Will project managers go unemployed?

There’s a growing market for project management apps like Slack, Basecamp, Trello and others. While each have its own different features, there’s definitely a lot of focus on the field of project management and integration.

Unlike the old desktop programs like MS-project, these neat little tools cost next to nothing to operate and require very little training for today’s users. They have intuitive, user-friendly UX. They play well in a connected environment of emails, IM and social media. And under the hood, these are mean tasks allocation machines that keep the project’s track record better than any project manager.

Add the power of Artificial intelligence, and you’ll get invincible project managers, with the ability to distribute work to the best preforming worker / contractor, down to the cent.

Join all this with new methods of outsourcing, like Upwork and you really don’t need anyone on your team. You’ll have several smart bots distributing tasks, keeping records and approving payments. You can sit on the beach with your Piña colada.

But can you, really?

Project management is more than just the distribution of tasks. It’s more than just keeping the track record and much more complicated than just approving payments once a task has ended.

Project managers aren’t glorified secretaries.

Even if you can get the erratic human behavior out of your project (e.g. bots doing all the work), most projects never go in a straightforward way. Sure, project management companies brag about how good they are with time and budget. Senior project managers will claim to always meet their clients’ needs (but only before they make you sign a 400-pages contract that says otherwise).

The truth is that by definition projects are a one-off effort, whether it’s building a bridge, designing an app or painting a mural on your local school wall. All of the examples above can be designed and executed by existing or nearly-there technologies.

But once you started doing something for the first and only time, it’ll change.

Complex Project Management is like building a house from unsorted Lego bricks. Without instructions. On shifting sands.

Sure — we still don’t know what we don’t know. AI can move in great leaps forward, and make everything that is written here obsolete. But technology greatest advantage is by finding things that are mundane, difficult and easy to predict and make them in the most efficient way.

You can expect a customer wanting to leave a store and pay for their groceries — this is how we get Amazon go. You can expect human behavior on social media — this how we get FB feed algorithms. You can expect expect drivers’ behavior on the road — this is how you get Autonomous cars and trucks.

All of these are routine actions, in specific environments, that can be analyzed over time, optimized through machine learning and executed in milliseconds via super-processors. All of these technologies have matured and now it’s just a matter of integration and packaging.

The problem begins when there’s no data, just interpolation. When the environment changes, sometimes on hourly basis. When the client change their needs. When subcontractors, even the best ones, fail to deliver.

Project managers are here to stay, I dare say, for a very long time. They will have to be more computer savvy. They will have to be bolder and take more risks. They will work in even crazier deadlines, budgets and demands.

But we need them.

And if you’re not one of them, start thinking like one.

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