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Will AI soon replace project managers? Yes and No



In a nutshell- Lots of project managers are worried about their jobs being replaced by AI. This is evident in the sheer amount of internet searches on the topic. We combed through what’s out there to provide the real consensus on AI’s implication for project management jobs. Our resources included hard data sets from surveys and published studies, project management experts, and online chatter from project managers themselves on forums like Reddit. Check out this interesting mix to find out the truth: AI isn’t replacing project managers in the next 10 years, but it’s taking away a portion of their work hours previously dedicated to admin.

Since the launch of Microsoft’s ChatGPT and its rival, Google Bard, professionals around the world from teachers to coders and everyone in-between are all asking themselves the same question:

Will AI soon replace my job?

If you take a look, the internet is a-buzz right now with speculation on AI’s effect on the role of project manager. Will AI replace project managers entirely? Is that even possible? What kind of a timeline are we looking at?

After all, project management has already become massively more automated since the pandemic. How much further can it go?

Check out our investigation to see the general consensus on whether or not project manager roles are safe from an all-out AI takeover. 

From our investigation, we also surmised the 5 biggest implications of AI for the day-to-day life of the project manager. Read on to find out what it will really be like for project managers with the rapid deployment of AI functionality in the next few years. 

Arguments for Both Sides

Any good inquiry into an important question like this will cover both sides of the coin. Most of the convincing arguments we’ve read come to the same conclusion: that AI won’t replace project managers anytime soon. 

However, there are substantial conversations that AI can indeed replace the project manager role, especially when said role is heavy on administrative oversight. 

Here we present credible claims that argue whether or not project managers are in danger of losing their jobs in the near future. 

1. The 2019 Gartner Survey 

Answer: YES and NO

When OpenAI first released a demo of ChatGPT at the end of November last year, the platform quickly gained notoriety for its abilities and implications for human jobs, and even humanity at large. (Here’s a brief history of the development of ChatGPT, if you’re interested.)

Fast forward to today, not even a year later, ChatGPT has been tweaked and improved to the extent that it will potentially reshape the way we use search engines. We can expect Google’s Bard to follow similarly in order to stay competitive with Bing, which can now spit out results using ChatGPT for better, more nuanced answers to search queries. 

The point is this– AI has proved it’s moving fast. It doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon…

Which brings us to the Gartner survey and AI’s implications for project management jobs. 

Once the world became obsessed with ChatGPT, Gartner’s 2019 project management survey gained more attention. 

According to this survey, by 2030, AI will perform a staggering 80% of project management tasks. That’s less than 7 years away, if we’re to believe what the data gathered by Gartner suggests.

Here’s the thing– this Gartner survey is dated by four years. Since its publication, project management software has already incorporated most of what they’re talking about, tools to more effectively manage resources, track projects, and automate administrative tasks. 

For example, PSOhub launched in 2020 with a self-driving time tracking feature, an AI solution that automates the entire time tracking process. 

Asana, once a glorified task list, now offers more all-in-one functionality to help project managers more effectively manage resources and budgets. 

When the Gartner survey on automation in project management came out in 2019, Daniel Stang, Research VP at the company, stated that, “Right now, the tools available to [project managers] do not meet the requirements of digital business.”

However, it’s now 2023, and those tools indeed are available. Project managers are happy about these tools, according to reviews for solutions like PSOhub and Asana; they’re not losing their jobs because of them. 

2. Harvard Business Review

Answer: NO

There’s currently a popular article on the subject of AI and the project manager role published by the Harvard Business Review. In this well-researched piece by project management expert Nieto-Rodriguez, the author gives us a future scenario, where a CEO can see real-time updates on project progress (already possible) and calls the project manager who seems like more of a cheerleader and connector. 

The future AI-driven ‘app’ of the story alerts that the project is behind, so the project manager goes into action, connecting, motivating, and delegating the team. 

What the author talks about here is already possible, and happening for businesses that adopt a project management tool with automated features. The role of the project manager is not diminished, but in a way, elevated, since it can leave the admin drag behind: 

“Project managers, aided by virtual project assistants, will find their roles more focused on coaching and stakeholder management than on administration and manual tasks.”

The author then goes on to talk about exactly how AI will affect project management on the day-to-day. These include better project tracking and reporting, as well as a more ChatGPT-like experience with virtual assistant’s like Oracle’s project management assistant.

At the end of the day, author Nieto-Rodriguez is a highly qualified expert to speak on project management trends. We agree with what he’s saying, but it’s also nothing new. 

It’s not about AI replacing project managers– it’s that project managers will now be expected to use AI-driven tools. And since these tools are designed to be intuitive, provided you choose the right ones, there’s really nothing to be scared of. 

