How project managers are essential to AI deployment


Artificial intelligence will cause a spike in project management jobs in the next three years, indicating the importance of a project manager’s role in AI adoption.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are crucial to modern-day business success, which is why nearly 60% of organizations have deployed AI, according to Gartner’s recent Survey Analysis: AI and ML Development Strategies, Motivators and Adoption Challenges. 

AI projects are predicted to grow, resulting in an increase in AI staffing numbers in the next three years, KPMG’s AI Transforming the Enterprise report added. 

However, the number of AI-specific employees aren’t the only ones expected increase, PMI’s Pulse of the Profession survey reported on Thursday. As the number of AI projects increase, so do the number of individuals managing those projects: Over the next three years, 27% of respondents said AI will lead to the creation of more project management jobs. 

SEE: How to build a successful project manager career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“While there’s a fear that AI will replace jobs, AI has – and will continue – to open up opportunities for project managers,” said Mike DePrisco, PMI’s vice president of global solutions. “If anything, AI eliminates tasks rather than project management jobs. It simply shifts where project professionals spend their time, allowing them to focus on more creative and strategic aspects of their work.”

The top technologies project managers said are boosting project management productivity included robotic process automation (74%), reinforcement learning (64%), and machine learning (64%), the report found. The AI technologies most improving project managers’ quality of work included anti-bias solutions (68%), expert systems (61%), and knowledge-based systems (59%). 

“The rapid pace of technological advancement— including AI—requires a ready-for-anything workforce,” DePrisco said. “As more organizations undergo complex change efforts, the role of the project professional will only continue to grow in importance. The ability to quickly assess project delivery challenges and adapt the delivery approach is key to turning strategy into a reality – and the race toward AI mastery is no exception.” 

How to be an innovative project manager

To lead successful AI initiatives, project managers must be innovative and have a high project management technology quotient (PMTQ), the report found. Three key factors comprise a high PMTQ: Always-on curiosity, all-inclusive leadership, and a future-proof talent pool. 

While half of project leaders said they practice all three tenets, 10% of respondents said they only sometimes or never practice them. The report referred to these respondents as laggards. 

While 74% of innovative project managers said they are confident their current skill set enables them to work with AI, only 51% of laggards said the same. AI awareness and experience prevent laggards from being innovators, but that doesn’t mean laggards can’t become innovators, DePrisco said. 

“Tech laggards can definitely turn into innovators—but it requires a shift in mindset,” DePrisco noted. “What separates innovators from laggards is their ability to adapt, manage, and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or project at hand.”

Innovators were more likely than laggards to report a positive impact of AI technologies on their work. Some 14% of innovators said AI increased the amount of time they spent on strategic planning, while only 6% of laggards reported the same.  

“In order to achieve true digital sustainability, organizations will need to be more agile and establish a culture of continuous learning,” DePrisco said. “The organizations that successfully navigate change effectively choose the right technology, lay out a clear vision of the future to foster buy-in, reimagine career journeys to make room for jobs that may not even exist yet and focus on closing the gap between delivering strategy and implementing it.” 

For more, check out How to manage an AI project’s rewards, risks, and readiness on TechRepublic. 

Also see 

Project manager meeting with team for decision on planning milestones and deliverables, Gantt chart schedule on computer screen, 3 people in office

Image: iStockphoto/NicoElNino

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