ai and pm

Can artificial intelligence replace the project manager?

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), it is not possible today to pretend nothing has happened. We cannot ignore how this technology will play a decisive role also in project management in the coming years.

For project managers, it is normal to manage, on certain occasions, not only different teams, but also different projects simultaneously. It is therefore obvious that, for the PM, finding a way to make the process easier and more efficient is a primary goal.

By creating a smoother process, project managers are able to get more reliable results and can help guide team members more effectively.

Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more important in the tools used by these professionals. Therefore, the technology is increasing both in the project management as well as in the planning and analysis phases.

Artificial intelligence must therefore not be feared, but welcomed in a positive way as a new step towards efficiency in project management.

Let’s see what this means in practice.

What is artificial intelligence in project management?

Artificial intelligence is a system capable of performing the daily management and administration of projects without requiring human input.

The AI will not only automate simple tasks, but will also develop an understanding of the key performance of the project.

Artificial intelligence in project management can then use this understanding to discover insights, perform more complex tasks, make recommendations, and make decisions, sometimes in very different ways than people would do.

Last but not least, an artificial intelligence system will save time while improving project and team results.

Three ways in which artificial intelligence can improve project management

Artificial intelligence in project management offers a level of service that exceeds that of the robots available today. For example, a bot that allows you to quickly check the status of an activity, although useful, is not exactly artificial intelligence.

In a similar way, an algorithm that applies machine learning to predict asset estimates, is interesting, but even this is not artificial intelligence.

It is only when you begin to unify robots and algorithms that you begin to realize the potential of artificial intelligence in project management.

There are at least 3 ways in which artificial intelligence can improve project management in the near future:

 Reduce the failure rate of projects thanks to predictive analysis

Throughout its life cycle, each project encounters a series of risks and uncertainties that can cause its failure.

The team must assess and respond regularly to all the risks they identify based on their experience, knowledge, and available tools.

Risk assessment can turn into a disaster if the project manager, together with the team, is not able to register new, potential, or intrinsic risks in time, especially in the case of large projects.

And if in these cases, was it possible to use an intelligent machine that can analyse historical data and send requests in order to develop a more in-depth risk classification system?

Machine learning allows computers to use design data and sophisticated algorithms to predict results and identify threats and vulnerabilities that affect the project.

Artificial intelligence can therefore help reduce the project’s failure rate.

More accurate project planning thanks to the AI

In general, the planning of the project concerns the creation of a detailed forecast on how to best use the resources available in terms of project goals.

As a project manager, it is necessary to re-evaluate durations, costs, and progress many times during a project. This is to ensure that the same project is executed as planned and to understand which actions can be taken in order to keep the project on track.

Of course, estimates made quickly or using unsuitable and conservative methods can lead to completely wrong values ​​and, consequently, to the failure of the project.

This is why project planning can be optimized with artificial intelligence.

A system based on artificial intelligence could analyse historical data, productivity rates, time estimates, working hours, etc … All this, so that it is possible to develop an optimized model of the project management process by automating repetitive tasks.

Machine learning could allow intelligent automation of processes in which computers perform routine tasks and humans would then be directed to perform the most critical and strategic tasks.
artificial intelligence

The contribution of project managers will have a higher value thanks to artificial intelligence

The work of a project manager, thanks to artificial intelligence, will see important changes.

As mentioned above, thanks to AI, it will be possible to automate repetitive tasks and routines and project managers will be able to devote more time to strategic and tactical thinking and judgment.

A project manager will focus on more value-added activities thanks to the possibility of delegating to intelligent machines.

For example, the assignment and planning of jobs will be managed by computers that will use data mining and predictive analysis to design precise timelines and assign jobs to the appropriate team members.

As artificial intelligence becomes more effective, project managers will rely on the decisions of the machines that will advise future trends, automate time scheduling, and respond to requests coming from superiors and staff.

Artificial intelligence in project management: Conclusions

In conclusion, artificial intelligence in project management will therefore have a huge impact on team performance and project results.

The teams that will use this new technology will move very quickly compared to those that will not. And it is something to be excited about.

About a decade ago, most of us were sceptical about using artificial intelligence almost everywhere, both in business and in everyday life.

We thought that AI could only be used for repetitive tasks, and programs were created to perform simple and routine tasks.

But with big data, growing processing power and advanced algorithms, we now know that artificial intelligence systems can be designed to perform even complex tasks and that artificial intelligence has the ability to come to think and act (almost) like a human.