3. The project management professor

Answer: NO

We love this succinct, intelligent answer from Dr. Albert Orbinati, a professor and program director at Champlain College. He currently teaches a project management course that’s one of the most popular within the business education program. A student emailed him asking exactly what we are: Can AI replace the role of a project manager?

Dr. Orbinati explains that no, it won’t, but AI will require project managers to step more into their ‘human’ role. 

That’s because project managers essentially have to do two things. First, they have to manage the necessary admin tasks to complete the project, and second, they have to manage the people. Everything can be filtered down to these two objectives. And Orbinati argues that the second is more critical than the first:

“Project managers are leaders and motivators, first and foremost.”

He goes on to assert that AI entering the project management space is actually a really good thing, since it will shift managers more into the leadership role. Since predictive analysis can help make decisions with hard data, project managers will have more time to focus on soft skills, on more nuanced project tasks that involve human interaction. This can help increase the quality of deliverables and retain happy customers for life, i.e. sustainable revenue. 

Like Nieto-Rodriguez, Dr. Orbinati doesn’t see AI as diminishing the role of project manager, but rather, elevating it. 

With less administrative tasks to worry about, the project manager can focus more on stakeholder management and creating opportunities. This means potentially that AI may shift project managers away from project execution and more into the realm of strategy development. 

Contract Management with PSOhub

4. International Association of Project Managers (IAPM)

Answer: NO

The International Association of Project Managers includes, you guessed it, project managers from around the world who share a common vision of success and community. In their take on the issue, they summarize another article from IT-Business, a German website dedicated to emerging tech and how it affects business, while also throwing in some other wisdom from European project management experts. 

Basically, the IAPM agrees that AI does not present a risk to the job of a project manager. Rather, it offers a relationship of constant coordination, a symbiosis if you will. While AI can take care of the tedious tasks of gathering and presenting project data, this will inevitably free up time for project managers to focus on more critical components. 

However, they do admit that project managers will go through unprecedented change in the coming years, having to essentially adopt a new role compared to the past. 

Less decision making is bound to happen, as emotions will be removed while AI spits out the cold, hard data that makes the decision already. 

Instead, they argue that project managers will need to be more creative, that they’ll need to be more innovative and forward-thinking. 

Ultimately, IAPM presents a future where the project manager and their AI tools have a symbiotic relationship: they both need one another to perform their best. 

5. Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management (Survey)

Answer: NO

Here’s a little nugget we found from the Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management. In this published survey, the authors reviewed exactly what they saw happening in 2019 in regards to project management and artificial intelligence. 

Though admittedly a bit dated like the Gartner survey, Revisiting automated project management in the digital age – a survey of AI approaches gives us a well-researched look on the implications of AI on the role of project manager.

The authors go deep into the tech behind project management AI, specifically referencing automation and project management bots. They talk a lot about predictive analysis, and how this is one of the most important contributions of AI to the project management field.

Predictive analysis occurs when a software system has enough relevant data to be able to accurately predict project outcomes. For example, project managers can use this feature to predict when/if a project will go over budget. They can also use it to predict profitability, helping them to better select future potential projects and clients that will be most beneficial to the organization. 

This published survey is obviously more about the tech itself than the whether or not AI is coming for project management jobs. The authors still comment on the subject, though, with this conclusion from the large body of research:

“With regard to the initial question about the substitutability of the human project leader by AI, based on our investigation of the current state of research and development, the first all-clear can be given.”


6. Trending LinkedIn Article

Answer: NO

Here’s another perspective we found from a popular article on LinkedIn written by someone from Uppwise. For context, Uppwise provides portfolio management solutions for enterprise organizations, as well as tailored software for project management & reporting. AKA, they are at the forefront of the AI-project management discussion, since it’s what they sell. 

From their perspective, AI is an ally of the project manager, not a suspicious colleague gunning for their position. 

This ally, or ‘extension’ of project managers will help specifically with data accuracy, info collection, resource management, keeping projects on schedule, and risk management. 

AI will simply lighten the workload, promoting more of a symbiotic relationship, as a few of the above perspectives have already mentioned. 

Task Management with PSOhub

7. Current Reddit Thread

Answer: YES and NO

While academics can’t use Reddit as a legitimate source, it’s truly a fascinating, uncensored forum when you want to find out what people are really thinking about a certain topic. Lo and behold, we found a thread posted two months ago asking, “How do you think AI will change project management?

