Will you lose your project manager job to an AI robot?

By robots, I mean artificial intelligence algorithms, which are moving forward and fast. Did you know most of us are using some form of AI right now without realizing it? There's been a lot of fear with regards to which jobs are safe and which ones aren't. We don't know the future, but we do know AI is making real progress.

In the news, they are saying AI and self-driving trucks will replace truck drivers. I bet you thought as a project manager, that won't happen to you. Well, guess again!

How do you know if your job is at risk? 

Here's a short video of a project manager trying to keep the robot from doing his admin work for his boss. (Well, not exactly, but fasinating to watch!)

What AI can do today for project management

If you want to know whether or not a robot can do your job, it's important to know what robots can do . Although artificial intelligence is evolving pretty rapidly, there are general limitations that we haven't been able to crack just yet. And it's normal: the human brain and intelligence itself is a complex system. As it stands today, AI can only do a fraction of what the human brain can do, but there are some things these robots can do so much better than us humans.

Number crunching and DATA Gathering

Do you spend most of your day adding, editing and verifying data, tracking progress, and creating reports? Maybe it's time rethink this strategy because AI algorithms will be able to do this soon.

In the coming year, machine learning and data analysis are going to take over. We have access to massive amounts of data at the tip of our fingers, but managing these oceans of data is near impossible for humans. This is where software robots are likely to become increasingly valuable. They are accurate, really fast, never take breaks, don't complain, and work continuously for free once the initial cost is covered. In fact, throw 1000 projects at them and they can still do it faster than you or I could with one project.

If you're a "project admin" type of project manager, your days are numbered! So you better learn something else as a project manager. I will explain what that is soon.

Scheduling and assigning work

Like number crunching and data gathering, robots will be able to use machine learning to get better and better at project scheduling and resource management. Ok, so we humans need to do this for now, but watch out! That kind of work will eventually go to the robots. So, you better learn something else!

Flagging anomalies and reporting problems

Since AI is so good at crunching data, it's also a lot more sensitive to anomalies in that data. While demotivated teams today are unlikely to report problems and hence, keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, AI can force those mistakes to surface and therefore create an environment where continuous improvement is par for the course. Plus, the more data it has access to the less bias it can be, unlike us humans.

Getting your updates from team members to identify project risks and issues days are numbered too. Ah, and yes, you better learn something else.

Am I at risk of being replaced by a robot?

Absolutely if you spend most of your time as a project administrator. If your boss sees that as mostly what you do, then your boss will replace you with a robot. (Keep in mind that your future boss may be a robot making people management decisions.)

Here's the bottom line: if you see your project management job as being mostly data-driven and schedule-driven — you're in big trouble. We've discussed in the past how a lot of project managers only do the above three tasks in their day-to-day work. Not only can a robot do it better, but you're also not creating that much business value. Here are signs that you might need to up the ante:

  • You spend the majority of your time gathering status data and creating/analyzing reports
  • You're only part of discussions about what to do, not how to do it
  • Your team isn't big on collaboration or helping each other
  • Problems aren't reported or solved
  • There's a lack of engagement from the team to solve and innovate

What these five points have in common is that they don't drive processes, efficiency and innovation forward. Things get done, sure, but the output provides a low amount of value. In order to stay ahead of the curve and not be replaced by AI, you need to break through this cycle.

Ok, now you might think that robots is going to replace low-skill jobs like what's been happening with factory workers. Check out this video talk that has a section about medical doctors losing their jobs to AI. For that part, jump to 10 minutes into the video. This is given by New York Times best selling author, Professor Yuval Noah Harari. The entire talk is both amazing and scary!


How can I keep my project manager job away from the cold hands of a robot?

Ever heard the saying "there are no stupid questions?". It's wrong. This is a stupid question. Robots are here to stay, whether you like it or not. Trying to keep AI at bay for the sake of keeping your job is not a solution because while other teams embrace it, you'll be losing out to the competition and eventually become obsolete. So let's try this again and reformulate:

How can I manage a project using AI to create more value?

Aha! Now that is a question worth answering! But we'll be getting to this next week only.

Stay tuned for part 2 where will will show you how to reinvent yourself to keep your job along side of the robots! 

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Written by Isabelle Blondin and Paul Dandurand

Photo by H Heyerlein

Paul DandurandComment