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Is AI changing the role of the project manager?

Published on: 26 Feb 2024

Yes. Project management is evolving, and some of this evolution is propelled by the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its core mechanisms. We need to understand the changing role of project managers in this AI-embedded landscape because change is constant and project management stands as a pivotal force in navigating this flux.

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The benefits of AI in project management

PwC’s Sizing the Prize Global AI study found that using AI to analyse project data can lead to a 15% increase in project success rates. According to the APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2023, 83% of respondents in construction whose company is already using AI technology, say that it’s caused changes within their role and the team, including more free time, diverse and specialist recruitment, and necessitated training.

AI brings many benefits to project management, which changes the way project managers and project teams look. Here are some of the benefits we are already seeing in project management:

  • A more inclusive environment: The evolving role of AI in project management is making the profession more diverse; with a wider range of people joining the profession. Experts in machine learning, tech specialists and data scientists will be brought into project management, to improve project management capabilities.
  • Improved collaboration: AI can enhance collaboration between team members and stakeholders by providing real-time access to the same information. It can streamline communication in new ways and reduce the workload associated with information sharing.
  • Resource optimisation: AI-assisted algorithms can help project managers identify the most efficient approaches to resource planning, leading to improved project quality and reduced workload.
  • Effective scheduling and planning: AI develops more sophisticated scheduling and planning tools, assisting project managers in creating detailed schedules and comprehensive risk logs. No more fiddling around with multiple calendars and agendas to organise meetings and updates.
  • Enhanced decision-making. Because AI can automate routine and rule-based tasks, it can help reduce errors and deviations, which contributes to more accuracy and improved decision-making.

AI improves efficiency by automating mundane tasks and reducing manual workload; it also opens project management to a wider group of people which helps project management evolve. All of these efficiencies free up time for project managers to focus on more critical aspects of projects. But implementing AI isn't without its challenges, in particular skill gaps. It's crucial for project managers to adapt and equip themselves with the necessary skills to harness AI's potential.

Martin Paver, CEO and Founder of Projecting Success, frequently shares insights about the impact of AI on the role of project managers. He highlighted that AI can’t be expected to replace project managers, but it presents an opportunity for traditional methods to evolve with cutting-edge AI technologies. Paver argues that while AI holds immense potential to revolutionise various industries, including project management, its transformative impact will be limited unless we fundamentally change our approach to work. So this leads us to the critical question…

Are you ready for the AI change?

Adapting to AI's presence in project management demands a dual focus: harnessing technical competencies and cultivating essential soft skills. The demand for project professionals to train and retrain themselves in technical and soft skills remains palpable. Advanced data analytics and AI requires strategic planning, problem-solving and the ability to decipher AI-generated insights.

Qualifications play a pivotal role in this evolving landscape too. As AI continues to advance, project managers need to consider various AI and data-based skills to stay relevant. Understanding data-specific methods, iterative approaches in environments of uncertainty, and dealing with constantly changing data are essential skills for project managers in the age of AI.

Prioritise adaptability with continuous learning to stay updated with the changing landscape of working in AI-centric environments. AI's integration streamlines processes, reducing mundane project tasks to focus on strategic aspects. However, this shift places greater emphasis on softer proficiencies like stakeholder engagement, people management, conflict resolution and remote working.

Here are some of the soft skills to revisit as AI continues to influence and infiltrate our world, not just project management:

  1. Organisational skills: Meticulous organisation is fundamental. Setting clear objectives and employing dedicated tools like activity logs and risk registers are indispensable for effective planning and execution.
  2. Digital tools: Familiarise yourself with AI tools and technologies, especially those used in project management to effectively leverage AI for improved project outcomes, for example Trello, Monday, ProjectPlanner and so many more.
  3. Remote working: As AI and technology advance, remote working is on the rise; often with colleagues and teams working across time zones. Understanding different cultures and getting to grips with a more ‘digital’ office life is essential.
  4. Communication: Seamless communication across diverse stakeholders through various platforms is paramount. Active listening and adept questioning aid in better comprehension and direction.
  5. People management: Collaboration and trust-building across internal and external teams are pivotal. Establishing SMART goals and leveraging team resources optimally are hallmarks of effective stakeholder engagement and people management.
  6. Conflict resolution: What happens when experience tells you one thing, and AI tells you another? Conflicts are going to rise, especially when diverse workforces collide, where team members from different backgrounds, both physically and professionally, work together.

You may already have some or all of these skills, but retraining in these areas is key to helping yourself progress alongside AI. As AI reshapes the terrain of project management, the onus lies on professionals to adapt, evolve, and embrace a learning mindset. The fusion of technical prowess with refined soft skills will herald a new breed of project professionals, adept at harnessing AI's potential to drive successful project outcomes in this ever-evolving landscape.

As AI becomes an integral ally in the realm of project management, those embracing its capabilities are poised to lead toward a future where efficiency, innovation, and transformative outcomes converge. The journey toward AI-driven project management isn't just a leap; it's a visionary stride toward redefining the future of work.