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The Hidden Costs of Artificial Intelligence

artificial intelligence career project management Jul 26, 2023
The Hidden Costs of Artificial Intelligence

In economics, Opportunity Cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. For example, if you have $1,000 to invest in the stock market or purchase a new smartphone with, the opportunity cost is what is given up with the choice not taken. If you decide to invest the money, the opportunity cost is the enjoyment and utility you would have received from your new phone. If you decide to buy the phone, the opportunity cost is the loss of potential financial gains. 

Every time we make a decision, no matter how big or how small, we are faced with an opportunity cost. 

Consider the decisions you are making regarding your project management career and apply this concept accordingly. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is all the rage right now. You have a decision to make as a project manager. Where are you going to spend your time? Is it by chasing down this next shiny object (did somebody say “squirrel”?) or digging into the fundamentals and building a solid foundation for your project management career? 


We believe it may be too early to throw your hat into the project management AI ring. Consider the following reasons why, and then be conscious and deliberate about the choices you make. 

First, Why Is Artificial Intelligence So Appealing? 

There are a number of reasons why AI seems like a logical choice for many to pursue: 

  • It’s So Cool - Once you figure out how different AI is from Google, your mind is blown. The fact that you can carry on a conversation with AI, clarify what you are looking for, and refine the results is amazing. Stanford University recently posted a podcast where the host interviewed ChatGPT! If you didn’t know that’s what they were doing, and if the voice wasn’t computer-generated, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the AI or human guest! 
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) - AI kind of feels like cryptocurrency did a few years ago. If you don’t jump on the bandwagon RIGHT NOW, you are going to be left behind and miss out on so many opportunities that are sure to come. FOMO can drive project managers to sink time and energy into researching what AI can do for them in hopes of keeping up with what everyone else is doing. 
  • It’s in the Zeitgeist - AI is part of our culture right now. Our senses and intellect are bombarded on a daily basis with what ChatGPT is doing, how companies are using it, who has banned it from their workplaces, or who is suing who because of bad information. Plus, new AI solutions are crowding their way into this space, vying daily for our attention. 

Why You May Want to Hit Pause on AI 

Yes, AI is cool and has so much potential, but we believe that it’s something project managers may want to adopt slowly rather than quickly. Here are a couple of reasons why: 

  • It’s Not a Silver Bullet - It’s easy to want a silver bullet that solves multiple project management problems. For example, the next person that you hire is going to be the ONE person that you need to fix what is broken. Or, the next PPM software package you choose is going to be ALL that you need to manage your projects successfully. This is never the case. That next person or software package is just one piece of a much larger puzzle that needs to be assembled. It’s the same with AI. It could be part of solving your project management problems (i.e., data analysis, scheduling, or automation), but it will remain just one piece of a much larger puzzle. 
  • It Can Be a Distraction - It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the hype of AI. Just spend a few minutes on LinkedIn and you’ll see plenty of articles, videos, and courses to take you down a rabbit hole of information / misinformation, never to surface again. Or, you may fall prey to the shiny object syndrome and become excessively focused on exploring and implementing new AI solutions, even if they’re not directly relevant to your projects or may not bring substantial benefits. 
  • It’s Not Ready for Primetime, Yet - Will there be a time when you can provide all the project inputs into an AI project management platform and have it come back with an overall project plan along with supporting plans such as communications, risk, resources, cost, and change management plans? And, for it to adapt and update dynamically as project circumstances change? Prossibly, but we’re nowhere close to that happening yet. There’s still a lot of maturing that needs to happen, as well as figuring out how to make up for AI’s limitations, such as lack of human judgment and context, critical thinking, and data limitations and biases. 

Where To Invest Instead 

If it’s better to slowly wade into the AI pool, what could be a better use of your time, energy, and resources? 

  • Dive Deep into What You Want to Know - If there’s an area of expertise you are looking to shore up, try the old school way of gathering this knowledge. For example, let’s say you want to become better at risk management. Rather than look for tools to do it for you, learn how to do it yourself. Read blogs and articles, listen to podcasts, network with experts, attend seminars, and try different things out. This will put you in a better position to know what you are looking for in a tool once you are ready to take your project management abilities to the next level. 
  • Build Relationships - Always ask yourself, “what’s the next best thing to do” to move your project management career forward. One of the best things to do is build relationships with people. Solid relationships with your project sponsors, executives, functional managers, team members, and vendors are priceless. These relationships will allow you to get much more done, than to dig into a technology in its infancy and that could serve as a distraction. 
  • Get Back to the Basics - Get back to the basics of what it takes to deliver projects on time, in-scope, and within budget. Focus on what’s immediately in front of you and become even better in that area of project management. If you’re struggling with doing a good job with the skills you have now, AI won’t be of much help. Additionally, be able to quantify and articulate the business value your completed projects are bringing to your organization. Become an excellent communicator, presenter, and speaker. Assess where you are on your project management journey and help others to grow in their project management career.  

AI may or may not be the next great thing for the project management profession. Just don’t rely on AI to make you the next great project manager. That takes hard work, study, experience, and working with The PMO Squad! 

And, as ChatGPT so eloquently states:  

“It's important to note that while AI will continue to advance, human project management skills such as leadership, communication, and critical thinking will remain essential. The future of AI in project management will involve a harmonious collaboration between humans and intelligent machines, leveraging the strengths of both to drive successful project outcomes.” 

 (queue “end of the world” music here 🙂) 


How to Make the Right Decisions Regarding AI 

While AI may be impressive, it can also be a distraction for a successful project management career. Keep the following in mind, so as not to overcommit to a project management technology that is still in its early years. 

  1. Understand Your Level of Interest in AI - Are you casually interested in what AI has to offer to the project management profession, or are you interested to the point of an unhealthy obsession? Being cognizant of your personal view of AI is the first step to making sure it doesn’t take up a disproportionate amount of your time. 
  2. Stay Focused on the Right Things - Once you understand your personal view of AI, come up with a percentage of time that you’ll invest towards it. This would be like investors who will only allocate up to 5% of their portfolios to cryptocurrency. Make a decision to devote 80% - 90% to educating yourself on project management work, building relationships, and understanding the basics of project management. Then, you have the remaining 10% - 20% to devote towards researching and implementing AI.  
  3. Stay Current with AI Trends - Find a trusted source of objective AI information that will provide you with the good, the bad, and the ugly of what is happening with this technology. Listening to “Is AI Going to Take Your Project Management Job” on The PMO Leader podcast Great Practices is a good place to start. Keep up with industry associations and find out how other people are leveraging this new tool. You can then decide how far you want to go with AI in your company.  


Artificial Intelligence (AI) - AI is the development and implementation of computer systems that can perform tasks requiring human intelligence. It involves machines learning from experience, adapting to new inputs, and making informed decisions. AI can be narrow, specializing in specific tasks, or general, exhibiting human-like cognitive abilities across various domains. (courtesy of: ChatGPT) 

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