Still in doubt? Well you can try yourself with a free demo.

scrum method

Scrum: A method to make the team work in unison

In the Scrum world, it is rare that complete and detailed descriptions of how each individual activity should be carried out in a project are provided. Much of this is left in the hands of the project team.

This is because the team will know better how to solve the problems that arise, since it works on the project every single day.

This is why in the Scrum method, for example, a planning meeting exposes the desired results, instead of defining in detail the activities as it would be the case in most other project management methods.

Scrum relies on a self-organized and cross-functional team.

The Scrum team organizes itself as there is no general team leader who decides which person will do which task or how a problem will be solved. These are all issues that are decided by the team as a whole.

Inter-departmental teams mean that all members are needed to carry out the implementation of ideas and activities.

What does the Scrum methodology provide?

Scrum methodology requires that projects proceed through a series of sprints.

In line with an agile methodology, sprints are scheduled monthly or, even more commonly, every two weeks.

A sprint begins with a planning meeting, where team members receive a list of activities to be performed during the sprint. Later, these activities are organized – by the team – and performed during the sprint.

At the end of a sprint, the team reviews the work done and analyses any factors that could influence the next sprint, as well as reflecting on the sprint that has just ended, and identifying any opportunities to improve.

It is a fact that, in any project, it is possible to accomplish more by working in teams rather than individually.

In a study conducted by Salesforce on workplace challenges, 86% of project managers agreed that failing to work together as a team was the main cause of project failure.

Teamwork is therefore an essential element for a successful organization.

The Scrum methodology can be defined as a team-based approach to delivering business value.

This method therefore promotes effective collaboration between team members so that they are able to tackle projects of any size and implement them together.

5 ways to improve teamwork with the Scrum method

Below, we will list 5 ways to improve teamwork thanks to the Scrum method. Having seen just how important the team’s collaboration can be, we invite you to pay close attention to the following.

1. Teach the principles of self-management

Scrum teams are designed to manage themselves, which means that they are able to perform activities during a sprint, without constant supervision or direction from a project manager.

This level of self-sufficiency varies based on the team’s familiarity with the Scrum principles and the complexity of the project.

Leadership and management are certainly necessary to initially establish the indications and objectives within the team structure and towards the project.

For Scrum teams, the project manager is simply responsible for the initial stages of a sprint, identifying the best team structure and helping to improve its development capacity.

Then it is up to the team members to make sure everyone is on track and take action if some members slow down or stay behind.

It is therefore important, in the Scrum methodology, that the project manager encourages the team to take responsibility and manage challenges in groups, rather than bringing their problems directly to a supervisor.

This will not only save the project manager time, but will also encourage employees to develop problem-solving skills and teamwork skills.

2. Work on internal communication skills

A Scrum team cannot function without communication. This is in fact an essential element for the trust and collaboration of the team.

Team members must be able to openly share victories, losses, and any internal problems that could prevent the team from finishing an activity during a sprint.

This kind of transparency requires that all members are able to communicate their ideas and concerns clearly in an appropriate manner.

In order to keep everyone informed, many Scrum teams use project management softwares to stay in constant contact with others.

3. Dedicate yourself to retrospective

With retrospective we mean the time when team members meet after each sprint to talk about everything that happened during that specific period of time.

Members can raise any challenges encountered that have hindered their progress or can suggest ideas to make things more fluid and easy during the next session.

With retrospective is not meant a moment of complaint or where to list excuses for poor performance, instead it is a brainstorming session, where everyone should offer ideas for positive actions that could improve future results.

A project manager should inspire this moment within the organization by holding meetings where everyone can share ideas and different points of view.

This practice will significantly help teams find solutions to their problems.

4. Focus on individuality

This advice seems to go against the concept of teamwork, however, individuality plays an important role in the success of a Scrum team.

One of the main values in the Scrum methodology is that this says that each member is important as an individual and, if a person is in difficulty, this will affect the entire project and organization.

While sprinting is definitely an overall team effort, many single tasks are assigned to individuals.

Teams and project managers must remember that each person operates differently: Some are more independent, while others want more interaction with their leaders and collaborators.

With an emphasis on the individual, Scrum teams can operate more effectively by finding systems that work for everyone.
the scrum method

5. Focus on collaborative decision-making

Scrum teams are responsible for determining the workload during a sprint and assigning tasks within the group.

