Why human project managers may get another chance
Artificial Intelligence is destined to revolutionize the project management domain.
A revolution means a fundamental change is to happen which feels like a threat to established roles, such as the project manager role. The last time when we heard about a revolution in project management was when Agile methodologies were introduced to make project delivery more effective and successful again — this is often referred to as the Agile Revolution. When still little was known about those agile concepts, especially project managers will remember their initial concerns and hesitation, as agile methods, such as Scrum, did not foresee a project manager role anymore.
So, if a probably understandable concern of today’s project managers is that another revolution now may wipe out their role for good, then this concern might be unfounded and there actually is reason to be more optimistic.
Who is to blame for low project performances?
Without a doubt, the introduction of AI in project management practices has the goal to improve things in the project management domain. Projects are frequently missing their targets, and success rates are consistently low. IT projects for example have consistently low success rates. No wonder that another revolution is desperately needed to hopefully change things for the better, especially in times of rapid change and disruption.
But who is to blame for low performance in the project management domain? And will AI really change things for the better?
The use of AI and data analytics in projects makes sense as things need to evolve along with changes and modernization in business environments. If project customers are upgrading their engines from tractor to race car, then projects cannot continue operating at tractor speed. But similar things we have heard 20 years ago when the Agile Manifesto was published. The principles made total sense since business environments became more volatile and required more flexibility from projects. Project teams adopted those concepts and have put them heavily into practice ever since, in various formats. But effectively, not much changed in terms of project success rates. The survey results for IT projects since 1994 (as per the CHAOS report by The Standish Group) show consistently low rates around the 40% mark.
So again, who is to blame?
What do project failures tell us about the capabilities of project managers?
When projects repeatedly fail, then this is usually it for the project manager in charge, just like the CEO of a company cannot produce negative results for long.
With nothing improving in the project management space, wouldn’t it make sense then that the project manager role gets replaced by AI?
But then, in the same way, you could suggest that the CEO gets replaced by AI, right?
Hmm… unlikely to happen I guess.
It’s because the project manager, just like a CEO, is needed to lead, guide, and motivate people, negotiate, influence, and think strategically in terms of outcomes and the value proposition — all tasks that AI would struggle with. And so far, project failures aren’t reflecting really the qualities of project managers because next to their duties mentioned above, they are mandated to do tasks that humans by nature are generally really bad at, such as forecasting and predicting events, estimating activities, and in addition, applying superpowers to curate and process all available information, and know it all.
When projects fail, the project manager still could have done an excellent job in his/her main duties but shouldn’t be judged for those other impossible tasks, as getting those right is almost like playing the lottery.
The future role of the project manager
AI is the one to allocate for those superpower tasks, to estimate, to predict, to do all the quantitative activities based on pure facts and logical reasoning. And the future project manager will become a true project leader, which finally allows everyone to see his/her true capabilities and skills.
In a way, the project manager finally will get the exposure and the stage where he/she would get fairly judged without being sent to a suicide mission.
The project manager role is still alive and kicking and will not get replaced by AI anytime soon.
For how long? Who knows. But this might be the last chance for the project manager.
* This article was originally published on medium.com.