It’s becoming clearer every day that artificial intelligence (AI) will have a substantial impact on how we work in the future, and that includes how we manage projects. Witness the headline of a recent press release: “Gartner says 80% of today’s project management tasks will be eliminated by 2030 as artificial intelligence takes over.” According to Daniel Stang, vice president of project management research at Gartner, “AI is going to revolutionize how program and portfolio management leaders leverage technology to support their business goals.” (Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Says 80 Percent of Today’s Project Management Tasks Will Be Eliminated by 2030 as Artificial Intelligence Takes Over,” March 2019.)
The most surprising thing about Gartner’s prediction might be that it isn’t all that surprising. There has always been pressure on project teams to deliver projects more quickly and efficiently. That pressure has historically driven the evolution of project portfolio management (PPM) software to increasingly automate the work done by project managers—speeding up execution and delivery by project teams.
AI is increasingly seen as the future of business technology because of the revolutionary speed it brings across functions and industries, from analyzing 3D scans up to 1,000 times faster to producing 12 times as many Associated Press news stories. With this extraordinary potential, project management professionals have come to expect the use of AI as the next logical step in automating project work to further speed up delivery.
Many organizations in the project management discipline are already planning for the use of AI, even building it into educational and certification programs. Northeastern University is incorporating AI into its project management curriculum, teaching project managers how to use AI to automate and improve data sets and optimize investment value from projects. Likewise, the Project Management Institute has approved multiple AI-related presentations for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification credits.
None of this means that human project managers will be going away. Many of today’s trainers and educators are working toward a goal of helping project managers to not be replaced by the coming technology, or as Northeastern says, to “robot-proof” their students. The role of the project manager will likely be more important than ever, though the scope will change. The impact will be the same as the impact of automation to professionals in finance, HR, sales, and other lines of business: focus will shift from tactical to strategic.
As manual and mundane tasks become more automated, professionals will be expected to deliver more strategic value. For project managers, that means that while AI or bots are completing tactical project management work—such as assigning resources or reporting status—the project manager’s focus will be to ensure that project results deliver the expected business value and are aligned with strategic objectives.
A focus on delivering business value doesn’t need to wait for the future. Ensuring that the results of projects are in alignment with the strategic goals of the business is easily achieved today with enterprise-connected project management solutions. Oracle Project Portfolio Management Cloud, for example, shares key information with other Oracle Cloud applications for strategic planning, HR, finance, supply chain and other areas of the business directly related to projects. And Oracle is ahead of the curve on emerging technologies, building AI and machine learning into its cloud applications to automate tasks and recommend potential next actions. The company recently announced a new project management digital assistant, which provides instant status updates and helps users update time and task progress via text, voice or chat. The digital assistant learns from past time entries, project planning data, and the overall context to tailor interactions and smartly capture critical project information.
With solutions like Oracle Project Portfolio Management Cloud, project managers can begin focusing today on delivering business value in preparation for what will be expected of their role in an AI-driven future. As project managers shift their attention to strategy, the business can begin realizing greater value from projects. That’s a valuable transition for both the managers and the business, and it can be done today rather than waiting for tomorrow.
David Werner is a Senior Director, ERP Product Marketing for Oracle.