Demand for project managers with AI skills high, but only few have experience

 

Moi Girls High School students and their teachers display a robotic operation on the first day of the regional science fair at their school on April 12, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

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

According to unpublished Customer Experience (CX) research by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a leading organisation for the project management profession, 49 per cent of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 or understanding of AI in the context of project management. 

This is despite AI taking a foothold in almost every sector, including the project management profession.

Pierre Le Manh, President and Chief Executive Officer of PMI, said that to improve project success, project professionals and organisations need to leverage AI tools and keep up with the latest development in 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. Now is the time for us to lead the AI transformation of organisations.”

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 in their organisation 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 that GenAI and other technologies have the potential to automate work activities that absorb 60 to 70 per cent of employees’ time today.

However, PMI in a press statement 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 PMI 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,” reads the statement.

Association of Construction Managers of Kenya (ACMK) 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.

“Every project manager must align and leverage on such tools.”

AI is a major disruption that requires businesses to transform. To help project professionals gain the foundational knowledge they need to master AI in project management, PMI has launched a free course titled "Generative AI Overview for Project Managers."

The course provides learners with practical knowledge for using AI that they can apply to their projects immediately. After completing the course, professionals will earn five Professional Development Units (PDUs) and a digital badge issued via Credly.

“AI is on the rise, with Goldman Sachs reporting AI investment could be near $200 billion globally by 2025, making it clear that project managers need to embrace and lead this change,” said Sam Sibley, Global Head, Emerging Products & Innovation for PMI.

“With the right combination of how to best use AI on projects and the project manager’s human touch, you can do more than ever to meet every challenge that comes your way.”