Automation: The Future of Project Management

In an age of driverless cars, UAVs, and smart cities, robots appear to be on the rise. Project managers already suffer from a perception that we are unnecessary, costly appendages—substituting us with a mechanical appendage, therefore, may pose a very real threat. Instead of focusing on the potential doom and gloom of this scenario, I’d prefer to fantasize about the benefits that automation could bring to project managers. Imagine a world free from:

  • Status reports. Hate providing repetitive inputs in different formats for the benefit of various stakeholders? In an era of automation, these recurring nuisances would become a thing of the past. A robot would take care of your status reporting for you.

  • Number crunching. My loyal readers know how much cost estimating irks me. In the age of automation, you wouldn’t have to run the numbers again. You’d get real-time data and alerts about the health of your project. Best of all, the robot would recommend various courses of action based on financial indicators and other parameters that you'd set.

  • Forms. Forget about populating a series of seemingly endless forms to onboard new staff, hire a subcontractor, or request an exception. You'd have a robot for that.

Some PM-skeptical readers may have concluded that this will leave project managers with nothing to do. I’d beg to differ. While clerical tasks and even business analysis may become more automated over time, two things cannot be automated away:

  • People Management. Someone needs to corral the players involved to deliver a successful product or service.

  • Decision Making. Even if a robot can spot trends, someone still needs to set the project strategy based on the information provided.

Therefore, project managers of the future can count on emotional intelligence becoming an even more critical skill than it already is. Sounds amazing. To be honest– isn’t the hope of talking to people all day the reason that most of us signed up for this gig in the first place? And, as an added bonus, when we're not mixing it up with our project teams and business partners, we'll be able to focus on the so-called deep thinking that eludes so many of us so much of the time. Bring on the future.