Many activities, such as data analysis, are predisposed to being performed faster and more accurately by machine learning systems. And to think that some of these machines didn’t even have to be pre-programmed to work effectively. As a result, many companies are now starting to favor investing in such technologies in place of hiring skilled project managers.
The big question remains though: will machine learning ever be able to replace project managers entirely?
AI and Machine Learning in Today’s Offices
A survey conducted in 2017 by AXELOS, the global custodian on the PRINCE2 project methodology, reveals that 90% of the respondents believe that project risk will increase. To alleviate this risk, they’ll have to learn new skills which according to Ismail includes the following skills:
- business analysis
- change management
- organisation[al] diplomacy
Despite the obvious threats that AI poses to human PMs, a lot of this technology can actually work to support them. Here are some of ways the two can complement each other:
Helping you Maximise your Human Resources
AI tools can help you monitor how well your employees are being utilised. For instance, if it sees that certain employees currently do not have any task to work on, it will recommend how you can deploy them in the meantime. This should help improve your company’s efficiency without costing you that much money.
Finding the person fit for the role
Artificial Intelligence can help you determine which of your employees is best for a certain project by finding out all about them and their professional capabilities. After which it will come up with suggestion on whom is the most suitable candidate for the job based on the data it has gathered.
Helping you become aware of possible pitfalls
Since AI tools are adept in analysing information, you can also use it to study projects that the company has taken on in the past. This should allow you to see which of them has the highest possibility of working out and which will are most likely to fail. It can also keep track of your progress and suggest action steps that you can take to keep your project going in the right direction.
There are also AI chatbots that can aid project managers in analysing what can be done to make use of project and resources better.
Cameron Stewart, AXELOS’ head of product development also believes that one can’t rely solely on automation. There are certain traits and skills that can only be found so far in a project manager like diplomacy, communication, and relationship building. All of which are crucial for handling successful projects. Likewise, there’s the human trait of emotional intelligence, another important element in managing a project.
“Great project management will always combine a people-first approach with high-grade technical project management skills and knowledge,” Stewart says.
What are the Limits of AI in Project Management?
So now you know how much progress AI can bring to project management. But how far can AI actually go?
Well PMs can rest easy for the time being, as in its current stage, artificial intelligence doesn’t come close to replacing human project managers. Here are just two of the major drawbacks of AI that are pertinent to a project manager’s role:
- AI cannot communicate the way human beings do. Good interpersonal skills are essential in handling projects because one will be delegating tasks, and coordinating with team members. Artificial intelligence tools cannot discern the concerns and working styles of a project’s team members, something that a highly skilled project manager is readily equipped to do.
- AI cannot motivate people. We all know how important it is to keep employees motivated and bring out their most inspired work and professional best, all of which eventually lead to the success of a project. AI tools and machines are simply not capable of doing that yet.
The Future of AI
“AI points towards a future where machines not only do all of the physical work, as they have done since the industrial revolution but also the “thinking” work – planning, strategising and making decisions,” says futurist and best-selling author Bernard Marr.
In business, Marr sees an increase in the implementation of AI—particularly automation across all support functions like human resources. AI solutions are also likely to be used for compliance and legal management. Likewise, he foresees more businesses capitalising on their data to create revenue streams.
What’s most notable in his predictions is that he sees that the use AI will result to more employment opportunities. A report by Gartner predicts 1.8 million jobs lost to automation – with manufacturing in particular singled out as likely to take a hit. That is more than offset by a further 2.3 million jobs created in healthcare, education, and the public sector.
Whilst automation does threaten more manual jobs then, it’s a long way off before AI starts making serious inroads into traditionally thinking based roles like project management.