We’ve come a long way in project management from taking pencil to paper and manually calculating the critical path to construct project plans. As Post-It Notes and Gantt Charts have begun to pale in comparison to newer, more advanced tools, we are rapidly shifting into an era where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is merging with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to create powerfully efficient and measurable work processes. A growing topic for concern, however, is whether automation will soon replace the human workforce. The short answer is, no. But one thing is for sure: Project Management as we know it is changing.
Change is inevitable, really. For centuries, we have looked to machines to help make our jobs easier and improve our ability to deliver ideas, products, and services. Take the Industrial Revolution’s shift to machine-aided manufacturing. Or banking’s transition to automated teller machines. Automation is everywhere with GPS, self-driving cars, predictive text, and drones. As some job roles begin to shift, new opportunities also emerge. And thankfully, with the assistance of automation, we are becoming capable of scaling productivity to new heights to produce extraordinary things.
Here’s what to expect from automation in the future of project management:
1. Programming routine tasks to free up time for bigger ones
You’ve most likely experienced automation through some form of project management tool or software. These programmable routines help create simple, repeatable tasks that otherwise steal time from your workday. They include things like prompting automated messages, alerts, time-tracking, estimate updates, invoicing, and budget calculations. All are extremely useful tools. As AI gets smarter, and metadata advances with predictive behavior, automated routines will become even more helpful and sophisticated.
2. Creating templated onboarding, training, and UAT processes
It clearly requires a human to determine what works best for a company’s personal goals and culture. That said, once you get a process down to successful system, why reinvent the wheel? Through software automation, companies are creating templated repeatable workflows to optimize routine work, such as onboarding, training, user acceptance testing, and other ongoing activities. As a result, these processes get more succinct and improved upon as time goes on.
3. Automating complex PM best practices
When you have AI and robotic software on your side, you have access to otherwise complex processes and standards. A good example of this is automating the Critical Path Method in project management to assist you in building proper project structure. And when (not if) workflow changes occur in a project, automation can instantly adjust all tasks, dependencies, and associated line items and accurately forecast timelines—an undertaking that would otherwise take humans hours of manual calculations.
4. Identifying and eliminating project risk
As automation allows us to take on more work, project risk exponentially increases with project size. As a result, AI-enabled risk management software is stepping up from a nicety to a must-have. Machine learning and AI can find and help fix structural project flaws, and flag obstacles such as bottlenecks, late tasks, dependencies, and other areas where projects notoriously break. In time, we predict the use of sophisticated risk remediation tools will become standard practice.
5. Finding areas to improve efficiency
Through learned programming, AI automation can serve as an unbiased 3rd-party for suggesting team member roles, based on skillset. Once informed, automations can assist in appointing and scheduling tasks based on timelines and human capacity. Team members can be better utilized (and happier!) working in areas where they most excel. This major shift is just one way automation is improving efficiency.
We are living in exciting and changing times, with our work processes becoming both simpler and more complex. We are taking on more and achieving new heights of greatness. With advancements in AI and RPA infiltrating our daily lives, we can expect to see a rapid progression of data-driven technology getting smarter through human guidance. Project managers can harness these advancements to achieve greater levels of productivity and accuracy while they continue to thoughtfully envision, lead, inspire, and drive collaboration in ways no technology ever could. It’s a good time to get curious about what’s possible and embrace innovation to assist you where it can.