AI In Your PMO?
It probably won’t be the first time you’ve heard about the potential for AI to disrupt – and improve – the way that PMOs operate. We talked about robotic process automation in our trends to watch last year. The role of tech in how we do our work is only increasing.
The Pulse of the Professional research from PMI reports that 81% of survey respondents say their organization is being impacted by AI tech. They predict that the number of projects using AI will jump to 37% in the next couple of years.
Digital disruption is the new normal
The rise in tech tools and the adoption of AI for data analysis is driven by the vast investment in digital transformation.
IDC predicts that the digital economy will accelerate. They are forecasting that over 65% of GDP in the APAC region will be digitalized, with spending on the tech and services that underpin digital transformation reaching US$1.2 trillion by 2023.
More companies want to get more of their business online. More firms see the value in automating and streamlining processes. There is more appetite for “outsourcing” heavy lifting for number crunching and simple workflows to tools that do it all for you.
With so much being invested in digital data systems, there are going to be vast pools – oceans – of data available to be mined for useful information. And project data is no exception.
As project professionals, we need to be able to operate seamlessly within this world, and also elevate what we offer a company to more than simply being able to follow project processes. The value in being a project manger or PMO leader comes from the strategic contribution, curiosity, and being able to join the dots between initiatives that isn’t yet possible with machine learning.
All project team members, from the PMO coordinator to the Chief Projects Officer sitting on the board, need an understanding of what AI is doing for their business so it can be appropriately harnessed. And if it isn’t yet doing anything for yours, perhaps now is the time to jump on this trend to see how it could benefit your organization.
Let’s look at what automation and AI could do for your PMO.
What this trend means for your PMO
While it’s great to jump onboard the AI train, there are risks to moving project processes into automated workflows. One of the potential problems flagged by the IDC research is that there will be growing mistrust as a result of automatically generated recommendations. They are predicting that companies will choose to formalize a process to provide human oversight over decisions made by AI to address the possibility of reputational risk.
Your PMO leadership team should be actively considering what automation can offer you in terms of time-saving and standardization. However, you should also be conscious of the implications and need for oversight in cases where AI is driving decision making.
An example would be around project selection processes. This process seems like the perfect one to automate: set the criteria for project selection and then let algorithms process project requests, calculating how closely possible projects match strategic goals. You can think of it like a sausage machine: seemingly random bits of data get fed in at one end and the output is a string of projects, in priority order.
However, in our experience there are often projects that don’t meet the selection criteria but still have good reasons to be bounced to the top of the list. Those are the projects that wouldn’t fit the process – technology lacks the ability to read the nuances of the situation and apply judgement as a human would. At least, at the moment the robotic process automation set ups we’ve seen would suggest that, although the tech improves every day.
Look for places where there are clear advantages to adopting automation, for example:
- Matching available resources with the right skills to open project tasks
- Preparing data visualizations from large data sets
- Creating project reports and surfacing important insights
- Scheduling work in real-time
- Improving decision-making by using larger data sets or mining historical data for similar decisions to better inform managers
- Predicting delays based on past performance and the current obligations of resources.
To take advantage of the technical solutions out there, build a PMO culture that embraces new ideas, is creative and forward-thinking. Find ways to support innovation and allow for the fact that some of those innovative ways of working may well fail. Train project team members to analyze data, use the tools and think creatively about how they can improve project outcomes by making the most of the tech that is available in the business.
Culture is important because tools can only thrive if the organization is there to support it, and that might mean rethinking standards or processes within the PMO to benefit from the trend. Given the pace of change in today’s organizations, the more you are prepared to move at speed, the easier it will be to pivot when you need to. The right project analytics engine, fuelled by up-to-date underlying data, will give you the competitive advantage to benefit from the AI frontier.