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How AI Can Unlock the Final Frontier of Project Management

Most opportunities for digital disruption have happened when there is wasted capacity because of a disconnect with demand. How many empty houses were there before AirBnB connected people leaving town with people who wanted to stay there? How many empty seats were there before StubHub connected buyers with sellers?

In the world of project management, optimizing demand and capacity is resource management. And it’s the holy grail of portfolio and project management.

Resource Management: The Keystone of PPM and PM

For a simple analogy, let’s think of your organizationo’s daily operations like an airline maintaining a flight schedule. Deciding the specs of where the planes should go and at what times and with how many passengers is analogous to portfolio management.

Resource management is at the core of this planning and optimizing process. You would have to know how many planes are available at what time, how many pilots are scheduled to work that day, and so forth.

Likewise, getting the plane to its specified destination efficiently and on time is like project management. And this too is centered around resource management. The right combination of pilots, flight attendants, gasoline, and so on are all required for the project to take off. They all need to be available at just the right time, for the full duration of the project with variables (eg: employee illness or plane maintenance) tracked and accounted for. All of these considerations fall under the purview of resource management.

If only it were that easy …

If you’ve ever been a part of a project where the necessary resources aren’t available at the project start date, that’s a problem with resource management. It’s Day 1, and your project is already off course.

This is such a common occurance because most organizations are yet to crack resource management. The process sounds simple in theory. All you have to do is track demand and capacity. In practice, it has proven to be a nightmare.

There’s an extant methodology on how to collecct estimates that has been in use for years by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The problem, though, is a lack of rigor and a lack of appreciation for the ROI around tracking this seemingly basic information. It takes a lot of capacy just to do estimation on capacity. Demand then has to be updated based on the capacity, and it takes even more capacity to keep up with that. The result is a never-ending oriborus that has haunted organizations that jump into the process with unrealistic expectations from low-investments.

This has been a thorn in the paw of portfolio and project management. Solving it would be a major breakthrough.

This is where AI could be a major game-changer. AI could create an avenue to constant and instantaneous updates to capacity and demand without being a drag on capacity.

As with all problem-opportunities around Big Data, the data is out there. But it’s so mammoth that it will take an innovation to reliably find the needle in the haystack.