As artificial intelligence replaces a variety of business workers, we sat down with the last project manager to talk about the end of an (human) era and how AI is making businesses more people friendly. The following excerpt is edited for length and clarity.
Question: Did you expect this day to come? The end of the project manager?
Answer: I’ve been a project manager for a very long time. When I first started, colleagues would ask me why I wanted to be a PM? I mean, “no one likes them” and “they’re a waste of time.” Well, the last 30 years or so has probably shown that I made a good career choice. But now the time has come when project management, or at least project management as we know it, is going to go the way of the dodo. My former colleagues will no doubt be thrilled.
Q: What happened?
A: It's because of technology, specifically AI. Project portfolio management software reached the point of maturity where AI was able to make most of the management decisions for us, like estimating work, building out schedules, prioritizing features, allocating team members, assessing and monitoring risks, reporting progress, and so on. All of those things I learned to do many years ago are now being done by robots – and they’re probably doing a better job too.
Q: How do you feel about it all?
A: Does it leave me feeling down, maybe upset, that I am being replaced by a piece of software? Absolutely not. This is the best thing that has ever happened to project management.
A: Yes, of course. You see, all that stuff we used to do is the low-value stuff. It’s important, for sure, but what really matters is building a cohesive team that can effectively deliver innovative solutions to today’s challenges. And that takes leadership – it takes a PM who is focused on the team and its individuals and can create an environment where those people can always give their best. Project management just gets in the way of the people management.
Q: So you’re saying AI will make companies more people-focused?
A: I say, long live AI. The technology’s biggest challenge now is to convince leaders to trust AI with critical management decisions. But once that trust is earned, companies can rely more on people to make the big investment decisions. And that’s a very good thing.