Introduction

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) are very much in their infancy today, but there are some amazing forecasts and predictions floating around which swing from doomsday scenarios to huge opportunities for project managers. Having experienced several ‘winters’ many now believe that we are finally seeing the new spring for AI.  This renaissance is especially exciting for professions such as project and portfolio management as project management is clearly in the intersection of Big Data, AI and Knowledge Management (KM).
RPA to ML to AI to IA
There is much research, and many statistics flying around about AI in the world of project, programme and portfolio management (P3M) and the opportunities it presents.  Some of the predictions & observations that have caught our attention:
  • AI will generate 2.3m new jobs, and make 1.8m obsolete (Gartner)
  • AI is one of the most important things AI is working on (Google CEO)
  • The role of the project manager will likely be more important than ever, though the scope will change: focus will shift from tactical to strategic. (Oracle)
  • 80% of PM roles will be eliminated by AI by 2030 (Gartner)
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software will threaten the work of 230m knowledge workers – this is 9% of the global workforce (Forrester)
Some notes of caution:
  • There is a big difference between data and information, but this is widely misunderstood.
  • Intelligent usage is as important, if not more important, as the intelligence in the AI.
In this article we try to assess what this means in the near future for organisations large and small with projects/strategic transformations/change initiatives in practical terms in order to better understand what they can do to harness the potential.
ProjExc are actively working on this topic and will be updating this page as we are able to share more. Please do come back to keep up to date, or even better get in touch with us at ProjExc either to share what you are doing, or for a free initial consultation. You can call us, drop us an email or reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Terminology

There are lots of terms being used, and unfortunately there are many who mix and match these which confuses many.  For that reason we share our understanding of the terms being used:
  • 4IR – Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • AI – Artificial Intelligence
  • ANN – Artificial Neural Networks
  • IA – Intelligent Automation
  • KBE – Knowledge Based Expert Systems
  • ML – Machine Learning
  • NLP – Natural Language Processing
  • RPA – Robotic Process Automation
and provide some definitions, where these are clear to us:

  • AI is a field of computer science dedicated to solving problems which otherwise require human intelligence, e.g. pattern recognition, learning, and generalisation.
  • ML is a subset of artificial intelligence that uses statistical techniques to give computers the ability to learn from data without being explicitly programmed.
  • Intelligence is widely considered to be Sensing, Thinking, Acting and Learning. AI technology now provides an opportunity to disrupt thinking with augmentation, as well as an opportunity to disrupt acting with Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Both are dependent upon data.

Development

The stages of development for artificial intelligence are considered to be
  1. RPA,
  2. ML,
  3. AI, and finally
  4. IA.
AI can generally be implemented with 3 levels of automation:
  1. assisted,
  2. augmented, and
  3. autonomous.
Assisted, Augmented, Autonomous
As such the evolution of AI in Project Management is most widely considered to follow this path:
  1. Integration & automation,
  2. Chatbot assistants,
  3. ML based project management (expanding project understanding and filling in the data gaps), and ultimately
  4. autonomous project management.

Artificial Intelligence in Project, Programme and Portfolio Management (P3M)

Portfolio management (and to a lesser degree project management) is about balancing risks & reward, but that means good estimates and risk assessments which is inherently hard.  Furthermore PM tools are often complex, designed for specialists and don’t do enough to warn about potential problems.  As such, there is a huge opportunity for AI to help make sure we pay attention to bad news, earlier.
For project managers, the potential for AI to reduce monotonous and time-consuming tasks that aren’t necessarily high value but show up in every project doesn’t just free up time, it also reduces errors.  PMs could think of AI as the intelligent colleague which helps them with the mundane tasks and frees them up to think much more strategically.
ProjExc see two key areas here AI can help organisations:
1) PM Assistance
  • Scheduling/Planning (KBE, ANN, Fuzzy Logic)
  • Reminders
  • Follow-ups
  • Monitoring
  • Check-ins
  • Record keeping
  • Reporting
  • Resource management
  • Faster decision making
2) Predictive Analytics
  • Project observations
  • Performance understanding (avoid hope-based planning)
  • Suggestions & recommendations
  • Reduce costs and mistakes
  • Coaching
  • Compliance/governance
  • Risk estimation

Managing AI Transformations & Using AI in your organisation Today

It’s all too easy and exciting to jump into tool selection and implementation before thinking through what you want (need) to achieve, what you already have and how it can be leveraged with minimal fuss and expense.  Given the heavy reliance of AI on data, experience suggests that the best lifecycle approach is:
  1. ideation & data discovery
  2. prioritising MVPs
  3. developing products from MVPs
Data preparation (quality & suitability) is the key. Better data is more important to building an intelligent system than the algorithms themselves.

Tools (which we’ve found so far)

These are actively promoting their AI functionality:

  • Aptage (Jira plug-in)
  • NetSuite (enhanced collaboration)
  • Planisware (improved planning, chatbots, predictive estimates)
  • Planview (collaboration)
  • Stratejos (Slack assistants)

Useful Resources

Royal Institute Lectures (Chris Bishop on YouTube)
APM Projecting the Future Challenge Paper 4IR/AI

Take Action Today

If you are ready to look at using AI in your PM function, get in touch with us at ProjExc for a free initial consultation. You can call us, drop us an email or reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.