Study shows why project managers need AI skills

Survey indicates although demand is high, few project managers have AI experience. [iStockphoto]

Only 18 per cent of project managers have extensive practical experience with artificial intelligence (AI) tools and technologies, a survey shows.

According to an unpublished Customer Experience (CX) research by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a leading organisation for the project management profession, 49 per cent of project managers have little to no experience with AI in the context of project management.

This is despite AI taking a foothold in almost every sector.

Pierre Le Manh, president and chief executive officer of PMI, said professionals and organisations need to leverage AI tools and keep up with the latest development in the technology through continuous learning.

"I see an incredible opportunity to elevate the leadership role of project professionals in their organisation, thanks to the AI-driven disruption," said Le Manh.

"Project professionals are natural learners, problem solvers, innovators and they get things done."

According to the 2023 PMI Annual Global Survey on Project Management, 82 per cent of senior leaders said AI will have at least some impact on how projects are run over the next five years.

The survey shows the top three ways project managers use AI are reporting (34 per cent), decision support (33 per cent), and communication (26 per cent).

A report by McKinsey Digital titled "The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier" says GenAI and other technologies have the potential to automate work activities that absorb 60 to 70 per cent of employees' time today.

However, PMI says tools cannot automate interpersonal skills, the invaluable and necessary skills project managers bring to projects.

These include communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking skills, which the institute calls "power skills".

"While AI can take on productivity tasks like planning and budgeting, project managers are also using AI as a tool to sharpen specific power skills, so their human interactions and strategic decisions are stronger," said the institute.

Association of Construction Managers of Kenya former chairman, Nashon Okowa, said project management will be greatly enhanced by AI.

Okowa said timely delivery of projects amid the "ballooning, unprecedented challenges" will be efficient with AI assistance. "We are incredibly struggling to deliver projects as required. Of course, AI won't fully eliminate what project managers do, to think so is foolhardy; however, it will bring efficacy in projects delivery," he said.