The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Powered Project Manager! by Anurag Pattnaik T T T T Get Our Tips Straight to your inbox April 9, 2019May 20, 2022 Automation, Big Data, Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence has been creating a lot of fuzz the world over for the last couple of years. Organizations are in a race to outdo their competition & generate maximum benefits of being early adopters. Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence have found wide range application starting from automotive, information technology, transport & logistics, construction to business functions such as HR, Sales, Customer Support and Project Management. The internet is flooded with artifacts & evidence highlighting their individual as well as combined impact on the human life. Artificial Intelligence is the most talked about of this lot & reflects the power of the human brain & its prowess. We are anxious and excited at the same time of how it would manifest in reality and how consequential would be the impact on various aspects of our life – profession, health, society, culture & security. Though there are early positive signs, they are yet to manifest themselves tangibly. Let us take a look at how an AI powered Project Manager would look like in the coming years. Artificial Intelligence to me is an enhanced level of automation or if I may – “automation with insights”. The first phase was more about reducing or entirely taking away repetitive mundane tasks & allowing time for more creative and meaningful pursuits. But we humans never stop to outdo ourselves and neither are we a satisfied species. Hence we took it to the next level with it being almost a level 0 human being or a “humanoid” if there is such a thing at all J If we focus on the primary intent of AI, project management is one of its solid testing grounds. WHY? First of all, our projects entail a lot of manual & repetitive tasks that account for more than 30% of the actual project work. Secondly, projects are based on “estimates, planning & perceived risks”. All 3 of which are defined on the “project manager’s” feeling, experience and cognitive skills. And no 2 project managers are ever alike! Most importantly, lack of trends, insights and missing links between past and current projects that organizations can use to prevent repetitive failures. Manual & Repetitive Tasks Data inputs, reviews, reporting are some of the standard project activities where our teams spend lot of time. Mostly, the Project Manager. There have been some success with the advent of bots and data analytics in providing some breathing space but they are yet to reach their peak. All our projects create humongous pools of unstructured data and they are all repetitive and manual. Clearly a precious waste of time and efforts. More importantly, the data gathering, massaging and management is considered to be the bottom of the value chain and no one wants to do it – ever! With the mix of big data and AI getting concrete actionable facts would be of immense help to the project managers. To start with, not only we ease out the pain of boring time consuming tasks but also make the results a lot more accurate as compared to manual data crunching. So what you have is highly reliable, indisputable to maximum extent possible and eliminates room for any bias. All of which are very critical for transparent actions and decision making. Just enough for the PM to show the numbers and win over their clients’ and executives’ backing be it for a revised project schedule, project budget or priorities. Estimates, Plans and Risks We all know it for a fact that, our plans and estimates are all limited to individual capabilities. Some may be closer to perceived accuracy and some fall short. In the end, it is all decided based on the final outcomes of the project or delivery. It’s more like shooting in the dark. It always is! Irrespective of what we tell ourselves. One can argue, well I have spent X00 hours of my career doing it, but then were the results same across all your endeavors? Did you meet what you set out with at the beginning? We all know there will never be specific or confident answers here. But then, it is not about being right or wrong, it’s about what works best for all involved – the project, the customer, you, your team and the business. Machine Learning algorithms are capable of connecting the missing dots and churning huge data points to bring out conclusive insights. Simply put – Why would you sweat over doing something, which can be done better, in less time & served right; to you on a platter by technology? Just imagine the power of this information for you as a PM. You have definite timelines and pointers you can plan and take actions on. Be it about highlighting a risk or a change in timelines. In both the cases you stand to win. As a PM, you can enrich the overall project with the newly added certainty by leveraging your expertise and leadership. For a change, you seem to be put at the pole position with nothing short of absolute control. Machine Learning and AI are said to be of immense help with risk identification and mitigation. Taking in a lot of parametric information in terms of repetition, duration, frequency, people involved, geography etc. they piece the data together for elevated insights on risk projection. It has been safely proven that what is missed by the human eye in spite of best control is duly picked up by these algorithms. True, they may not be 100% accurate all the time, but the fact that chances of missing out on key pointers are greatly reduced; is reason enough to make them reliable. Busting Myths First and foremost, technology professionals the globe over have been highly sceptical of losing jobs with the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning. True, there are lot of jobs that would be replaced and for the better. But at the same time they would be created elsewhere. Gartner predicts that by 2020, Artificial Intelligence will have wiped out 1.8 million jobs. However, it would also be responsible for the creation of 2.3 million new jobs and also debunks the common misconceptions around the implementation of AI. What we need to understand is, not only is AI in its nascent stages but also it will bring about categorical shifts in the way we do things today. It is bound to generate huge focus on the need to reskill or rather upskill ourselves to understand and put the new information to good use. These algorithms need consistent guidance or manoeuvre by a human brain at the end. Remember, their result is an output of the data sets fed by us or the systems that record data from our actions. Also, we must acknowledge the fact that; we will be posed with unique challenges that will need expert human intervention in terms of emotional intelligence, leadership, motivation and empathy. It is like coming a full circle. AI undoubtedly will force us to focus on the very innate human attributes to solve the problems of this digital world. We spent the last 2 decades or so generating data, building and nudging behavioural shifts and now it is game time! Get going, with time freed up from administrative tasks and focus on enhancing project outcomes, customer experience and quality me time to reskill yourselves, motivate, inspire & build teams to achieve collective success!