The implementation and adoption of AI in projects faces a number of challenges and opportunities, according to new research from the Association for Project Management.
The researchers, associate professor of project management Nicholas Dacre and PhD candidate researcher Fredrik Kockum – both from the University of Southampton Business School – found that there is a positive correlation between the level of project complexity and the perceived usefulness of AI.
One project manager interviewed by the researchers said: “Complex projects consist of many unknowns, and the unknowns are increasing in our projects. We can see that using AI technology reduces some of our unknowns. For a simple project, we do not see the same need for AI.”
The researchers also found that AI:
- enhances decision-making in projects;
- supports problem-solving functions;
- is most likely to be used during project planning;
- improves efficiency when analysing large volumes of data in projects; and
- has the potential to increase project success and mitigate project failure.
However, the researchers noted the challenges and highlighted the linked opportunities.
The research found that the number of project professionals that have received training in AI is significantly low, yet the demand for AI-skilled individuals is high. According to the researchers, this is an important finding since a large majority of the survey participants stated training in AI is important in order to use it on projects.
The researchers found project organisations are not providing training in AI at a sufficient level. However, organisations that provide good AI training will reap the rewards of having AI-skilled individuals on their projects, they stated.
Degrees of AI understanding
The understanding of AI varied among research participants: many project professionals have a limited understanding of how AI can be used in projects, so developing expertise in AI will give professionals and their organisations significant advantages and opportunities.
High degree of AI novelty
AI remains unproven in many project sectors and real-life case studies of AI used by project professionals are scarce. This means that sharing successful case studies of AI in project management is difficult.
However, this creates opportunities for businesses that are successful in this field to take a leading role and outperform competitors.
Ambiguity of the impact of AI on the project profession
The researchers found that project professionals believe AI will impact the role of the project manager, but there is some ambiguity in what the consequences of this impact will be.
The challenge to reduce this ambiguity includes building the necessary skills and clearly communicating changes in project processes that will affect how professionals work.
If employers successfully communicate the change and impact AI will have on professionals’ project roles, organisations have an opportunity to support professionals when exploring the technology.
AI ease of use could be improved
Project professionals state that using AI is a challenge because it’s not easy to use. This becomes a barrier for implementation and can slow down the overall adoption of AI in the project profession.
“Some of the challenges of AI are inherently difficult to change, such as reusing data and AI models for different problems. However, this becomes an opportunity for early adopters to explore how to improve AI’s ease of use,” the researchers said.
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