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How Is Artificial Intelligence Being Used in Project Management?

By Ruchi Gupta and Cynthia Snyder Dionisio
December 20, 2023

These days you can’t escape the topic of Artificial Intelligence…it has pervaded social media posts, the evening news, and everyday conversations – to a level rivaled only by the launch of the internet itself.  And so, we were not at all surprised to see that at IIL’s November International Project Management Day Virtual Conference, the most attendance in any one session was at the panel discussion on, you guessed it: AI.

What DID surprise us was just how many participants were seeking to learn two fundamental concepts:

  1. What is all of this AI and how can I understand the basics?
  2. What does it mean for me in my role as a Project Manager?

We heard your questions, and we are moving rapidly to provide you with answers. To start with, this article will provide you with some key definitions in the world of AI. Then we’ll take a look at how you can communicate with AI models using prompts. While there are more ways to work with AI than can possibly be described in a simple article, we want to provide you with some ideas on how Chatbots, like ChatGPT and Bard, can help you with project origination and planning. To begin, let’s break down some of the most important fundamental keywords and provide some definitions:

Artificial Intelligence (AI): this is the broadest term, encompassing all the technologies and methods that enable machines to simulate human intelligence.  Think of it like the human brain, it has the overall capacity for intelligence.

Machine Learning (ML): a subfield of AI that focuses on developing models that can “learn” from data patterns without human direction is how the brain acquires knowledge and skills. ML is like a detective finding clues and solving a mystery.

Generative AI (Gen AI): a type of AI that can create new content such as images, audio, music, video, code, and text. This is like a painter with a vast palette and imagination, creating anything the painter can imagine.

Large Language Models (LLM’s): A subset of Generative AI that is specifically trained on massive amounts of text data.  LLM’s are like a multilingual scholar with vast knowledge, but who prefers written communication.

Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture is a powerful neural network that analyzes relationships between words and sentences, allowing it to understand the context and meaning of the underlying training data effectively.

Conversational GPTs are specifically designed for carrying on conversations with humans. They are trained to understand the context and engage in natural, open-ended dialogue.  Think of them as a charismatic friend who can keep you entertained but might not always be the most reliable source of information.  Enter your new friends like ChatGPT, Bard and Bing Chat to name a few.

So now that you have some basic definitions, what does this mean for you as a Project Manager?

Keep in mind that your new friends have a lot of information to share; but asking your friend just the right question in just the right way helps you to avoid a lot of lengthy, gossipy stories that never really get to the point.  The prompt, which is the text input that you provide to the AI Model, is critical.  Because if you massage your prompt a hundred different ways – guess how many prompt responses you will receive?!

Therefore, understanding prompt engineering and design is imperative in learning how to utilize AI to make you more efficient every day.

There are lots of ways to go about creating prompts. Here are three examples you can try out to get you started:

  1. Open Ended Prompts. Use these to get a broad understanding of a topic.
    • “How can Agile methodologies be adapted and implemented in non-software development projects?”
    • “Why is stakeholder identification and analysis crucial when starting up a project?”
  2. Scenario-Based Prompts. These are framed as a person or based on a situation.
    • “Imagine you are a project manager leading a cross-functional project team where team members have diverse work styles and conflicting priorities…”
    • “Assume you have been assigned a project with a tight budget and aggressive timelines…”
  3. Problem-Solving Prompts. These are targeted to specific situations where you need a broad perspective that accounts for lots of information that may not be available to you.
    • “Outline strategies to enhance team communication and collaboration for improved project outcomes.”
    • “Formulate strategies to boost team morale, engagement, and productivity.”

Now that you have some basic parameters on getting started with prompts, you can use them at the start of a project to:

  • Create a first draft of a project charter with specific fields
  • Identify the potential stakeholders and their interests
  • Provide the milestones needed for a high-level schedule
  • Use risk registers from previous projects to create an initial draft of a risk register for a new project

Then you can use AI to manage a project to:

  • Analyze a schedule for resource overallocations
  • Assess cost performance against the budget and recommend corrective actions
  • Create a requirements traceability matrix with specific fields
  • Create user stories with acceptance criteria given the charter and stakeholders

Of course, it is very important to remember where the real brain is – use AI for an initial draft, or to enhance and enrich the content. Never trust that the AI has it perfect, so review, fact check and make the final determination on what is applicable for your particular prompt/project.

Make sure you are knowledgeable about the risks and limitations of AI and allow yourself to learn from different AI platforms with differing functionality so that you can retrieve beneficial bits from each.

For a hands-on deep dive into prompt creation using generative AI for project management case studies and templates you can use as a starting point for customizing your own cases, come to IIL’s Generative AI for Project Management

Ruchi Gupta

Ruchi Gupta is a Project, Program and Risk Management Professional, Trainer, and Consultant with a track record of over twenty years in delivering solutions at leading financial institutions. She has extensive experience with the entire Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) using both Waterfall and Agile based development practices. Ruchi is a self-motivated professional who adds value to the organization’s innovation and business transformation by handling large scale delivery assignments.

Cynthia Snyder Dionisio

Cynthia Snyder Dionisio is the Practice Lead for IIL’s Project, Program, and Portfolio Management (PPPM) Practice. Cyndi has over 20 years of experience leading international project teams, consulting, developing courses, and facilitating training. She has received several awards, including the PMI Fellow Award in 2018 and PMI’s Distinguished Contribution Award in 2009. Cyndi is passionate about turning chaos in order, engaging with awesome teams, solving problems, and facilitating achievement.

Cynthia’s books include Hybrid Project Management (1st Edition)A User’s Manual to the PMBOK Guide (1st Edition)A User’s Manual to the PMBOK Guide (5th Edition)A Project Manager’s Book of Tools and Techniques (1st Edition)A Project Manager’s Book of Templates (1st Edition). View all of Cyndi’s books here.

Check out IIL’s New AI Course! Generative AI for Project Management

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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