What projects can I do in AI

Artificial Intelligence in Project Work - Opportunity or Risk?

- Expert opinion -

Artificial intelligence is also finding its way into project work. Where are we standing? Where is the journey going? Reinhard Wagner takes a closer look for us and looks at individual aspects.

Tiba Magazine - Issue 2/2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been with us for many years (see info box below). The subject has gained new momentum due to the rapid development of the Internet and the opportunities it offers. Today, AI is once again determining the public debate. A scenario in which computers and their programs replace people in their work environment is particularly popular in “social media”. While in the early years of AI computer programs simply solved a large number of complex if-then tasks, today's generation of AI programs are based on our brains. These "neural networks" work independently using pattern recognition (e.g. with the help of speech, images and other signals) and are constantly optimizing themselves. This enables the solution of complex tasks and "deep learning".

The application possibilities seem to be unlimited. With the help of AI, diseases can be diagnosed and appropriate treatments suggested. Investment decisions are prepared with the help of AI or made automatically at great speed without the need for a human. Cars drive independently, even in complex traffic situations, as if controlled by magic, transport services are optimized with the help of AI and automatically billed via electronic payment systems.

Artificial intelligence in everyday work

Will AI displace people in the world of work? What role will AI play in project management in the future? Does it even make the project manager superfluous? These and other questions arise in connection with the use of AI in project work or in project management.

To answer these questions, we have to deal with the prerequisites for the use of AI in our everyday work, illuminate the specifics of project work and derive what opportunities and risks this can have for all of us.

AI is based on computer programs that perform logical operations and require a lot of input to do so. Input is available in very large numbers nowadays. A multitude of sensors deliver a flood of data (“big data”) that AI can process, compare and evaluate at high speed. With the help of "data mining", patterns in large amounts of data can be recognized, thus enabling machine learning. AI can therefore particularly show its strengths where large amounts of data are available and these patterns can be recognized.

Humans are there to set appropriate tasks, to verify recognized patterns and to give the computer program appropriate "feedback" so that it can further develop its algorithms. This feedback can be done indirectly, for example by clicking on or ordering certain products from a mail order company on the Internet. In this way, a certain buying behavior can be recognized and comparable products can be offered to the customer.

People remain the most important factor

AI therefore requires interaction with people. It only develops further through intensive interaction. Through their behavior, humans can influence AI and thus make AI usable for themselves. However, for most people the algorithms of AI do not open up, so there is often rejection and skepticism. Only a few experts understand the structure and programming of the programs necessary for the application of AI. Further dissemination therefore requires education and the development of appropriate skills in dealing with AI.

However, AI reaches its limits when it comes to human behavior, when processes are unpredictable and change dynamically. If only a few data are available and weak information has to be interpreted, then humans are (still) superior to AI with their intuition. This will continue to be the case in the future. The fear that AI could replace humans is therefore unjustified. Communication with a computer program is rather tedious and impersonal for people, there is a lack of empathy and the feeling of trust. Relationships can therefore only develop between people. AI is an aid, supports work and helps people to process the flood of information and make it available for decisions.

Artificial Intelligence in Project Work - Opportunity or Risk?

How can AI support project work? Certainly in a series of routine work, for example in the analysis of the initial situation and possible variants of the business case, in the creation of planning documents (based on completed projects and available information) as well as technical documents, in the recording and evaluation of controlling -Data and preparation of decisions in the project. So wherever the strengths of AI come into play.

Nonetheless, the project manager must learn to make corresponding specifications for the AI, to check the results of the algorithms for their plausibility and to make corrections if necessary. For this purpose, appropriate skills should be developed with the project manager. A project manager will continue to be indispensable wherever cooperation is involved, where relationships, interpersonal communication and the targeted building of trust are required.

The advantages of using AI in project work can be seen in the relief of routine tasks from the project management, in the processing of a veritable flood of information, in the support in the difficult decision-making process and in the general transparency that can be achieved with AI.

However, this is offset by a number of disadvantages. The boundary between personal information and information that is useful for the project is becoming increasingly blurred. If information is disclosed, it is not always clear who can ultimately see it and whether it is not being misused. On the one hand, transparency can be created in the project with the help of AI, on the other hand, it is not always clear to the user how the data is processed within the framework of the AI. As long as the user, i.e. a project manager, does not have any influence on the computer program, the mistrust will remain.

Artificial Intelligence - from vision to reality

AI will find its way into project management, but project managers will certainly not (so quickly) be ousted by AI. Under certain circumstances, the use of AI will result in less planning effort, less work in project controlling and the compilation of corresponding documents. This relieves the project manager and allows him to concentrate more on other tasks. It is possible that employees can be saved through the use of AI in the areas of planning, controlling and documentation. This certainly depends on the content and the repetition rate of the projects. If there is enough information from comparable projects, then AI can “draw on the full potential” and reuse information for analysis, planning and control. However, if the project is rather unique, if it is more about social aspects of work in and with projects, then people will be in greater demand.

At the moment there are still relatively few application examples of AI in projects or in project management. Nevertheless, in relevant specialist journals and in social media, scenarios are already being conjured up that see the project manager as a "dying species". Skepticism is appropriate here. As shown above, the project manager is still needed, AI is support for project management and not a substitute. How quickly this support finds its way into specific projects will depend on the one hand on the training of project managers in dealing with AI, and on the other hand on the specific design of the interface between AI and humans. User-friendly operation, the change in parameters of information processing by humans and full transparency about the algorithms used certainly determine how quickly the vision then becomes reality.

Conclusion

In the long term, AI will create freedom in project work so that project staff and managers can concentrate on the essential tasks. These solutions will by no means replace humans - especially in projects, tasks have to be viewed holistically and connections recognized that an artificial intelligence cannot show on this scale. Also because framework conditions such as laws and specifications, but also customer requirements, are subject to constant change. AI supports people with more transparency and enables them to make decisions faster and more well-founded.

This means that projects, but also people involved in project work, will benefit from the collaboration between man and machine.

Author: Reinhard Wagner, Managing Director, Tiba Managementberatung GmbH
Email: reinhard.wagner (at) tiba.de

Artificial Intelligence in retrospect

Science has been concerned with the relationship between man and machine since the Enlightenment. For example, the French Julien Offray de La Mettrie described the human soul as the result of complex body functions and the result of biological development in his work "L’homme machine" as early as 1748. In 1950, Alan Turing then took up the problem of artificial intelligence in connection with computers in “Computer machinery and intelligence” and suggested the Turing test as an answer to the question of whether a machine is capable of thinking in a comparable way to humans. This test looks at the responses of a machine in dialogue with a human. If this is indistinguishable from human behavior, then, according to Turing, one should speak of machine or artificial intelligence.

 

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