The Future of #AI Augmented Project Management is misguided #PMOT #Agile

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I haven’t read a Project Management article for a long time that spurred me to write a bog entry within 24 hours. I had that experience yesterday after reading The Augmented Project Manager by Treb Gatte. This article provided an introduction to the interesting application of Artificial Intelligence to the Project Management role.

Treb discussing the three areas of Project Management that could be affected by the application of Artificial Intelligence:

  • Planning
  • Resource Allocation
  • Tracking

Planning

Treb discuss the future of AI Augmented Project Planning:

“Imagine if your scheduling bot generates a proposed project plan, based on the aggregated and anonymized experiences of similar sized companies doing the same type of project. Today, we use tools like Monte Carlo to simulate this information. The bot could incorporate real world data, potentially yielding better results.”

Let that thought percolate while we moved onto Resource Allocation.

Resource Allocation

Treb then illustrates the possible future of Resource Allocation:

“For example, your resourcing bot determines that you need a social media expert on your project on April 5th for two days of work. It searches data sources like LinkedIn and your public cloud calendar to find a list of suitable and available candidates. Three are West Coast of the U.S., one is in Paris and one is in Sydney. It then automatically reaches out to these candidates with offers. If multiple people accept, it automatically manages the negotiation. Once complete, the planning bot is informed, a virtual desktop with requisite software is provisioned, user login credentials are generated and the specific task information is sent to them. When the job is complete and rated as satisfactory, the bot coordinates with your accounts payable system to pay the freelancer. The planning bot automatically updates the plan and pushes the data to the BI dashboards.”

I’m not sure this illustration involves much Artificial Intelligence as it really if just about integrating with existing technologies and platforms – but I digress.

Tracking

And then finally Treb discusses what the future of AI Augmented Project Tracking might look like:

“Project feedback loops on work are awful. The largest challenge is incomplete data, which results from increasingly fragmented work days, limits of the worker’s memory and tools that rely on human input. It is also incomplete as it serves little benefit to the person entering the data.

Workers are overwhelmed with tasks arriving via multiple communication channels and no consolidated view.

Imagine a world where the timesheet is antiquated. Today, we have systems such as Microsoft Delve that know what content you’ve touched. We have IP-based communication systems that know what collaborations you’ve conducted. We have machine learning capabilities that can determine what you’ve discussed and the content of the documents you’ve edited. This week, we have facial recognition capabilities and other features that can track and interpret your movements. Given all of this, why is a timesheet necessary?”

Opinion

Oh boy, where to start? It seems like most of focus of AI Augmented Project Management seems to be on the collection of data that will make the results better.

  • “If we have better historical data, we can plan better”
  • “If we have better, faster access to resources, we can complete tasks better and faster”
  • “If we have better real-time data on tasks, we can report status and adapt better”

The Problem

The problem was all of these perspectives is they seem to be promoting, advocating, and recommending less human interaction between Project Managers and their teams. If we only had AI augmented Project Management, we can go back to our closed doors and avoid the pesky human interactions. Agile Project Managers realize that human interaction is he crucible of project success – AI Augmented Project Management seems to have forgotten that.

Yes, planning is hard.

Yes, resourcing and building high-performing teams are hard.

Yes, tracking and adapting the project is difficult.

But the answer is more interaction, communication, coaching, caring, and collaboration. Not less.

I’ve even seen another article promoting that chatbots could help to get status updates from team members. Oh yeah, that will greatly improve communication of information. Developers will just love getting the impersonal 9:03 am greeting of “What are you planning to do today, what did you complete yesterday?”

Summary

I believe the idea of AI Augmented Project Management will end up on the trash heap with the CASE tools that were going to replace developers in the 80’s, Artificial Intelligence can assist augmenting individual competencies, but not replacing team communication, interaction, and problem solving. Perhaps, there is a role for Artificial Intelligence in reviewing plans and highlighting possible areas of concern regarding scheduling or estimation that a human can review. But the automated  creation of plans, resource allocation, task assignment, and task tracking is misguided.

The idea that worthy Project Manager work is stakeholder management,  but not team collaboration, engagement and communication is wrong.

Software Development is a team sport, and requires collaboration, communication, and engagement to plan, resource, and adjust. The idea that you can broadcast the skills you need and just drop a resource in to do a task and not worry about culture, fit, team dynamics, and personalities is pure hubris. These are people working on complex, nasty problems. They need time to gel, bond, and collaborate.

Sports is frequently identified as an area Artificial Intelligence has helped. Absolutely. Artificial Intelligence can refine skills like throwing a football and shooting a puck. Assisting in team dynamics and planning remains elusive. Coaches still call the plays and adjust plans. Even coaches that leverage technology realize that…