Can Artificial Intelligence Replace a Project Manager?

A skilled project manager can take a project from facing disaster to glowing references from the stakeholders following an unquestionable success. What if that skilled project manager was not a human?

I asked that very question on one of the social media platforms, where it reached 3.8K+ professionals and gathered 120+ responses. I will reveal the results of the poll later in the blog.

Project Management is with us in every step of our lives. While we at Aspira focus on project management consultancy, the ability to initiate, plan, monitor, deliver, and continually improve performance will not be limited to your professional activities. An avid photographer planning to visit a foreign country to capture the sunrise over a mountain top? Try doing that without research, scheduling, checking the weather, sun position, the timings required to climb up with whatever photography gear you are planning to take… if you manage to capture a breath-taking photo just by showing up, sincere congratulations to you and that lucky star that has guided you along the way. But expecting to repeat that result with the same luck of preparation… well, some would call it another definition of insanity.

Planning is everything in everyday life. Likewise, in Project Management, it is one of the critical steps. Having an artificially intelligent machine fed with an endless amount of data would make that phase seamless. And would definitely help in shortening the time to come up with different scenarios / econometric models/algorithms (choose an appropriate, based on your personal attitude to maths).

Delivering & Improving
Driving a project forward requires a combination of techniques, and in general, experience acquired with each and every project can add nuances and options for solutions one would not learn during a PMI course alone (disclaimer: learning about methodologies and approaches is extremely important, but at the same time there is a reason for Senior Project Manager, with 10+ experience in the field, to deal with a challenging project efficiently and in a shorter amount of time than his qualified junior opponent who is starting his exciting PM journey). We at Aspira value both junior project managers and those with more projects deliver under their belt. It is a journey each PM takes and learns along the way, equally valid and equally important. Theoretically then, you could feed an AI machine with all the projects deliverables, identify all the stakeholders, create a matrix of dependencies, go the work breakdown structure way, or agree sprints – whatever the methodology, an AI would be able to monitor and plan it all the perfect way.

Moreover, up until the pandemic hit in 2020, there was a common misconception held by many, including key Irish CEOs, that a project manager working on site is a prerequisite to a successful project. Yet, the last 2 years proved you can work remotely and deliver, even if in a slightly different way.

Potentially, a machine wouldn’t be that far off from a remotely managing PM – you could have realistic-looking facial features introduced and voice sounded almost like human working with you via Teams calls.

Would it feel relatable to all the project team members, is another question.

A critical part of any project is information management. Systems, tools, and people – these three elements need data feed in order to work and succeed. Accessing information at an accurate level forms basis of data security systems for all the organisations and across all the projects. Again, that could be easily managed and monitored by an AI.

Another important aspect of communication is managing change. We often say project managers are the ones who are driving positive change. But what does that really mean? In the Waterfall approach to project management, that would be securing a desired scope within the pre-agreed time, quality, and budgetary expectations. In an Agile way of working, that would mean producing working results while adapting to change and valuing human communication and feedback.

But there is more. Any project manager is also essentially a people’s manager often coordinating and managing several teams. In some cases, there are actual team members reporting to the project manager as their line manager, in other cases, there is a more matrix responsibility, and finally, there are cases of leading people only within the project, with no performance management included. Regardless of the model, that project manager needs to motivate people, to keep them not only informed but also engaged – it’s in their interest to have a team that delivers.

On top of motivating others, the project manager needs to have empathy, social skills, self-regulation, and self-awareness. Emotional intelligence. Perceiving, using, understanding, and handling your own emotions. Ability to recognise the emotions of other people, tuning into the often unspoken elements of a professional environment.

Imagine being asked: ‘Are you feeling ok? I noticed you seemed a little bit off during our stand-up this morning. Is there anything you would like to talk about?’ Would it feel more relatable if that question is posed by your Project Manager (Scrum Master in that case:), or by your AI machine acting as a Project Manager? Which one would make you feel comfortable saying anything other than ‘I’m fine, all is good, thank you’?

Artificial intelligence can be hugely beneficial to project management. It can automate tasks, simplify things, support information management in verbal, written, and documenting aspects. Provide valid suggestions on allocating materials, tools, and yes, even people to their tasks and projects in the most effective way, based on information on their availability and levels of expertise. Ease reporting and data exchange. All that could be compared to a difference between all the cameras, lights, and action equipment as well as post-production movie software used to create a movie. Doesn’t really replace a movie director, does it?

Make sure you check all the options we in Aspira have for project managers looking to direct the next chapter of their professional life – visit our Careers Portal.

And what were the results of the poll you mentioned at the beginning, you ask? Out of 124 kind attendees, 12+ were absolutely convinced it is just a matter of time (‘100% happening’). Further 18% were more cautious but still rooting for AI (‘possibly’). Every 7 out of 10 people went with no replacement of the human element is possible (‘Noooo. Human element is key’).

What are your thoughts?
Would you find a project more efficient and seamlessly run if done so by an AI machine? Let us know!

Magdalena Szotek, Project Manager - Resourcing Team

Magdalena Szotek, Project Manager - Resourcing Team

Magdalena Szotek works in the Resourcing Team in Aspira, a dynamic, fast-growing international consulting and technology company, founded on real-world experience, and focused on custom-fit solutions. Magdalena is a project manager, recruiter, and a career coach, working with individuals across the globe, particularly in IT/IT Security, financial services, communications & marketing, and health services. In Aspira, she supports delivery of solutions to both public and private sector clients, including large government agencies, semi-state organisations, energy, and utility providers.

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