Artificial Intelligence and Project Management – Results of a World Café

During ProMAC 2018, a conference of the Japanese Society of Project Management in Bangkok, I had the pleasure of facilitating a World Café session with the topic “Will Artificial Intelligence replace Project Managers?”. The topic is quite relevant as in social media there is a wide discussion on Artificial Intelligence (AI), whether, which, when and how it will substitute jobs. During keynotes on PM conferences the topic is addressed and this is why the participants wanted to discuss the topic and share their experiences from various industries in Europe and Asia.

During ProMAC 2018, a conference of the Japanese Society of Project Management in Bangkok, I had the pleasure of facilitating a World Café session with the topic “Will Artificial Intelligence replace Project Managers?”. The topic is quite relevant as in social media there is a wide discussion on Artificial Intelligence (AI), whether, which, when and how it will substitute jobs. During keynotes on PM conferences the topic is addressed and this is why the participants wanted to discuss the topic and share their experiences from various industries in Europe and Asia.

The first question asked was: “What are the potential applications of AI in PM?”. The participants of the World Café concluded that AI can support project managers in analysing large quantities of data, e.g. for scenario planning, simulations and automatically pulling together project plans. It may be used for repetitive tasks such as data collection at quality gates, for the purpose of lessons learned and reporting. Furthermore, it may be used for communication purposes, during product or software development and testing, failure detection, risk identification and business analysis.

The second question was: “What are potential roadblocks for using AI in PM?” AI requires data. One question the participants raised was whether there is sufficient and correct data available for AI to be useful in projects. Another roadblock may be people, who are not used to, opposed to or unable to work with AI. People may not trust the information provided by AI, or data protection laws prevents project managers to use it. Unexperienced events during the project may deliver false conclusions. However, the most important roadblock is the inability of AI to deal with human relations, emotions and ambiguous information, which is what constitutes projects.

The final question was intentionally “black & white”, a closed question: “Will the project manager be replaced by AI?”. The answer of most of the participants was ”no”, one group said “it depends”. The latter was based on the thought that it depends on the context and the requirement of projects, whether AI can be utilized. Highly repetitive tasks of a project in a context, in which not much human interaction is needed and the decisions making is rather simple, AI may be replace most of the project manager´s tasks. However, in most of the cases, AI will support and complement the abilities of a project manager. One of the groups phrased it as “replenish and empower” the project manager through AI. One group used the metaphor of the pilot of an airplane and the automatic “co-pilot”. It may free project managers from administrative burdens, allow them to spend more time for real leadership work and enable them for better decision making. Thus, AI may be rather a threat to PMOs than to the project manager.

Read more on this topic: https://www.ipma.world/using-artificial-intelligence-pm-just-good-bedtime-story/

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