Artificial Intelligence in Project Management: Literature Review and Future Prospects
Adel Belharet – ESIEE Paris
-- A recent report I authored with colleagues (see below) at ESIEE Paris, entitled “Report on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Project Management,” delves into a phenomenon well expressed by the Co-founder and leader of Google Brain, Andrew Ng, in 2016: “Much has been written about AI’s potential to reflect both the best and the worst of humanity. For example, we have seen AI providing conversation and comfort to the lonely; we have also seen AI engaging in racial discrimination. Yet the biggest harm that AI is likely to do to individuals in the short term is job displacement, as the amount of work we can automate with AI is vastly bigger than before. As leaders, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure we are building a world in which every individual has an opportunity to thrive.”
Throughout history, new technologies emerged that completely overhauled many business processes and organizational structures. From the industrial revolution which was one of the biggest milestones in humanity, to the invention of smartphones which allowed us to be more interconnected, to the more recent integration of automation in various fields. Artificial Intelligence is the next milestone we are going to cross.
As a discipline, project management has continuously evolved as business processes grow increasingly digitized and computerized. Companies have recently been experimenting with innovative technologies and concepts that greatly improve the productivity of project teams, either by developing adaptive PM methodologies or incorporating the use of project management tools.
In our study, we examine currently existing information and published material on the topic and produce highly probable predictions on future changes impacting project management, the project manager, and the project management office in the near future. We do this using the Actor-Network Theory approach which allows us to study the existing controversies about the subject, and analyze the perspectives of stakeholders supporting the implementation of AI systems in project management, and their counterparts on the other side of the spectrum. Since a strong connection between projects and the Actor-Network Theory already exists (Markowski 2008), using this social science to assess controversies relating to AI 's effect on project management as a social practice would yield highly probable predictions.
We explore the industries most likely to implement AI systems the earliest such as healthcare, transportation and finance, and we deep-dive into the processes most likely to be automated because of the advent of AI. Be it through processing huge amounts of data to provide meaningful suggestions and instructions to project teams, streamlining day-to-day management tasks, removing the human element from progress reporting, using predictive analysis to allow for more efficient project planning, or completely automating human resource management systems, AI would allow for unattended end-to-end automation of business and management processes.
As development of AI systems progresses, they are increasingly incorporated in daily life. Yet, it is still one of the least explored technologies that could overhaul the project management profession. Despite wide recognition of the potential benefits of using these systems to improve human lives today, the uncertainty related to new technology as well as the lack of systematic knowledge related to the potential of AI systems has led to a slow progress of development in this regard (Butt, 2018). Our report is aimed at helping pioneer further research in this subject, and offers recommendations on adapting current project management practices in order to take advantage of the benefits of Artificial Intelligence and to minimize any potential risks.