Impact of Artificial intelligence on Project Management

Have you been also thinking if project management sector is also ripe for disruption? I have been. Not that basic principles will change but how we do it. Today, we can say that three industrial revolutions hugely improved the living standard and changed the societies in unimaginable ways although it must have been tough at the time to adapt to. We enjoy many benefits of industrial revolutions such as access to energy, fast and reliable transportation, affordable goods due to mass-manufacturing and Internet. No doubt, benefits came with huge cost. Every revolution disrupted the society with changes in work practices, opening new frontiers, introducing uncertainties, at the same time rate of change has been increasing at break neck speed, social systems are struggling to keep up and anything that is couple of years old today seems to lose relevancy.

Technological advances, innovation, cheaper access to computational power and availability of data have made current situation ripe for next revolution. Root of this revolution is digitization as it has enabled us to create a virtual world where we can not only connect to our physical world but see future through predictions.

Fourth industrial revolutions is called by many industry experts as Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution.  It encompasses connected systems, automation of production line consuming  sensor data and intelligence to make decisions based on data. This has opened doors for predictive maintenance, inventory control, improved co-ordination between plant floor and management, and higher shareholder value to better decision making. Good thing is, all the improvements and lesson learned are part of feedback mechanism to gradually improve the results through self learning system that AI will bring changing the way industries produce, manufacture and deliver.

“How does this influence project / product management?”, is the obvious question you will be asking next.

In my opinion, two ways – first is directly in form of improved project management tools and second, indirectly in form of the sector we work in. Let me elaborate a little.

Project management tools incorporate many automation routines but availability of the Internet, access to big data and capabilities of AI offer a powerful combo. How we manage and control project management tasks are going to be influenced by this combo.  Project management tools of future will no longer be simply user driven, somewhat automated but would be connected systems, offering predictions, adding intelligence and always improving through interactions. Project plans would integrate with calendars, finance systems, procurement systems, risk and issue logs and other task management apps and keep intelligently updating plan and learning all along.  A Siri or Alexa kind of voice activated bot would quickly analyze and answer any question a stakeholder might have. Project planning will be more robust and stakeholders will learn quickly about roadblocks, informing about scheduling risks and prediction based on multiple scenarios with data driven confidence level instead of gut-feels. Project management tool  will be able to schedule meetings based on tasks, include relevant stakeholders, seek input and share updates.

Indirect influence of AI is coming sooner than later. As companies are finding value in data and insights it can provide, Internet of Things (IoT), sensor data and digital transformation of businesses make use of Machine Learning (ML), an essential step to survive Industry 4.0 wave. As AI/ML capable infrastructure and applications are being brought into organizations, these current and future projects would need new project management mind-set.

As teams are becoming agile in nature, project managers are assuming product manager role, organizing work breakdown structure and gathering business requirements would evolve from classic way to  framing the business problem, articulate the value proposition, data collection from data scientist’s point of view, orienting project around business models & algorithm strategy.

Since the discussion is completely altering how business problems could be solved, project manager would need to carefully analyze the problem by asking question, like, could the business problem be solved by other means that are faster and easier to build than AI, understanding the  data and sources, choice of algorithm(s), understanding of biases in the design and working with some new roles like Data Scientists, Statisticians, Domain Experts and Engineers.

In short, it is a new frontier for project managers when dealing with an AI project and project managers got to be more technical and domain aware.

Project management covers many domains and knowledge areas and a project manager is subject matter expert of integrating discipline with deliverables. Technology alone will not ensure success but certain attributes that a PM can offers such as project leadership, stakeholder management, negotiation skills, and empathy would keep him or her an indispensable for the business.

To summarize, my take is project managers will get a lot of assistance in way of better and improved project management tools, letting them focus on what is critical. Role will evolve from managing and controlling to collaborating and contributing while managing the stakeholder expectations.  Project managers who will succeed in Industry 4.0 revolution will likely be those who manage to embrace the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning aspects of the business needs, being technically savvy, and seeing how a solution can add value not only to business but also to the data engineering and data science teams.

Project Risk Management 101

Risk is a future event that may have an impact on schedule, cost or scope.  It may happen or it may not.

Image Courtesy: Open Security Architecture

While Issue is a condition or problem already occurred (or will occur for sure) that impacts schedule, cost or scope.

When Risk is realized, it becomes an issue.  It should be handled accordingly using the money set aside called Management Reserve.  A governance process is usually established to authorize the use of Management Reserve.

Risk and Issues are recorded into Risk and Issue Logs (sometimes Excel spreadsheets).  Risks are identified prior to project startup and through out the project life-cycle.  Risks are communicated to Stakeholders.  Risks when recorded should be worded such that sentences are complete and specific identifying area of impact with its  probability. Issues are prioritized and assigned.  Assigned person develops the action plan to resolve the issue.

Risk must always be assigned to someone, with a target resolution date.  Assigned person has responsibility to provide mitigation/contingency plans on how to handle Risk, if it realizes.

