As with any component of any profession in any industry, project management must continue to evolve and embrace the latest technologies. As project managers, we have hundreds of tools at our fingertips to make us more efficient in providing our services to our clients.
Looking ahead, where will Artificial Intelligence (AI) fit into our lives, and more importantly, should we be afraid?
For those unfamiliar with the concept of AI outside of a Steven Spielberg movie, think about technology such as Siri or Amazon's Echo. These types of devices have intelligence that will listen and "learn" and provide guidance and assistance. Siri and Echo are primarily geared towards consumers and give personal support, but AI is emerging as a way to also provide quick and thorough business analysis. This technology is used to help prevent credit card fraud and make recommendations for your Netflix queue.
People in the business world feel that, in the near future, an app's ability to interact with AI will be more important than its mobile or cloud capabilities. Imagine your project management software "learning" about your nuances and how you like to manage projects, and customizing its platform to cater to you rather than force you to adapt to its unbending structure. AI can provide this customized experience.
Currently, there are several PM tools with AI technology.
Cisco Spark and Redbooth teamed up with the Api.ai platform to create a messaging bot that asks team members things such as, "What's happening today?", "Show me what my team is working on" and "What's urgent?"
Stratejos provides a similar function for Agile software development teams as a Slack integration.
ZiveBox uses AI to determine how long a task should take, examine the productivity of each team member, and sort through enterprise-level communication databases (otherwise known as "a bunch of long chat conversations.")
Rescoper automatically alters the "view" of each user so that it's tailored for their specific permissions settings, automatically schedules tasks based on workload and task duration, and provides alerts if the system "thinks" your project is going to run into budgeting or scheduling trouble.
ClickUp is still in beta, but its algorithms can predict the best team member for a task and assign those tasks to them, automatically tag users in comments based on relevancy contexts, predict deadlines that won't be met, and correct task time estimates. 1
This is both scary and exciting. The idea of having our most menial tasks automated simply by speaking aloud or interacting with a bot can potentially make our lives much easier. However, since we often point to communication breakdown as a key factor in our projects going south, do we really want to rely on anything "artificial" to lead us to success?
Or, even worse, are we running the risk of eventually being replaced by an army of project management robots? Our job is to understand and then communicate to foster collaboration and ensure productivity. The belief is that bots will be able to not only automate tasks, but potentially make process recommendations and project decisions.
According to Alan Zucker, founding principal of Project Management Essentials, "Robots and artificial intelligence may automate the tedious tasks that consume a small part of a project manager's time, such as taking information from multiple sources and putting together nice PowerPoint decks, or normalizing project data from incompatible systems. However, the most primary role of a project manager is leadership and communication, and these are functions that cannot be automated." 1
Rest assured, there will always be a need for "people management" and the personal touch we provide. Thankfully, no artificial device will ever be able to learn common sense or reasoning or be able to react to the angry face of our client. We are skilled in leveraging our experience and having survived many "wars" to allow us to anticipate and manage the unpredictable. Incorporating AI into our lives will allow the "robots" to concentrate on tasks that often result in careless human error and give us the time to focus less on avoiding these errors and more on providing excellent service. Just think about getting hours back in your week, spending more time being creative instead of administrative, and avoiding at least half of the inevitable "surprise" problems.
AI is going to have a huge impact on our world, both personally and professionally. Business teams that take advantage of the technology will be much more ahead of those that don't. And that's something to be excited about. AI is coming; we need to embrace it and continue to be flexible.
1 Burger, Rachel. "I, Project Manager: The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace."Capterra Blog I Project Manager The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace Comments. Project Management, 12 June 2017. Web. 03 Nov. 2017.