Sandra Espinosa and Benjamin Vogensen, experts in transformation at PA Consulting, discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a distant future scenario for the daily tasks of companies. It has the potential to make traditional project and portfolio management a thing of the past.
AI is evolving rapidly. It was only eight years ago that virtual assistant Siri came to iPhones, and now the competition from Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa is just as ubiquitous. But the opportunities don't stop here. For businesses, AI is now enabling things that people and classical technology couldn't do. One of the new areas where AI presents major benefits is in project and portfolio management.
AI makes it possible to derive conclusions from multiple data sources almost instantly. This means AI can solve many issues that impact projects and help with more effective management. For example, a problem traditionally needs a project manager to redesign plans, resource lists and budgets to correct the course, all by going to different sources and resources. But an AI project management solution can propose adjustments, new or revised tasks and more optimal ways to use the team, easing the work of the employees working on various kinds of projects.
AI like this already exists. Many companies, like the Danish start-up Forecast, offer platforms in addition to existing IT solutions that can support and assist in the management of future project portfolios.
By leveraging AI, those responsible for tomorrow's project portfolios will be much more efficient as they'll have a better understanding of the individual projects and what is required of them. Advanced AI will use the experiences from previous projects across companies to create objective estimates. It will also help project sponsors present fair business cases, as both the expected time consumption and expected profit will be generated. This will mean you will be able to select the right projects for your portfolio with greater clarity.
In addition to more portfolio transparency, the technology will help line managers make better use of staff time and capabilities in project contexts. The core challenge today is that it can be difficult to see what people are doing, what projects they are already contributing to and what room there is for them to take on more tasks. Another thing might be the lack of insight into what skills and interests are available among employees. In large companies, where employees are spread across different departments, it can be difficult to know which resources are available and where to find the best and most interesting profiles for projects.
It’s therefore important that you get aggregated information about projects and their resource needs in one hand, and what the availability is for the individual employees (as well as their individual interests and competencies) in the other. However, that level of information exceeds our human cognitive capacity. AI will be able to remedy that problem and make us more efficient at managing project portfolios and making better use of staff. For example, if you cannot staff a given project with available and well-qualified employees, the technology will recommend a later start time.
AI can enrich our work and make us more efficient
We expect project managers to become more efficient with these technologies. They will be better supported in estimating and planning their projects. In addition, the many repetitive tasks, such as data collection, progress reporting and low impact assessments, can be automated. According to Gartner, 80 per cent of project management tasks will be eliminated by 2030, which will allow project managers to focus on the more value-adding activities instead.
We see AI becoming an important element of project and portfolio management in the future. It can complement our way of working with resource allocation and manage projects with a better overview and thereby streamline the repetitive workflows. Technology can become an important factor for the job enrichment of individual employees, as personal skills and interests can both become more obvious and be exploited when staffing projects. But the project managers and the portfolio managers will also have an opportunity to make better decisions and deliver more projects on time.
AI does not ‘steal’ or impair human jobs. In the field of project management, robots and AI also help to create a better job market than before.
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