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Implications of Artificial Intelligence on Project Management

By Eugene Bounds and Steve Ackert
October 25, 2023

Recently, the buzzword artificial intelligence (AI) has been on everyone’s minds, not just in the tech world but across many industries, including project management. AI is a branch of computer science that focuses on providing computer hardware and software with the ability to execute intelligent tasks with Generative AI (GenAI) learning and improving with each query. While some tools (e.g., ChatGPT, Bard, Bing, and Midjourney) are receiving headlines today, the concept and foundational technology have a rich development history, and we can expect more of the same over the next several years.

Given the growing interest and concerns surrounding AI, it would be beneficial to provide some perspective into the AI topic and its impact on our project management community. For over a quarter of a century, the Standish Group has tracked, reported, and improved software-intensive project success rates.[1]  They identified the root cause of software project failures as slow decision latency (roughly 20% of all projects) caused by low-maturity tools and communications among project sponsors, delivery teams, and stakeholders. Improving these factors offers an immense opportunity to fortify successes and minimize failures for the project management community, where innovation and growth are becoming as crucial as prioritization and execution.

What does AI’s proliferation mean for our project management community’s future, especially as it relates to our interactions among sponsors, delivery teams, and stakeholders? One thing is clear—new tools and their capacity to quickly analyze large data sets are proliferating quickly. Weekly, new tools and capabilities are being introduced. Last week, for example, ChatGPT added speech generation capability to engage back and forth verbally and audibly. This new voice functionality is additional to the Chat-type functionality we are generally familiar with today.

Over twenty AI-enhanced tools today focus on project management capabilities and features (e.g., Asana, Wrike, Monday.com). We recommend reviewing and assessing these new tools based on key features, capabilities, and their potential to impact decision latency positively.

The use of AI is rapidly increasing and, as a result, the role of a project manager will continue to evolve. With a focus on communication, how will their role evolve? AI technology will automate repetitive processes, generate insightful program reports, and highlight potential problems before they arise. As these improvements are implemented, project managers will shift focus to improving executive engagement, stakeholder management, and effective team communication to ensure project success. As project operations demands are reduced, project managers will be able to address the human and client-side aspects of project execution more than ever before.

We also recommend reviewing new tool adoption, allowing practitioner upskilling to maximize analytics, address algorithm biases, ensure data privacy, and develop applicable data sets for our organizations.

GenAI will most likely follow an adoption curve across the following time horizons:

  • Horizon 1 – Incorporation of AI-powered tools
    • Timeframe – Now
    • Focus on learning today’s AI literacy and implications
    • Practitioners using AI to produce content, generate ideas, and run basic analysis
  • Horizon 2 – Leveraging AI to solve problems and improve practices
    • Timeframe – 1 to 2 years
    • Maturing tools and platforms with wide adoption
    • AI will increase automation to include scheduling, resource allocation, and risk assessments, all with real-time insights and recommendations
  • Horizon 3 – Autonomous and augmented end-to-end processing
    • Timeframe – years 3 and beyond
    • Systems with the ability to self-heal project problems and adapt to changes in project environments
    • AI decision support systems simulate scenarios with recommended choices, predictive analytics and reports, and automated stakeholder management negotiations, allowing project managers to be more strategic

AI emergence highlights the importance of the practitioner and decision-making roles project managers can and will continue to provide. As we navigate the AI wave, we will see new tools that will provide opportunities to improve project management practices, like the introduction of personal computers, the internet, and smartphones. Selecting and adopting tools that best align with our organization and strategy will be key. We will continually seek a balance between AI-generated insight and human judgment. The future of AI in project management will depend on how we implement, use, and govern it!

Eugene Bounds is a Strategy and Management Consultant with three decades of Information Technology and Program Execution experience. He served on the Global Board of Directors Project Management Institute Global Board of Directors from 2007-2012 and was elected Board Chair in 2010. He received the PMI Fellow award in 2017.

Eugene earned an M.S. degree in Information Systems from the University of Southern California and a B.B.A. degree in Information Systems from Texas Tech University. He is a retired U.S. Air Force officer. He additionally served as Director of Civil Agencies at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute and as Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Steve Ackert is a Managing Partner and consultant at The Ackert Group, based in Silicon Valley. With over 25 years of experience working with clients in the technology, media, and telecommunications sectors, he has helped them define strategies, execute vision, and achieve business value. Steve is known for his client-centric approach and has built lasting relationships by connecting solutions and people to lasting impacts and outcomes. He has led programs focused on digital transformation, go-to-market strategies, CRM implementations, organizational design, and delivering business insights for clients in various and diverse industries.

Before founding The Ackert Group, Steve held leadership roles in two global consulting firms and a Fortune 250 company where he was responsible for sales, technology strategy, and transformation. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Montana.

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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