Severity  determines how to react to the Risk.  It can be calculated:
Severity = Probability of occurring Risk x Impact on the Project
Probability and Impact are measured in High, Medium and Low.

Mitigation plan is proactive approach; it is focused on how to mitigate or reduce the severity.  You need mitigation plan for any risk that has severity either medium or high.

Contingency plan is relative approach; it is set of predefined/contingent actions that team will take if Risk event occurs.  For any risk with high severity, you must provide contingency plan.

Four ways to handle Risks – Watch, Accept, Transfer and Mitigate.

  1. Watch – Just keep an eye (monitor regularly) the Risk but no action.
  2. Accept – Accepting the full impact  and plan accordingly
  3. Transfer – Divert the impact to another party
  4. Mitigate – Plan on how can the impact be lessened on project

Action Plan is a plan of documented actions developed in order to resolve an issue that is adversely impacting the project.  Action steps should be clear and identify outcome and deliverables from the action.

Project Manager‘s responsibility is to review the feasibility of mitigation, contingency and action plans.  Then approval is sought for the plan from governance board and then communicated to the stakeholders.  Project work plan is updated to reflect these approved risk management related changes.

Closing Risk is little tricky, mostly when risk is realized it becomes issue and risk is appropriately closed.  You need to check if this risk could re-occur?  If yes, then keep risk open and review budget for management reserve amount.  Closing issue needs confirmation that issue is resolved.  A sign-off note from customer or impacted stakeholder is also required.

Note – These are some key points that I captured sometime ago during Risk Management Refresher, hope it will help

Elected President of the Chapter

I am extremely pleased by the confidence that Board has expressed in me to take PMI-GLC to next level of volunteer and stakeholder engagement, trusting me with opportunity to formulate and lead operational vision, strategy and direction while working on to provide higher membership. 

Last night at Skyline Club in the board meeting, I was elected president for 2012 term by Board of Directors of Great Lakes Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI – GLC), one of the largest project management member association in Michigan.   I will serve as President Elect for 2011.  I have been involved with the chapter earlier as Direct of Webservices and then as Vice President of Communications.

I look forward to enhancing our strategic relationships with organization and businesses leaders to highlight the importance and benefits of Project Management and role PMI-GLC plays in the region.  I hope to engage more stakeholders to broaden our network of practitioners, while continuing to support a passionate and dedicated volunteer community.

I would encourage all professionals to get involved in their community or professional organizations, it benefits both, the volunteer and the community/organization.  And, if you are a professional living/working  in Michigan or Metro Detroit area, please get in touch with PMI-GLC at www.pmiglc.org.  Let find out how can we make project and program management work for your community, organization or for you.

Salience Model – Stakeholder Analysis

Who is a stakeholder? Simply anyone with a stake in the project either direct or indirect.   

PMBOK says that stakeholders for a project are persons or organizations  –  

  • who are actively involved;
  • whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of it.
Stakeholder analysis is a process of systematically gathering and analyzing qualitative information to determine whose interests should be taken into account when developing and/or implementing a policy or program. 
Remember that more complex your project is, more attention you need to pay in managing stakeholders. You can do all the right things for a project, but mismanaging a stakeholder who has power, influence and interest can cause failure of the project.

Mitchell, Agle and Wood (1997-99) have come up with stakeholder analysis model, that can help a project manager in early phase of planning process to identify stakeholder and classify according to three major attributes – 

  1. Power – to influence the organization or project deliverables (coercive, financial or material, brand or image);
  2. Legitimacy – of the relationship & actions in terms of desirability, properness or appropriateness;
  3. Urgency – of the requirements in terms of criticality & time sensitivity for the stakeholder.

Based on the combination of these attributes, priority is assigned to the stakeholder. 

Level 3
(High Priority)
7 – Definitive
Power, Legitimacy & Urgency
Level 2
(Medium Priority)
4 – Dominant
Power & Legitimacy
5 – Dangerous
Power & Urgency
6 – Dependent
Legitimacy & Urgency
Level 1
(Low Priority)
1 – Dormant
Power
2 – Discretionary
Legitimacy
3 – Demanding
Urgency

 

 Keep in mind that  –  

  • These three attributes can be gained or lost during the time period of the project, so pay attention when it happens. 
  • Level 1 (Low Priority) stakeholders can increase their salience by coalition building, politics, or media influence.
  • Power alone is insufficient to classify a stakeholder high priority; but some times it does, for example – CEO’s favorite project.
  • Stakeholder analysis requires careful planning, standard guidelines for selection of stakeholders, resourceful team members who have background information, and standard set of questions that feed into the worksheet.

More resouces on stakeholder analysis are at  –  

 References – 

  1. PMBOK Guide- 4th edition, PMI. 2008
  2. Schmeer, Kammi. 1999. Guidelines for Conducting a Stakeholder Analysis. November 1999