Project management tools have come a long way from spreadsheets and bulletin boards. As project management platforms have matured, they’ve helped us improve the way we organise our work, allocate resources, manage budgets and expenditures, and evaluate progress and performance. They’ve also helped us automate repetitive work and use data to fuel decision-making and accurate forecasting.
Now, with the advent of AI in project management, businesses are unlocking greater return on investment (ROI) and reaching new heights of productivity. In this article, we’ll discuss AI’s potential for unlocking business value, its impact on the way we work, and the changing role of project managers in an AI-first future.
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Will AI replace project managers?
No, AI will not replace project managers. As artificial intelligence in project management develops, project managers will have less mundane, repetitive work to do, freeing them up to focus more on decision-making.
For example, instead of continuously monitoring projects to identify bottlenecks, AI will alert project managers about problems as they arise. Project managers will then determine a course of action to deal with these bottlenecks — i.e., their primary role will become even more strategic.
How can AI in project management help you?
AI isn’t going to perform any miracles, but if you use it in a thoughtful, systematic way, it can transform the way you work. In Capterra’s 2023 Survey, over 90% of the respondents reported a positive return on investment (ROI) when using AI.
Here’s more on the business value AI offers.
1. Reduce errors and inconsistencies
Humans are prone to making mistakes, and seemingly small errors can have significant consequences. A typo might mean you drastically overestimate your budget or underestimate your costs. Incorrectly copying and pasting some data might lead to customers receiving the wrong information. And so on.
But AI doesn’t make these mistakes – it always copy-pastes data perfectly and makes accurate calculations. So you can trust AI to manage and migrate data, make estimates and forecasts, etc.
2. Track progress and KPIs
Complex projects have many processes, milestones, dependencies, and resources – so accurately tracking progress and performance isn’t easy. Can you pinpoint which projects are falling behind? And of these projects, do you know which tasks or dependencies specifically are causing the delay?
AI can answer these questions for you by monitoring your projects — and the subtasks, processes, activities and resources within those projects — and provide you with real-time progress reports. It can proactively let you know about projects that are in danger of falling behind, so project managers can change course and take preventative action.
3. Identify bottlenecks and take action
AI integrated with your project management system can detect bottlenecks in your processes, helping you act quickly before the problem causes compounding delays. For example, let’s consider a project manager who is managing multiple projects. Now, within one specific project, a team member is struggling to fulfil a particular task on time.
The project manager might not learn about this bottleneck until it becomes a bigger problem — e.g., until the project fails to meet a key milestone on time. If the project manager learns about the bottleneck at this stage, the project is already delayed and getting back on course can be challenging.
Now, let’s bring AI into the mix. The AI is integrated with the project management software and continuously monitors processes, tasks, progress, and performance. When the team member starts falling behind, the project manager is notified, allowing her to intervene. Thus, AI helps project managers by providing them with the information they need to take action.
4. Free employees from mundane, repetitive tasks
The discourse around implementing AI and automation makes many people fear that jobs will be lost. But, throughout history, technological advancements have eliminated some jobs but created more in their place. It’s important to realise that AI is a tool to free employees from work they don’t want to do, like data entry or regularly updating milestones, so they can focus on skilled work.
5. Improve the way you manage work and resources
AI in project management can help you forecast needs, allocate resources, estimate costs, plan budgets, and more. For example, when you create a new project, AI can recommend resources to assign for particular tasks, based on each resource’s experience, respective skill set, and workload. In Keyedin’s 2023 PMO outlook report, 52% of project managers reported struggling with resource management – so AI is a much-needed helper.
Similarly, AI can also help you define a project’s scope, goals, and timeline based on historical performance – i.e., by analyzing these factors in previous projects. You can also use generative AI to define and outline work scope, workflows and organize your projects to support collaboration.
How is AI being used in project management?
While you can definitely use standalone AI tools to streamline project management, many project and business management solutions have already incorporated some form of AI into their systems. Here’s how AI is being used by project managers – today.
Defining project structures and scope. You can quickly create project briefs and to-do lists, define milestones, and determine a work breakdown structure with the help of generative AI. All you need to do is feed the AI details about your project, and provide necessary clarifications, and it’ll help you set up.
Business management tools like Caflou even include text-to-speech capabilities, so you can verbally tell the AI about your project.
Delivering data-driven, real-time updates. AI in project management tools can pull data regarding open questions, bottlenecks, and potential risks in the way of achieving your goals. Project managers can leverage these insights to quickly push comprehensive, actionable status updates in real-time.
Optimize workflows. Are your workflows properly organised? If not, use AI for creating custom fields, tagging tasks or documentation, to make it easy for team members to collaborate.
Writing assistance. Use AI to summarize important documentation, create lists, translate text, extract or suggest action items, and even to generate specific reports (like incident or sprint retrospective reports).
Predict capacity needs. Not sure how many resources you’ll need to complete a new project on time? Let AI analyze your previous projects to make accurate predictions based on real data.
Perform cost estimates and estimate budgets.
What does the future of AI-led project management look like?
AI has many people worried about what’s to come; will jobs be lost? Does a dystopian future await us?
While humans certainly need to be responsible for developing AI, we’re fairly optimistic about its applications and potential in project management. As we discussed earlier, one way AI will transform project management is by decreasing the amount of “unskilled” work that project managers need to do – tagging information and organizing it, updating and synchronizing data, pushing updates, etc.
AI in project management has also radically transformed decision-making, and it will continue to do so. AI taps into historical data and analytics to help project managers plan budgets, anticipate resource needs, estimate timelines, and minimize potential risks. So, we’ll see a gradual, sustained increase in data-driven decision-making and better project planning.
But there’s another interesting effect AI will have on project management that we’ve yet to discuss, and that’s customisation. Businesses that currently use off-the-shelf project management solutions are, in a way, using solutions that don’t necessarily reflect the way they work. These tools cater to various types of businesses, so they’re designed to be general. You can customise them using pre-defined templates, but this can be tedious and limiting.
However, with AI integrated with these tools, project managers will be able to quickly setup workflows and projects that reflect the way their teams work. You can describe your projects to the AI, feeding it specifics about your team, resources, workflows, etc. Then, the AI can create workflows, custom fields, tasks, etc., relevant to your business. In other words, traditionally off-the-shelf project management tools will have the technology to deliver tailored experiences to each business.
What does this mean for project managers?
As AI influences project management, the role of project managers will continue to evolve. Project managers will need to upskill themselves to work with AI systems and act as “AI enablers.”
By this, we mean project managers will be responsible for determining how best to use AI for projects and to improve productivity. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing AI in project management, so managers will need to answer questions like:
- How shall I use AI to improve team communication?
- Which AI tools do we need to manage our projects?
- How can we measure the impact of these AI tools?
- How can we use AI to improve X process?
Thus, the role of project managers will not become obsolete, but it will definitely evolve. We anticipate a future where project managers will have even more strategic responsibilities.
Technological advancements have drastically improved the efficiency of project management, and AI’s contributions are not to be overlooked. Artificial intelligence reduces errors, automates repetitive work, facilitates data-driven decision-making, and helps teams achieve major productivity gains.
However, to secure the most business value from AI, organisations need to be wary of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the technology. Instead, it’s important for project managers to understand how different AI tools work, and which offer the most value to your business specifically.