How Future Project Managers Can Survive In The Age Of AI
The tussle between human managers and robots is imminent
Imagine a future where the human resource of the present is entirely replaced by robots. Given the meteoric rise of artificial intelligence or AI, it is a foregone conclusion that they will eventually be the dominant labor force. From virtual assistants who schedule COVID-19 vaccine slots for you to litigation and legal researchers, AI and machine learning have grown by leaps and bounds.
In fact, the process of smart machines eliminating manual work is already underway. A report of the US Budget House Committee is fairly optimistic about the scale of automation and its subsequent disruption of the job market but admits that 5–25% of low and middle-income jobs are likely to be replaced.
College graduates and even Ph.D. holders can no longer rest on their credentials, as robotics expands its footprint in every sector. While unskilled mechanical workers may be the first to be substituted by their AI counterparts, skilled professionals, including project managers, are now just as perilously close to being replaced.
The IT boom had helped shape the career of a generation of youth in service-driven economies like India. In my interactions with IT professionals, most of whom are coders, a favorable career trajectory leads up to the position of project manager. But unlike conventional 9 to 5 jobs that entail fulfilling designated tasks for the day, project management is much wider in scope, often the invisible fulcrum holding up a project, and usually never receiving its due.
Project Managers, Unique No More
This is not an attempt at canonizing project managers (PMs) however, for there is a fair share of lousy PMs out there. It is, after all, a generalist job that requires some expertise in a certain domain, along with the universal skill set of diplomacy, time management, stellar communication, resourcefulness, and leadership.
And, finding an individual with an optimum balance of these traits is surprisingly hard.
Unfortunately, the ‘human’ traits, grounded in superior emotional quotient, are no longer unique only to our species. The former head of Google research in China, Kai-Fu Lee stressed that white-collar jobs are likely to be supplanted by machines much quicker than imagined earlier. We have computers and algorithms that can perform tasks of near-human-level intelligence, surpassing their current turf of mere data processing and analysis.
Coexistence or Conflict?
The rise of machines can have positive implications in multiple domains, as advancements in one sector can be leveraged in other fields too. Conventionally, automation is touted to scale up productivity and ease human lives. Business leaders and managers, often tasked with a multitude of responsibilities, can therefore choose to coexist with AI.
Task Delegation: One way to ensure coexistence is to share responsibilities with AI algorithms, allowing them to designate tasks at the micro level, while being cognizant of the holistic objective of the project. Free of human interference, these tasks can be delegated efficiently, without error, and timely monitored.
Most managers report failure as often times the consequence of poor communication. Scheduling appointments and keeping team members in the loop regarding next steps can be swiftly accomplished with the aid of AI. Stratejos is a virtual assistant that can be integrated into Slack and Jira for seamless communication within the team.
Managers, free of such administrative duties, can better focus their energy towards strategic planning and assessment.
Optimum Resource Utilization: Smart algorithms can also resolve bottlenecks in production and better debug the end result, thus enhancing productivity. Just as an automated warehouse filters out defective products, these smart software alternatives can utilize resources fully and simplify a human manager’s constraints. AI, with its data driven and computing expertise, is pioneering a new age of human resource management.
Automated recruiters, trainers and leaders are the future of HR
Analytical Risk Prediction and Management: An important facet of successful project management is risk prediction. Analyzing past data is quintessential to reliable risk prediction. A machine with superior data analytics capabilities can gauge past outcomes, recognize patterns and successfully prepare a team towards potential risks.
Integrating AI can improve enterprise risk management and help mitigate losses.
But coexistence is not a long-lasting phenomenon. As advanced technologies with human adeptness continue to grow, the conflict between human and AI managers could come to a head. The machine takeover may not be catastrophic as relayed in most sci-fi movies, but the disruption of human leadership roles may become our future reality. The coveted managerial domain may soon be overrun by robots, confining human involvement to fine-tuning these machines and being their taskmasters.
As the evolutionary theory reiterates, the survival of the fittest is possible. The managers of today would require a different skill set, one that cannot be replicated by a machine, to survive in the next century job market.