What Impact Will Artificial Intelligence Have on Project Management?

Faculty Insights Industry Advice Management


There is no shortage of information about the expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the impact it will have on every facet of our lives. Not too many years ago, there was much skepticism around the use of AI for anything other than repetitive tasks that could be duplicated through machine learning. AI can be developed to perform complex tasks that once could only be performed by human intelligence.

Since the emergence of programs such as ChatGPT, AI’s existence has expanded beyond the automotive, aerospace, healthcare, and financial industries that primarily leveraged this technology with advanced robots. Now, industries such as education and marketing are seeing major shifts in workplace processes and procedures.

The adoption of these technologies continues to grow according to a report issued by the McKinsey Global Institute, stating that many companies are seeing “the highest financial returns from AI,” which has greatly contributed to their competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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How Will AI Affect Project Management?

Like many other professions, project management will not be immune to the impacts of AI. Many phases of the project lifecycle are already undergoing an evolution in which traditionally manual tasks performed by humans are becoming automated tasks performed by machines.

Here are two key examples to illustrate this change.

Risk Management

Take risk management for example. It is very common to have a project team develop a risk register using various inputs at the onset of a project. From there, updates are made to the register as project managers become aware of new risks through:

  • Conversations with stakeholders
  • Observations of the work in progress
  • Schedule delays based upon impacts from a dependency

In the past, these risks were often perceived as “a foregone conclusion.”

An organization’s risk register was built by an experienced team who had led similar projects in the past and was well-versed in historical risks. Eventually, those risks would become issues, impacting the project team for a variety of reasons, including poor root-cause analysis or lack of collated information for effective evaluation. However, the downside of this method is the stagnation of a register and the inability to capture emerging threats that project managers may have not previously encountered.

There are a number of ways AI can address these challenges in risk management. For example, certain AI technology can synthesize two years’ worth of risk and issue logs while still leveraging historical data to predict the future success or failure of a project—without the hassle of manual upkeep. Using sophisticated algorithms, AI is also able to assess the performance of dependent systems to identify end-of-life risks to projects or even security vulnerabilities to the product being developed.As a result, project managers—and the organizations they support—that leverage AI capabilities will see significant time, money, and resources saved in risk management.

Project Estimations

Many project managers leverage Organizational Process Asset repositories or historical business information to estimate a project’s duration, costs, and progress. This is often done one of two ways:

  • Top-down estimate: Performed quickly by functional management so a project can be fast-tracked
  • Bottom-up estimate: Completed by team members who may be too conservative in their estimates—leading to inflated costs

Since the emergence of AI, project managers are using robots to streamline this process, allowing them to analyze three years’ worth of historical project data—leveraging factors such as productivity rates, attrition rates, and holiday time—to come up with a project estimate that provides an accurate forecast of future investment needs. In addition, AI robots are able to work on routine project tasks, allowing greater bandwidth for team members to take on more critical and complex tasks through an intelligent process automation (IPA) system.

Will Artificial Intelligence Improve Project Management?

With new innovations, there is always some level of uneasiness when it comes to job security and major industry changes. For example, most industry projections indicate that around 1.7 million jobs have been slowly phased out since 2000. For project managers, much AI apprehension revolves around their utility within their organizations. If an automated program can efficiently allocate and assign projects, create accurate investment projections, and calculate risk, they may wonder, “What is left for me?”

While cross-functional teams within an organization are seen as groups of individuals matrixed to a variety of managers, AI’s prominence has altered this definition to the blending of human and robot competencies. Today, no machine can replace the human intuition, creativity, and adaptability that project managers provide for organizations.

It is clear various industries are taking advantage of the impact artificial intelligence has on everyday tasks—especially within project management. In fact, it’s predicted that AI will create 97 million new jobs by 2025.

AI’s ability to automate repetitive processes, such as administrative tasks, frees project managers to focus on strategic planning and problem-solving instead. Potential risks can also be predicted more accurately with a more holistic view of the project vision, allowing project leaders to estimate resource requirements for improved allocation and budgeting. AI-powered tools can also perform real-time monitoring to ensure project plans go smoothly and identify potential bottlenecks, enabling higher project success rates. With the help of AI, project managers can acquire crucial information, make well-informed decisions, and attain superior project results.So how can project managers prepare for the potential impact of AI on the industry?

Is AI the Future of Project Management?

In today’s business world, project managers must embrace technology and leverage AI where possible to increase the likelihood of project success. Humans have unique critical thinking skill sets that when applied to systems, projects, and achieving an organizational mission, can create insights and recommendations needed to propel the project forward to a successful conclusion.

Leveraging AI to automate and improve data sets utilized in project execution will allow organizations to realize optimal investment value in the project and potentially identify savings that could be leveraged for further investments in product development leading to organizational growth.

Northeastern University is at the forefront of incorporating AI into our curriculum through experiential learning opportunities as explained by President Joseph Aoun in his book Robot-Proof. Check out Northeastern University’s catalog of project management degree and certificate programs to learn how you can join our mission of developing “robot-proof” students and become part of an innovative institution leading this new age of technology.

To learn more about improving your project management skills to advance your career, download our free guide below. 

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