In addition, they must also decide collaboratively how to handle internal problems that may arise.

Of course, Scrum teams will not agree on everything, so they must also be willing to negotiate and compromise for the overall good of the team.

This type of collaborative decision making is very useful for both Scrum and other organizations.

Studies have shown that when companies involve employees in decision-making processes, the results are better.

By involving all team members in the decision-making process, employees feel more powerful and important, which in turn increases their productivity and morale levels.

It is difficult for workers to stick to a strategy that they have not planned – at least in part – especially if they do not agree with practices or find them inefficient.

It is therefore necessary to find ways to include everyone in the planning process and encourage teams to find a solution that works for everyone.

 

Encouraging a culture of teamwork within the organization that follows the Scrum methodology could be the key to long-term success, but it is not an easy task.

Organizations are made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures and personalities may not always fit well in a group context.

Therefore, it is up to project managers to set an example of how teams should operate by implementing practices that encourage collaboration.

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skills of pm

Abilities and skills of a successful project manager

What are the most important skills and abilities for a project manager to be successful?

Being good at telling others what to do is not enough and not exactly right for a successful project manager. Instead, lead and inspire the team, this is another story.

A project manager is responsible for managing the work through the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the requirements of the project.

Knowing the theory of project management, but not having the right skills and abilities, is useless.

Similarly, having the right tools and techniques, but without the ability to use them properly is insignificant.

So let’s see together in this article what are the most important skills and qualities for a project manager.

Inspire a shared vision

A successful project manager is often described as a person who owns and inspires the group a shared vision of where to go and has the ability to articulate it.

Visionaries thrive in change and are able to draw new boundaries.

Once it was said that …

a leader is someone who gives us a reason to be and gives the vision and the spirit to change.

Visionary leaders let people feel that they have a real interest in the project and allow people to experience this vision, create it, and explore it.

Good communicatio

The ability to communicate with people at all levels has always been considered a fundamental skill in project managers.

The leadership of the project requires clear communication on goals, responsibilities, performance, expectations, and feedback.

The project manager is also the team’s connection with the organization and therefore must have the ability to negotiate and effectively use persuasion, when necessary, to ensure the success of the team and the project.

Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and group results by creating explicit guidelines for achieving results and advancing team members’ careers.

Integrity

One of the most important things a project manager has to remember is that his actions, not his words, determine the modus operandi for the team.

Good leadership requires commitment and demonstration of ethical practices.

Creating standards of ethical behaviour for themselves and following them, in addition to rewarding those who exemplify them, are the responsibilities of project managers.

Leadership motivated by personal interest does not serve the general well-being of the team.

Integrity-based leadership represents nothing less than a set of values shared by others, behaviour that is consistent with values and dedication to honesty with oneself and with team members.

Enthusiasm

In a very clear and simple way, negative project managers break down and discourage the team.

People always tend to follow positive people with a so-called “can-do” attitude, not those that always give reasons why something cannot be done.

Enthusiastic project managers are committed to their goals and express this commitment through optimism.

Leadership emerges when someone expresses a commitment in such a manner that others want to share his optimistic expectations.

Enthusiasm is contagious and successful project managers know this well.

Empathy

Empathy presupposes the existence of the other as a separate individual with his own feelings, ideas, and emotional histories.

Understanding and caring for people, as well as being grateful for their help, are some of the qualities that a successful project manager shows to his team members.

For example:

it is particularly appreciated by the team when a project leader recognizes the fact that everyone has a life outside of work.


ability of pm

Competence

Of course, to believe in another person – especially in work – we need to make sure that person knows what he is doing.

Leadership competence does not necessarily refer only to the technical skills of the project manager, but also to the ability to successfully lead the team.

The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, shape, and encourage must be demonstrated if a project manager wants to be seen as capable, competent, and successful.

Ability to delegate tasks

Trust is an essential element in the relationship between a project manager and his team.

And this trust in others must be shown through the actions of the project manager, like for example: How much he controls the work of the team members, how much he delegates, how much he allows people to participate in the project.

Individuals who are unable to trust other people often fail as project managers and find themselves doing all the work on their own to the detriment of the project’s success.

Ability to manage stress and work under pressure

In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, within budget, and without major issues or obstacles to overcome.

But we know, we don’t live in a perfect world: Projects always have problems, more or less serious depending on the situation.

A successful project manager will then react to these problems calmly and will not panic.

