Are you ready to embrace AI in project management?

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez & Ricardo Vargas

Originally published on LSE Business Review

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), project leaders should ask themselves two key questions. First, are my organisation and I willing to adopt AI-inspired tools as part of the ordinary course of doing business, particularly in project management? This question will give you a sense of your organisation’s appetite for machine learning (ML)–inspired technology. However, the second and more critical question is: are my organisation and I ready to take this leap forward? This question will give you a sense of how quickly you can identify and apply AI to projects.

The not-so-happy news is that there are many more organisations willing to apply AI in their projects than ones ready to do it.

What explains the lag? The first limiting factor is misunderstanding the nature of AI and what it can and cannot do for business. If you are unsure about what AI can do for your business, you are likely unaware of how to lay the foundations for AI adoption. Another factor is miscalculating how people and culture restrict the organisation’s willingness to adopt technological solutions. Even the best and most up-to-date technologies can be defeated by leaders and workforces gripped by uninformed fears about the impact it can have on their lives.

We can all agree on one thing: willing and ready or not, AI is coming.

AI significantly improves project outcomes

It is no exaggeration to suggest that project management is at the heart of business operations and transformations. Just about everything you do in pursuit of success involves a project of one sort or another. The truly successful organisations devise, design, implement and complete projects with more certainty.

Not all organisations have a grasp on those competencies. The Standish Group, which for several decades has charted the success of technology projects, estimates that only one-third of all projects around the world achieve their goals. Less than one-half of those “so-called successful” projects produce high-value returns.

The introduction of AI has the potential to massively improve this woeful record of success if, and it’s a big if, organisations are both willing and ready to embrace AI and allow it to come to fruition.

Gartner research suggests that by 2030, 80 per cent of basic project management tasks will be run by AI and powered by big data, machine learning and natural language processing. AI innovations are arriving on what seems like an almost daily basis. For example, the business world has only just familiarised itself with the possible benefits of ChatGPT, an AI-inspired chatbot that powers things such as the new Bing search engine. The first version of ChatGPT was released in November 2022 and by March 2023 its creators had already released GPT-4, a fourth-generation version capable of accepting text and image inputs. The incredibly fast pace of change in AI applications puts a lot of pressure on businesses to keep up. However, not all organisations have the capacity to use AI to improve their business operations and project management. This lack of readiness can be defined in a number of ways, but at the heart of this failure is the inability to find and harness the power of data.

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