AI is Changing the Game for Project Managers

Research from Gartner predicts that by 2030, 80% of project management tasks will be run by AI.

If that scares you, you’re not alone. Many project managers are asking: If AI is going to do everything, how do I stay relevant?

Here’s why we don’t think you should worry.

First, project management is a widely misunderstood term. To those on the outside, it’s often conflated with the most visible aspects of administrative work—reporting, scheduling, meeting management, etc. These are the same tasks that are likely to be augmented (and later replaced) by AI tools.

To this, we say: “GREAT!”

If you’ve worked with our consultants, you know that we define project management as “the art and science of doing what your organization hasn’t done before.” In other words, project management is a strategic imperative for staying competitive.

To do it well requires a broad range of skills—and a good deal of imagination.

It’s true that today, project managers are responsible for creating and maintaining the schedule, the budget, and the quality of their projects. AI tools will be able to automate all of those tasks sooner rather than later.

“AI isn’t coming for your jobs.
The people who know how to use AI are.”
– Eric Stephens

But at the end of the day, project management has never been about perfectly planned schedules, formally running meetings or status updates. It’s about value delivery. Even today, the very best project leaders spend limited time on administrative activities. What are they doing instead?

Thinking strategically and imaginatively about how the work can be done. Leading and motivating people. Preparing the organization for change. Anticipating risk, especially from unreliable sources. Pivoting (and helping the team to do the same) when conditions on the ground change.

In other words, people can be coordinated by machines. It’s much harder to be led by them.

Real project management—the kind unlikely to be replaced with machines–requires what the Project Management Institute (PMI) calls “Power Skills” – imagination, innovation, active listening, communication, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence.

 

So why embrace your new “AI coworkers?”

When your meeting recaps and in-meeting calendar invitations are automated by AI, you’re freed up to be completely present at every meeting.

The PM is responsible for ensuring that what happens in meetings is captured, decisions are tracked, and tasks are assigned. The pressure to capture everything can conflict with your ability to be really present in meetings. It can hamper a PM’s ability to listen actively, read the room for non-verbal clues, and ensure all parties can speak and be heard.

Using AI like the new apps in Teams Premium to automatically recap meetings, create captions or translations in real-time, and automatically set up follow-up meetings gives you the bandwidth to become a rockstar leader for your team.

When you use AI to predict likely outcomes, you become a better problem solver.

What’s better than solving a problem? Avoiding it in the first place. Risk Management AI tools support PMs in developing their power skill of problem-solving. Risk management automation uses big data and machine learning to help project managers anticipate risks that might go unnoticed.

Tools can already propose mitigating actions, and soon, they will be able to adjust the plans automatically to avoid certain types of risks. This frees you up to anticipate strategic, competitive, and human behavior risks that machines are less likely to pick up on.

AI can help uplevel your communication skills with machines and with people.

By now, you’ve heard of ChatGPT, Jasper.ai, and other AI-enabled search engines. The technology behind this way of synthesizing information is called “generative AI.” Here’s how it works:

You create a “plain-language” prompt. (The more explicit, the better). The technology uses your prompt and the available data to search—which could be a public source, like the wider internet, or a private source, like all your company’s training material –to generate new content.

We like to think of generative AI as “find engines” rather than “search engines.” In other words, over the coming months and years, generative AI tools are going to get much better than traditional search engines at addressing your core need—whether that is a nuanced answer to a question, a piece of custom content, or a conversation partner educated in your topic of interest.

Don’t worry. In this new world, subject matter expertise will still matter. For example, an attorney is likelier to generate applicable legal content from AI than a layperson. However, “prompt engineering”—the ability to write clear and explicit instructions— will become essential for communicating with machines.

And the kicker? As we learn to be more explicit in our language, we will also get better at communicating with humans.

To develop that skill and ensure the content you get is effective and relevant to your audience, we recommend learning how to write high-quality prompts. We love this training from the AI Exchange. (We’re fans of the AI Exchange’s no-nonsense approach to help people keep up with all things AI without getting too techy).

Bottom Line: To quote one of our consultants, Eric Stephens, “AI isn’t coming for your jobs. The people who know how to use AI are.”

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