When leaders encounter a stressful event, they consider it interesting, they feel they can influence the result and see it as an opportunity and not as something purely negative.

From the uncertainty and chaos of change, successful project managers articulate a new picture of the future that still leads the project towards a positive ending.

Team building skills

A project manager is a strong person who provides the substance that keeps the team together in a common purpose towards the final goal.

In order for a team to move from a group of strangers to a single cohesive unit, the project manager must understand the process and the dynamics required for this transformation.

He must also know the appropriate leadership style to use during each phase of team development.

Last but not least, the successful project manager must also understand the different styles and characters of the team members and be able to take advantage of everyone at the right time.

Ability to solve problems

Although it is said that an effective project manager shares responsibility for solving problems with the team, it is still expected that the project leader has excellent problem-solving skills.

In conclusion, creating realistic project plans, budgets, estimate times and efforts, etc. are certainly skills that a successful project manager must possess.

But keeping the work organized and the team informed and happy is fundamental and these skills are what a project manager needs to succeed in his work.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

the rolling wave

The rolling wave in project management

The rolling wave technique is a method that allows the project manager to plan a project while it is taking place.

In short, this technique requires iterative planning.

This type of planning is very similar to that used in Scrum or in other Agile methodologies.

In essence, the rolling wave method allows you to plan until you have visibility to implement the plan, while the next steps are planned while working directly to the previous phases.

An example of rolling wave

A simple example of rolling wave is one where you expect to complete a project in eight months, but you only have clarity for the first three months. In this case, the first three months are planned.

As the project progresses and greater clarity is achieved, the following months can be planned.

The rolling wave technique uses progressive processing, which means processing work packages in more detail as the project unfolds.

But be careful that it does not mean that this planning method does not exempt the project manager from creating a list of milestones and assumptions for the project.

It is necessary to provide milestones and the key hypotheses as they will help stakeholders to understand why they are using the rolling wave method and what to expect while the project progresses.

 When to apply the rolling wave method

This method can be applied when:

  • It is not possible to define a detailed project plan shortly.
  • It is not clear which deliverables should be produced.
  • It is not possible to organize the different phases of the project.

The rolling wave method is particularly useful in projects with high uncertainty. Therefore, it is necessary to use the best risk management practices.

The rolling wave planning, therefore, is the process of breaking down the work breakown structure into time intervals.

At the end of each phase, the project manager will study the structure of the WBS and will expand it to include more details.

It is particularly suitable for projects where the work involved in a phase is highly variable and depends on the result of the previous phase, such as projects that require prototypes and, in general, in the engineering sector.

The advantages of the rolling wave method

This type of approach to project management is particularly useful when the availability of the information needed to plan future work packages in detail is based on the successful completion of the previous phases of the project.

This technique can also help reduce turnaround time in two ways:

  • By allowing the start of productive activities without waiting for every detail of the work to be determined in advance.
  • By eliminating downtime for additional planning in the middle of a project, since planning is performed continuously.

This type of planning also has the following advantages:

  • Encourages adaptability
  • Encourages planning
  • It is excellent for research and development projects, high technology and inventions
  • It is excellent for projects with variable capacity

The rolling wave planning is done in 4 simple steps:

  • Create the WBS.
  • Divide the project into phases.
  • Provide a realistic level of detail for each phase.
  • Once the considered phase is completed, return to step 1 to manage the next phase.

The steps of the rolling wave planning

rolling wave

Now let’s look at these steps in detail.

Create the WBS

The work breakdown structure is the nucleus around which all the other project management planning processes take place.

This involves splitting each project into single work items.

Each work item requires an identification number, a description, and a member of the team responsible for that particular activity, and sometimes it has additional elements such as budget, expiration date, and dependencies with other tasks.

Throughout the project life cycle, these work items are monitored and progress is recorded and reported.

Divide the project into phases

The phases are more simply the points in which an important moment for the project in general takes place.

For example, if we consider the creation of a prototype, a phase could be concluded with the presentation of a first prototype model.

From this stage others may follow, depending on the result – which is still uncertain. For example, the prototype could be accepted, thus starting the large-scale production phase, or it could be declared unsuitable, thus starting the re-elaboration phase.

Provide a realistic level of detail for each phase

Clearly, as you continue planning on the timeline, the phases will have less and less detail.

This is a clear concept in the rolling wave methodology, given that information on future steps is few or there are no information at all.

The work breakdown structure will therefore contain less details regarding the successive phases, but these will be reviewed and completed when the phases begin to be near in time.

