Why quality data will always be the foundation of Artificial Intelligence

Project manager holding tablet and extending index finger in centre of digital image of brain at centre of network of white light lines

Like it or not, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already having an impact on our everyday lives, though most people don’t even recognize it. But whether you are interacting with a chatbot or asking Siri for the weather forecast, it is present in some form or other.

Most importantly, it’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, rather than a futuristic vision of robots thinking independently, AI is simply able to perform a narrow range of tasks, such as pattern recognition or natural language processing, really well – and is only as good as the quality and volume of data fed in. By pairing it with data captured from the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows connected devices to communicate without human interaction, AI is capable of providing insights that no human possibly could.

This high-tech partnership means we can potentially make sense of huge volumes of data and has exciting ramifications for project management.

Virtual assistant eliminating guesswork

One of the greatest benefits of AI is its role as an integrated member of the team and potential to ultimately reshape the profession. According to AXELOS’ 2019 PPM Benchmark Study, 22% of respondents consider AI will be an opportunity – especially a timesaver – for PPM within the next couple of years. One professional involved in the poll said: “Planning and repetitive tasks will definitely be managed by AI/Robotic Process Automation.

In time, AI will start to alleviate much of the repetitive, administrative tasks typically carried out by project managers now, freeing up valuable resources to concentrate more on the human side of the job, such as people management and strategic planning.

As the integration of AI gets even better, it will start to build insights gained from previous project outcomes to answer key questions, such as how long something will actually take or the probability of a specific risk materializing. Systems will also use historical data to predict future outcomes and even provide possible solutions.

Changing perceptions

AI offers huge opportunity to redefine the traditional PMO role, but it will need an increase in the 22% who currently see it as an opportunity. That’s why it’s critical that the benefits of AI and how it fits into the organization are properly explained well before implementation.

If a new system is deployed without the support of a robust, people-centric strategy, context and a phased roll-out, people will inevitably push back. Fear of change and the unknown is a major barrier to adoption. But if the benefits are clearly demonstrated, the system is user-friendly and project managers and stakeholders are able to easily use these tools to improve their work, that is likely to win approval.

Get your house in order first

Right now, project managers need to think less about how to integrate AI and more about how to align and construct quality data across the organization. This process will not only help to draw out useful insights now, but become an even more powerful tool when AI becomes ubiquitous.

Ultimately, I think this technology has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of a project manager being “only as good as their experience”. While human elements such as strategic decision-making will always be the key differentiator in organizational performance, the collective experience of an organization will play more of a role in how well it operates. And this can be realized only by leveraging quality historical data to produce predictive intelligence about future performance.

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