At this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about Microsoft’s vision of empowering people to get more done through artificial intelligence. It sounds like a distant goal, but when he describes his vision, it resolves into something very easy to understand—taking large amounts of data and using reason to turn it into intelligence. For now, many people use the time tracking app for trello to help them manage their projects.
Making sense of information and using it to drive intelligent action is pretty familiar to project managers. The best project management tools allow information to be displayed simply. Every day they tackle the complexity of projects, budgets, tasks, and timeline, extract insights, and deliver those insights to stakeholders. So how is Microsoft proposing to help them do this better? The answer is through series of intelligent tools and services offered in the Microsoft cloud.
Raman Sharma, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, provided a substantial glimpse of this vision in his Microsoft Ignite presentation, Learn about the Future of Microsoft PPM. 3Sharp was very pleased to participate in telling this story.
New technologies such as machine learning and the internet of things (IoT) are changing how all parts of the business operate. The Project Management Office (PMO) is no exception to this. The future of project management isn’t just about better project management software; it’s about involving everybody in the organization in the success of the project—from beginning to end—through action-oriented tools that work together naturally.
Imagine this scenario:
- An internet-connected sensor device on a construction site detects something unusual—a critical support just shifted unexpectedly.
- Instantly, the project manager gets an alert that something is wrong. They pick up their smartphone. and through a natural interaction like a text or a voice chat, they’re able to create a task for someone to investigate the alert.
- Moments later, the site foreman receives a notification of the new task and uses a simple mobile app to take a picture of a damaged support beam. The foreman then adds the photo and to the task and updates it with new information.
- Looking at the updated task, the PM understands the issue and can take the appropriate action right away.
- Meanwhile, all this gets logged in the project management database: the alert, the task, the foreman’s follow up, and a picture of the situation. The project manager can use this to decide what needs to be done next.
- Later, when the project manager is planning their next project, a machine learning algorithm alerts them to where a similar issue is likely to arise in the new project, enabling the project manager to proactively address the issue.
This is the kind of project management intelligence that forward-looking PMOs are trying to build today: an issue that might have delayed work for hours or days has been identified and addressed in a few minutes. What’s even better, once all that information is collected and logged, it can be processed through machine learning to identify and predict future situations where the same issue might arise again—before it becomes a problem.
This is an aspirational vision, but the tools to create it exist in the Microsoft cloud today, including:
- Microsoft Project Online, Microsoft’s cloud-based project and project portfolio management solution.
- The Microsoft Bot Framework, providing APIs and end-user tools to create and fine tune agents for a variety of channels and applications.
- The Microsoft Internet of Things (IoT) solution, providing an infrastructure for quickly deploying IoT solutions on Microsoft Azure.
- Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, a set of drag-and-drop tools for creating, training, and publishing machine learning algorithms.
- Microsoft Power BI, a cloud-based data analytics and visualization service.
All of these types of technologies play a role in bringing intelligence to the project management discipline—and in making project management more accessible to everyone that has a stake in in it.
In a future blog post, I’m going to explore several of these themes, including IOT, Machine Learning, and intelligent agents, and talk about some of the ways they’re likely to transform project management in the near future.
Update: You can now read part II of AI is the Future of Project Management.