Artificial Intelligence in Project Work – Opportunity or Risk?

Artificial intelligence is also making its way into project work. Where do we stand? Where is the journey heading? Enkronos team takes a closer look for us and considers individual aspects.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been with us for many years. The topic has gained new momentum due to the rapid development of the Internet and the possibilities it offers. Today, AI is once again dominating the public discussion. In the “social media”, a scenario is taking up a lot of space in which computers with their programs replace humans in their work environment. While in the early years of AI computer programs simply solved many complex if-then tasks, programs of the current generation of AI are modeled after our brains. These “neural networks” proceed autonomously via pattern recognition (using language, images, and other signals, among other things) and continue to optimize themselves. This makes the solution of complex tasks and “Deep Learning” possible.

The possible applications seem to be unlimited. For example, AI can be used to diagnose diseases and suggest appropriate treatments. Investment decisions are prepared with the help of AI or made automatically at great speed without the need for a human. Cars drive autonomously, even in complex traffic situations, as if controlled by magic, and transportation services are optimized with the help of AI and automatically billed via electronic payment systems.

Artificial intelligence in everyday work

Will AI displace humans in the world of work? What role will AI play in project management in the future? Will it even make the project manager dispensable? These and other questions arise in connection with the use of AI in project work or project management.

To answer these questions, we need to look at the prerequisites for the use of AI in our everyday work, shed light on the specifics of project work, and deduce what opportunities and risks this may have for all of us.

AI is based on computer programs that perform logical operations and need lots of input to do so. Input is available in very large numbers these days. A multitude of sensors provide a flood of data (“Big Data”), which can be processed, compared, and evaluated by AI at high speed. With the help of “data mining”, patterns in large amounts of data can be recognized, thus enabling machine learning. AI can therefore play to its strengths above all where large volumes of data are available and these allow patterns to be recognized.

Humans are there to provide appropriate tasks, verify recognized patterns, and provide appropriate “feedback” to the computer program so that it can further develop its algorithms. This feedback can happen indirectly, for example, by clicking on or ordering certain products from a mail-order company on the Internet. In this way, a certain buying behavior can be recognized, and the customer can be offered comparable products.

Humans remain the most important factor

AI therefore requires interaction with people. It only develops further through intensive interaction. Through their behavior, people can influence AI and thus make AI useful for themselves. However, most people do not understand the algorithms of AI, which is why rejection and skepticism often still prevail. Only a few experts understand the structure and programming of the programs required for the application of AI. Further dissemination therefore requires education and the development of appropriate skills in dealing with AI.

However, AI reaches its limits when it comes to human behavior, when processes are unpredictable and change dynamically. If only little data is available and weak information must be interpreted, then humans with their intuition are (still) superior to AI. This will remain so in the future. The fear that AI could replace humans is thus unjustified. Communication with a computer program is rather cumbersome for humans, impersonal, lacking empathy, and the feeling of trust. Relationships can therefore only develop between people. AI is an aid, supports work and helps humans to process the flood of information and make it available for decisions.

Artificial Intelligence in Project Work – Opportunity or Risk?

How can AI support project work? Certainly, in several routine tasks, such as analyzing the initial situation and possible variants of the business case, creating planning documents (based on completed projects and available information) and technical documents, collecting, and evaluating controlling data and preparing decisions in the project. In other words, everywhere where the strengths of AI come into play.

Nevertheless, the project manager must learn to set appropriate specifications for the AI, to check the results of the algorithms for their plausibility, and to make corrections if necessary. For this purpose, the project manager should develop the corresponding competencies. A project manager will continue to be indispensable wherever collaboration is involved, where relationships, interpersonal communication and targeted trust building are required.

The advantages of using AI in project work can be seen in the relief of project management from routine tasks, in the processing of a veritable flood of information, in the support provided in the difficult process of decision-making, and in the general transparency that can be achieved with AI.

However, this is offset by several drawbacks. For example, the line between personal information and information useful to the project is becoming increasingly blurred. If information is disclosed, it is not always clear who will ultimately be able to see it and whether it will not be misused. On the one hand, AI can be used to create transparency in the project, but on the other hand, it is not always apparent to the user how the data is processed within the framework of AI. As long as the user, i.e. a project manager, does not have any influence on the computer program himself, mistrust will remain.

Artificial Intelligence – from vision to reality

AI will find its way into project management, but project managers will certainly not be displaced by AI (so quickly). Under certain circumstances, less planning effort will be necessary using AI, less work in project controlling and the compilation of corresponding documents. This will relieve the project manager and allow him to concentrate more on other tasks. It is possible that employees can be saved using AI in the areas of planning, controlling and documentation. This certainly depends on the content and the repetition rate of the projects. If there is enough information from comparable projects, then AI can virtually “draw from the full” and reuse information for analysis, planning and controlling. However, if the project is more unique, more about social aspects of working in and with projects, then humans will be more in demand.

Currently, there are still relatively few application examples of AI in projects or project management. Nevertheless, scenarios are already being conjured up in relevant trade journals and in social media that see the project manager as a “dying breed”. Skepticism is in order here. As shown above, the project manager will continue to be needed; AI is a support for project management and not a replacement. How quickly this support finds its way into concrete projects will depend on the one hand on the training of project managers in the use of AI, and on the other hand on the concrete design of the interface between AI and humans. User-friendly operation, the modification of information processing parameters by humans and full transparency about the algorithms used will certainly determine how quickly the vision then becomes reality.

Conclusion

In the long term, AI will create freedom in project work so that project staff and managers can concentrate on the essential tasks. These solutions will by no means replace humans – especially in projects, tasks must always be viewed holistically, and interrelationships must be recognized that artificial intelligence cannot provide to this extent. This is also because framework conditions such as laws and specifications, as well as customer requirements, are subject to constant change. AI supports people in this process by providing more transparency and thus enables them to make faster and more informed decisions.

This means that projects, as well as people working on projects, will benefit from the collaboration between humans and machines. For more, contact us today.

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