BUSINESS RESEARCH

How AI is Transforming the Role of Project Managers

This hot topic draws insight from contemporary research on the role of AI within project management. We use this research to consider how the role of the project manager is facing a transformation. Due to this recent advance, project managers find themselves as pioneers of innovation by being able to use advanced analytics and predictive capabilities to drive strategic decision-making.

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How AI is Transforming the Role of Project Managers

The Shift from Traditional to AI-Driven Tools

Project management plays a critical role in organisations ensuring the successful execution of initiatives within scope, time, and budget constraints. Project managers are the linchpin of successful project execution; overseeing various aspects including planning, execution, monitoring, and closing - whilst also managing stakeholders and resources. However, according to the Standish Group, only 35% of projects are considered successful, suggesting systemic challenges within traditional approaches. 
Traditionally, project management has heavily relied on human expertise to navigate complexities and adapt to dynamic environments. However, one of the prevailing issues contributing to project shortcomings has been the lack of adequate technology tools. Until recently, project leaders predominantly relied on rudimentary tools such as spreadsheets and slides, which, while sufficient for measuring success based on deliverables and deadlines, often weaken in environments characterised by constant change and evolving business demands. It is clear the landscape is shifting with the advent of AI, as evidenced by findings from a recent PMI “Pulse of the Profession” survey. Over 80% of respondents noted a discernible impact from AI within their organisations and professionals expect the proportion of AI-utilised projects to rise from 23% to 37% over the next three years. This growing proportion suggests the recognition of AI’s potential to enhance project management outcomes.

Leveraging AI for Better Project Outcomes

The integration of AI technologies into project management is anticipated to advance numerous aspects of project execution. AI has the capacity to automate repetitive tasks, strengthen data analytics capabilities, and facilitate predictive analytics, thereby potentially enhancing project outcomes by providing valuable insights for informed decision-making. As a result, project managers are expected to increasingly depend on AI-powered tools for administrative functions, allowing them to allocate more time to strategic planning and tackling complex problems.
According to reports from KPMG and PMI, organisations investing in AI have reported a significant improvement in productivity, with an average increase of 15%. Project leaders on the forefront of AI adoption frequently cite reductions in time spent on activities such as progress monitoring, documentation management, and resource planning. Research conducted by the APM indicates that project professionals predominantly utilise AI to monitor and control activities during the deployment and execution phase, with 65% favouring this stage. In contrast, 17% prefer to use AI during the definition and planning stage, and 15% during transition/closure. This underscores the diverse applications of AI across different project phases.

Balancing AI and Human Expertise

Project managers will continue to play an indispensable role in various aspects of project execution. While AI can undoubtedly streamline routine functions and reduce time spent on certain activities, it also empowers project managers to focus more on tasks that capitalise on their unique human abilities. Human expertise remains crucial, particularly in areas such as stakeholder management, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and creative problem-solving, which require emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills. Project managers function as leaders, facilitators, and mediators, driving collaboration and ensuring project success. They must excel in areas where AI falls short, such as communication, negotiation, and team building, with collaboration and problem-solving emerging as essential power skills. These skills enable project leaders to navigate challenges and inspire team confidence amidst AI-driven transformations. Consequently, rather than replacing human roles, AI is reshaping the nature of project management and presenting new opportunities for professionals. As projects become increasingly complex and interconnected, the demand for skilled project managers capable of managing interdisciplinary teams and navigating digital transformation initiatives is expected to rise.
In essence, the rise of AI necessitates a paradigm shift in project management, where project leaders embrace technological innovation while honing their human-centric skills. By cultivating a blend of technical proficiency and leadership skills, project managers can navigate the evolving landscape with confidence and drive project success in the age of AI. The advice for project managers is to cultivate adaptability and agility in response to the rapid pace of technological change. As AI continues to evolve, project managers must be willing to embrace new technologies and methodologies to stay ahead of the curve. This requires a mindset shift towards continuous learning and experimentation, as well as the ability to navigate uncertainty and complexity with confidence.

In addition to technical skills, project managers must also prioritise the development of soft skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, and empathy. As AI automates routine tasks, project managers must focus on collaboration, inspiring creativity, and building trust within their teams. Effective communication becomes paramount in ensuring alignment and clarity amidst technological disruptions, while empathy enables project managers to understand and address the needs of their team members in an AI-driven environment.

Furthermore, project managers must demonstrate ethical leadership in the moral and responsible use of AI. This involves considering the potential impact of AI on stakeholders, communities, and society as a whole, and ensuring that AI-driven decisions align with ethical principles and values. By championing ethical AI practices, project managers can ensure trust and credibility, both within their teams and with external stakeholders.

 

Referenced techniques

Technique

Project Roles and Responsibilities

In any project environment, various roles and responsibilities contribute to its success. From project managers overseeing tasks to team members executing them, each role plays a crucial part in achieving project objectives efficiently and effectively.

Technique

The Project Schedule and Gantt Charts

Project management involves constantly managing multiple tasks and if a deadline is missed the entire project can be affected with potentially serious repercussions. It is therefore helpful to have a visual overview of a project schedule and know when each activity is due to be completed and by whom - this is when you would use a Gantt chart.

Technique

Project Governance

Project governance is the lynchpin of project success, ensuring alignment with strategic goals. It’s not a constraint but a compass, leading to excellence. It is a structured framework for planning, execution and control. It ensures stakeholder engagement, risk mitigation, resource management and decision making.

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