As of the publication of this article, there are 83 comments on this Reddit thread, all of which appear to be coming from people somehow involved in the project management space. Here are some tidbits from everyday people on the issue:

  • All but two answers portrayed AI for project management in a positive light.
  • Actual project managers are excited about AI, since it will relieve the more boring parts of the job. This includes admin necessities like tracking and planning that no one on the thread seems to want to do.
  • As with earlier perspectives, a few people anticipate the move to a more ‘human’ role for project managers. 
  • Project managers want AI to perform specific tasks to make their lives easier, and the biggest one that kept coming up was project planning. One user wrote how they somehow used ChatGPT to create a Gantt chart for them. 
  • Of the two who claimed AI would have a negative outcome for project managers, here is a snippet of the more convincing argument from user freerangemary:

"An AI would have to read all of the knowledge materials (not that hard to consume and recall it), consume and interpret all existing project knowledge, analyze the data and create a solution. It’s but harder because PMs work across Scope, Schedule, and Budget. All 3 are different formats of data.

But yes. We’ll all be replaced.

Middle management’s about to experience what happened to blue color jobs in the 90’s and early oughts. And it’s only gotten worse.

Evolve or die folks."

In short, most Reddit users agree that AI may shift around certain aspects about the work of a project manager, but it will not ever foreseeably replace the role itself. For the two outliers, it’s only a matter of time before AI indeed replaces project managers, but this they claim will have to coincide with widespread adoption of AI across most major industries. 

8. Trending Medium Article

Answer: YES

Thus far, our answers have been rather optimistic. While everyone adds their own two cents, the general gist has been the same, that AI won’t replace project manager jobs, just change them, shift them around a bit.

Enter this random gem written by a designer on Medium: 

Your boss will be replaced by AI before you are: Why I think manager workforce will be the first ones to shrink and how young creatives have a bright future in the AI age

The Seattle-based author named Sushantvohra is no stranger to project management, as he’s clearly in the professional services space. His perspective is worth unpacking, so here it goes:

First, he cites multiple relevant surveys that indicate many aspects of middle management are actively being replaced with AI functionality.

Then, the discussion turns to cost. Experienced middle managers cost a pretty penny, since companies are paying for a certain level of seniority. AI, on the other hand, is conceivably becoming more and more cost effective. And obviously, AI will never ask for a raise.

The next part of the argument is about whether or not what a project manager does can actually be replicated. In the author’s opinion, the answer is yes. While traditionally, a unique set of skills plus experience are what have made the position valuable, Sushantvohra argues that the actions of a successful project manager are in fact, highly predictable. If this is true, then an AI model could easily be trained on what to do during the lifecycle of a project. 

Then– like other authors, except he’s using it as a negative– he talks about how AI can make better decisions based on data, that AI for project management is naturally faster and more efficient than human beings. 

And in a final provocative twist, the thesis is that creatives, consultants, and the team members are actually safe. They will maintain their positions longer than project managers:

My argument here is that high skilled workers may not require as much supervision as business owners think. AI tools that empower individual creators, creatives and professionals will be able to equip them for proper reporting, self management and data backed decision making, further eliminating a need for the middle layer.

In short, this web designer makes solid arguments, and even points out that AI will not be able to obtain the EQ required for many management positions. But for those who facilitate data more than they manage people, watch out. Creatives, by the way, remain safe. For the moment. 

9. Will Robots Take My Job (.com)

You can’t help but love the name of this site: But as silly as the name sounds, the popular website uses a highly specific formula to figure out whether or not a profession is at risk of AI takeover. 

The calculation involves examining large stores of data and assigning values to elements required for each job. Everything is then analyzed as a whole in order to paint a picture of whether or not a job is truly in jeopardy. These analytics are presented in scores or percentages.

Turns out, a lot of people are visiting this site to look at the risks for project managers. Here’s what has to say on the role of IT project manager, specifically:

  • Automation risk calculated with data: 19%

This category in the 0 to 20% is considered low risk. Since project managers require EQ and intrapersonal problem solving skills, the role remains at the edge of the low-risk segment. 

  • Automation risk from user poll: 32%

It looks like users are not as optimistic about the future of project management jobs. Of over 220 people that voted, nearly one-third are concerned about AI replacing the role of project manager in the near future.

While the name of the site is laughable, the numbers it churns out are telling. There seems to be a tangible risk for project managers to have their job replaced with AI, especially if they don’t have adequate EQ and problem solving skills unable to be replicated with software. It’s also clear that a good portion of people think that the total automation of an IT project manager is indeed possible. 

10. ChatGPT

Answer: NO

Finally, this investigation would not be complete unless we went straight to the horse’s mouth. So we did it, we asked ChatGPT the question. Then we found this article from the Projecting Group, who did the same thing, except they asked the question a few months prior. 

