Three Reasons Why AI Won’t Replace Project Managers

Project Management 12-Feb-2024

Fear of new technology is often based on the belief that it results in a loss of jobs. As technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more prevalent in updating project methodologies, project managers ask the same question. Will we still need project managers?  Using AI in projects is growing because it improves project performance and increases project success rates. Below is my opinion on why AI will not be able to replace the project manager role.     

  1. Managing data.  AI, especially machine learning algorithms, requires structured and relevant data.  From my experience working with organizations, they have a lot of project data, but it is unstructured, not easily accessible, and often misses important data points.  Project managers need to define a project data strategy, provide constant updates for data used as input to AI tools, and ensure the data being collected is the most relevant to the project type or organization. This is not a function that an IT person or a business specialist can provide. A project manager knows project management language and concepts such as the critical path and earned value.
  2. Interpreting results and taking appropriate action.  AI is based on math, not myth. Project managers need to interpret machine learning output and determine what actions are required.  AI algorithms produce a prediction or perform classification.  Prediction is unlikely to be a 100% probability, and a classification result may include pointless outliers. A project manager with knowledge of statistics can determine the proper evaluation and next steps toward a decision.
  3. Collaborating.  Studies show that when people collaborate with AI tools, the results are better than either could achieve on their own.  As shown in reasons 1 and 2 above, project managers have a critical role in optimizing this technology’s effectiveness.

The knowledge required to be a great project manager will change, and the role will be slightly different.  As mundane tasks, such as creating a project status report and organizing a team meeting, are automated, there will be other more interesting and challenging tasks for project managers to perform that will improve project performance.