might artificial intelligence and project management look like when combined?
One recent survey found that 87% of workers believe their jobs will be affected by AI at least to some degree. For project managers, the implications could be enormous, changing significant aspects of their work.
- Matching the right resource to the right role
This is one of the most exciting areas where artificial intelligence and project management could cross paths. AI tools could learn about your resources and the skills they possess. It would then be able to suggest the right employees for different jobs based on their skills and experience.
- Cutting time when resources are underutilized
Another exciting potential of artificial intelligence would be that it could proactively monitor your employees’ availability. If staff are either currently idle, or are expected to be in the coming days or weeks, AI tools could suggest better ways of deploying them. This would help organizations save significant sums of money without the need for manual user input, boosting productivity.
- Predicting risks
An AI tool could also analyze all your data on past projects and use this to perform an analysis of which projects are likely to succeed and which are likely to fail. It could then alert you in advance as to whether a project is looking dangerously delayed, and what you need to do to put it back on track.
AI chatbots could be used to provide additional help to project managers. One obvious use case would be to ask the tool to perform a what-if analysis of your resources and projects to discover whether resources could be allocated more effectively.
While it’s exciting to think about the potential for how artificial intelligence and project management could work together, it’s important to bear in mind some of the limitations too.
Artificial intelligence will excel at certain aspects of project management – monitoring systems, making predictions, and spotting trends that humans might not see. However, it will not be able to do some of the most important parts of project management, and it certainly won’t be able to take over the role of a project manager.
Succeeding at project and resource management depends heavily on communication and interpersonal skills. Sure, powerful project and resource management software is hugely helpful in improving project preparation. Nevertheless, you still need people to allocate tasks based on an understanding of the needs and working styles of individual team members. That more personable side of resource allocation is something technology can’t do right now – and possibly will never succeed at.
Perhaps most importantly, AI won’t be able to replace project managers because it cannot lead. Successfully running projects is about inspiring people, motivating them to do their best work and creatively resolving problems. At best, AI can hand out tasks and suggest better resource allocation. But, to truly excel at project management, you need someone to lead team members.
At ProSymmetry, we see an exciting future for artificial intelligence in project and resource management. We’re still some way off a scenario where most projects are planned out by a machine, and we’re not convinced that will ever entirely be the case.
That said, it wouldn’t surprise us if we see a growing role for technologies that offer more support to project managers – suggesting improved options for resource deployment, for instance.
Ultimately, successful project and resource management depends on strong leadership and teamwork. No technology can substitute for that, yet if AI could be used to help project and resource managers on the details of planning, they could spend more time on the business of leading. And that seems like a truly intelligent way of using technology.