Once the considered phase is completed, return to step 1 to manage the next phase

There is not much to say at this point. As explained above, as the project continues in its cycle, it will be possible to determine and manage the phases that come near in the future.

In general, it is always important, before starting with the execution of a project, to have a plan at the beginning of any project.

If the project will be known in detail immediately, it will be possible to continue with traditional planning, otherwise the rollign wave method can be used.

Choosing the wrong planning methodology can lead to loss of control over the project.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

manage complex projects

The management of complex projects

Complex projects represent a great undertaking for a Project Manager.

It means coping with a variety of tasks, having different people to manage and with which to communicate and having multiple goals to achieve.

How can a project manager reach the goal with so many factors in the game? Let’s seeit in this article.

What makes a project complex?

It is important to understand that there is a difference between a complex project and a difficult project.

A complex project is not necessarily difficult. Conversely, projects can be difficult due to cost or performance, but this does not automatically mean that they are complex.

Complexity refers to projects that include ambiguity or uncertainty and are therefore surrounded by unpredictability.

There are a variety of factors that cause the complexity of the project, for example:

  • Technology: The technical content of a project can cause complexity. This could depend on the technology used or the development of the software.
  • Cost and budget: The project may have to face problems such as not attracting enough capital to achieve the goals or have problems in directing the funds towards the right aspects of the project.
  • Program: Complexity can come from the time of the project.
  • Very different political stakeholders: Projects can bring together different stakeholders, which can be a problem, especially if politics is involved. Different political interests can increase complexity, since the project must handle different requirements and expectations.
  • Legal: Even legal issues related to a project can increase complexity. Sometimes the legal complexity can be linked to the political one.
  • Social: This may be due to the fact that the members of the group come from different social contexts or it can be the case when the project works within a specific social context.

It is therefore necessary, first and foremost, to identify why a given project can be considered complex and then proceed to address it.

The essential skills needed to manage complex projects

 The management of a complex project requires different capacities, including:

  • Adaptability
  • Cooperation
  • Communication
  • Competence
  • Leadership

A project is constantly evolving and project managers must evolve with it. It is not always possible to think that there are “white or black” solutions.

The time will come when the project manager will be forced to adapt his management style based on the change in the situation.

The communication is probably the most important project management skill. It is essential that PMs effectively convey and manage vision, ideas, goals, and problems.

Moreover, project managers must also produce and display reports, also using disruptive technologies and presentations that are informative and clear.

Communication is closely linked to collaboration. A project manager must be willing to collaborate with the project team. Working with others in order to achieve goals is important for any type of project, especially if it is complex.

Competence and Leadership to manage complex projects

Finally, competence and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership consists of guiding, directing, and motivating the team to do its best and make the members understand how their tasks contribute to the overall vision. Leadership develops with experience, through practical and real work.

Having these essential skills is the key to identifying what makes a project complex and managing it.

So let’s see in practice how to manage a complex project.
complex projects

Manage complex projects: Document regularly

Project can be divided into perfectly manageable mini-projects, but without clear documentation on the single tasks and how they relate to the whole, the project remains unclear.

Clear and up-to-date documentation is the answer to this problem.

This allows the project manager to define everyone’s roles and their results and ensures that the overview is clear to all team members.

The project manager has the task of documenting everything and regularly sending the project status to the team and to the stakeholders – as agreed.

Managing complex projects: Continuously clarify goals

If you do not understand the “why” behind the project, it is very difficult to succeed.

When a project manager delegates without clearly defined goals, the team will fail. It is therefore important that team members understand their role and the tasks that they have to perform.

Clarifying the goals regularly also ensures that the project remains aligned with the initial plan.

Managing complex projects: Make everything more visible

 During a complex project, the team is often confused by the details and it becomes problematic to continue when it is saturated by too much information.

To create greater visibility within a project, a good practice is to adopt a project management tool that works for the project manager, the team, and the stakeholders.

This tool will allow all project users to stay informed and clearly see the status of the project and what is happening, using this tool as a unique source of information.

Managing complex projects: Be flexible

A constant in complex projects is the continous changing and for this, a project manager must be able to adapt and be flexible.

It is therefore important to ensure that processes are set up in such a manner to allow the team to remain agile and respond to changing requests.

The project manager adds value by making things more efficient and effective and / or reducing risks, precisely thanks to his ability to adapt.

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