The two answers are pretty much the same, and they echo a few of the main points we’ve already discussed. First, ChatGPT tells us that project managers must use experience and judgment to make decisions throughout the project lifecycle, something that AI arguably cannot do (yet).

The final major argument it gives us is one we’ve already heard– that an effective project manager must use their emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Qualities like leadership can as of yet, not be replicated by a machine. 

And according to ChatGPT, they never will be. So if we are to believe the AI itself, project managers are in the clear when it comes to future job security. 

Official Consensus - AI will NOT replace the project manager. But it will change the role.

According to the body of research we investigated on AI potentially replacing the role of project manager, the consensus is NO:

No, AI will not replace the human project manager. Instead, AI will shift the role away from administrative work and more toward soft skills like leadership and motivating a team.

Arguments to the contrary indeed hold some weight, but they are a small minority compared to other available literature on the subject.

Resource Tracking with PSOhub

5 Ways AI Will Affect the Day-to-Day of Project Managers

We’ve learned that project managers aren’t in any real danger of losing their jobs to AI. However, AI is shaping the way that project managers work in tangible ways. 

Because AI can deal with the admin load that has historically fallen on project managers– project tracking, reporting, etc– there are obviously implications that will affect day-to-day life. 

From the research we’ve gathered, here are the biggest ways AI will change/is changing the role of project manager

1. Project managers may end up working less hours. 

While it doesn’t look like the project manager role will be replaced by AI, as project management tools are able to automate more and more– getting to that supposed 80% – managers could conceivably end up working less hours. 

Theoretically, like Nieto-Rodriguez from Harvard Business Review points out, yes, project managers could spend that time on creating a high-performance culture. But how many hours that will cumulatively make up for is unknown.

Less hours may mean less wages, so this realistically could be a negative consequence for project managers in the future. How this plays out remains to be seen. As Uppwise and most of our sources agreed, AI will substantially lighten the workload of project managers, no matter what. 

2. AI project management tools are already here and will change the way you work.

One of the more striking things about our investigation into the possible replacement of PMs by AI is that many authors seemed to speak about the present like it’s the future. Many of what people say AI will do for project management, it’s already doing. The solutions are there. 

But lots of people still use spreadsheets. Lots of people still manually invoice. Project management platforms with AI built-in already exist to automate all of this; it’s that project managers aren’t yet using them all to their potential. 

3. Project management tools will get more and more personal

A la ChatGPT and Bard, project management tools are going to get more personal. Whereas now much of the burden is on the user to activate certain functionalities and configure certain fields of reporting, for example, the future, according to Nieto Rodriguez and Gartner, will be more chat-centric. 

This means that managers will simply be able to ask a question, and the project management tool will be able to spit out an answer from the data. Basically, you won’t really be ‘using’ project management software anymore. It will organically respond to what you want to know at that moment. 

4. Project managers may actually be able to earn more. 

This paper titled The Prediction of Success in Project Management – Predictive Project Analytics is cited a lot on the web. It contains information all the smart project management platforms already know– Statistically, most projects are not successful. 

According to the published study, 60% of projects experience failure, meaning they aren’t completed on time, the customer is not satisfied, or they go over budget. 

This may present a unique opportunity for project managers who use AI tools to actually earn more. If AI is wielded correctly by project managers and their teams, this gap in unsuccessful projects may be able to be filled. In turn, PMs can potentially earn more and provide greater value to their businesses and clients. 

5. Project managers will need to lean more on their EI and creativity

Perhaps the biggest shift we notice from the research is that AI will inevitably force project managers to lean more on their interpersonal skills. Emotional intelligence will be far more valuable when the entirety of project management admin is automated. 

Instead of spending hours per week on project planning and tracking, it looks like project managers will be more focused on their people. This includes motivating the team, becoming an effective leader, and creatively seeking new opportunities. The role will become more creative and more personal as AI is used more and more across the project management space. 

AI is here to stay. So are project managers.

The consensus is clear– human project managers are here to stay. The challenge will be to adapt to a more personal, creative, and leadership role within the organization. Project managers who currently use AI are happy with the menial tasks it takes of their hands. So far, things look safe for the job security of project managers. And it looks like it will remain that way, especially for people who amp up their interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. 

To summarize, the majority of the arguments refute the idea that AI will take over the project manager role. Most cite the interpersonal skills and EI we just talked about. 

Arguments on the other end note that AI is more affordable than humans, and that the actions of a project manager may be more predictable than perceived.

It’s important to see the issue from all sides, which is why we scoured the published studies, online forums, and everything in between. Only one question remains–

What do you think?

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