How Can AI Help Your Project Managers?

Posted by Warren Linscott on November 6, 2018

AI, Artificial Intelligence, Project Management

By Warren Linscott, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy, Deltek

We ask so much of our project managers. 

Often they are the nexus of responsibility in making sure that our projects get delivered. The problem most organizations face is that all of their critical knowledge is frequently locked into great project managers. They have to be the company’s eyes and ears on projects. They have to manage the customer’s expectations, they have to interact with and manage the resources on their projects, they have to identify new resource needs and, in some cases, shepherd the onboarding process

But that’s not all. We ask these people to predict the future as well.  Will our project be on schedule? Will our project be on budget? What are the risks to the project and what are we doing to mitigate those risks? 

The problem? For one, we don’t give our project managers a crystal ball. We expect them to manage all of these complex questions through their expertise and soft skills, or by distilling the information gathered from meeting upon meeting, side bars, and discussions with the people working on the project both internally and externally. So, where is the time in doing all of this spent on lessons learned, and their experiences managing this complex set of responsibilities, and delivered back to the business in a concise, meaningful, and consumable manner? 

You might be thinking that you do that during your project close-out. That a couple of post mortem meetings will do the trick and all of that knowledge will be absorbed back into the machine for the next project that rolls around with similar characteristics.  Deep down, do you think is this really the truth? 

Personally, I have always been keen to ask data instead of people when I want to know what is really going on. Why? It’s not because I am antisocial. No, it’s because the data that we gather about our projects doesn’t have any emotion attached to it, it doesn’t have any guilt or joy when it makes or misses a milestone. And that’s what companies need, a transparent view of what has transpired in their projects, so that they can better plan and set expectations for the future.

In our Clarity study, we have been asking a key question over the past few years about schedule risk analysis (SRA). What we have found is that companies that perform SRA at the beginning, on intervals during, and towards the end of a project have the best on-time, on-budget performance.  Imagine the power of retaining that information and then leveraging it in SRA for the next project of similar size and scope.  This is exactly what Deltek is working on with Acumen Touchstone. Initially, we will allow our customers to have a central place where they can upload project schedules to conduct a tailored Acumen Fuse analysis and compare those projects against our database of projects. Over time, this will give rise to storing and sharing information about repetitive SRA and associated risk plans and outcomes on projects. By providing our customers with this central solution and governance over how our diagnostic and risk engines critique project schedules, we will give our customers the competitive advantage of harnessing the power of all of that intellectual capital currently locked within their project managers.


As with any endeavor we undertake, we are all pragmatic creatures. We want to see progress being made before we jump into the deep end. This quest to harness the knowledge of our project managers will be no different. Initially, we want to set the bar higher for what an acceptable plan is before we allow a project to start. The first goal of the Deltek Project Intelligence Cloud will be to allow customers to develop a standard by which they want all of their projects to be judged before they start, during their execution, and as they change over time. This type of gating will invariably raise the quality of project planning across the business and provide companies with a cheaper alternative to a Project Management Office (PMO) or Project Center of Excellence (PCE), which is often viewed as an indirect cost that is hard to justify. 


Next we will layer in capabilities that will allow people to risk-adjust their schedules and share those risks across the company. While a shared risk register is nothing new, our approach will be one in context with a diagnostic level SRA on the project plan. Providing visibility into how risks are applied to a project and then correlating this with their impact over time will provide more realism than the standard PowerPoint table with risks, likelihood, and severity of impact could ever provide. 


Over time, we are also building a base of patterns. This is what Big Data is all about. By gathering this type of information about your projects, your project managers, and changes as they unfold, we can be much more predictive about the next project. By applying those lessons learned in how you run your projects in your market, with our customers, and with your project managers, we will be able to start providing meaningful advice through that virtual PMO we are calling the Deltek Project Intelligence cloud.   The conservatism and optimism of the humans managing the project and doing the work can then be stripped away when comparing the realities of past achievements. We live in an exciting time where solutions like this are achievable and I, for one, am excited to see us run into the future.


About the Author

As the Senior Vice President of Product Strategy, Warren Linscott is responsible for driving the go-to-market and product strategy for Deltek's global business. Warren has over 20 years of senior management experience in enterprise software delivering key solutions to professional services firms and government contractors.