March 21, 2017 | Procurement Software Blogs

In a perfect world, if we had access to an advanced project management technology that used algorithms to solve, analyze, estimate, track and report on extremely complex projects, imagine what that world would look like. If software could evaluate resources based on skillsets required for a given project, keep track and evaluate allocated budgets, analyze the project scope, measure estimates and timelines, foresee unknowns and provide a framework for project execution up to finalization, then that would be project management utopia.

Technology that can estimate accurate timelines for any project and can save a lot of heartache. Let’s use "timelines" as one of the critical pillars that drive any project. Project timelines have some element of risk involved that requires thorough evaluation. Now imagine "Utopia" — a hypothetical name to my hypothetical project management tool. Utopia could analyze timelines based on priority, and provide the best option with multiple solutions across various stages of project management, thereby eliminating the risks of "over-commit" and "under-deliver."

What Utopia might be is a system by which human mind and technology work together instead of constantly being at odds with each other.

Remember "Deep Blue" — the IBM super computer that defeated Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov? Kasparov had been at, literally the top of his game since the early 1980s and in 1996 Kasparov and Deep Blue fought for dominance. Man vs the Machine! Kasparov won the first match but later lost to the computer. This has been called a perfect example of artificial intelligence catching up to the human mind. But is that really so?

Imagine, what if Kasparov and Deep Blue were able to work together. In our case Utopia works with us and not against us. Two great minds, albeit very different ones, working toward a common goal. Utopia’s brilliance with project analytics could potentially help us mitigate risks by accessing skillsets, analyzing project data, evaluating timelines, prepopulating a project completion date by breaking down a project into multiple phases, multiple steps, to its finest granularity. This could potentially help us by providing stakeholders with accurate timeline estimates and the rationale to back it up. It would help convince the naysayers, encourage the supporters and help secure executive sponsorship.

Carl Sagan said "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

There will always be unknowns in any project management space. People get sick, climate changes, companies merge or get acquired, organizations go bankrupt, budgets get cut, and there is a vast series of unforeseen events that could derail a project. What could our notional Utopia do here? Projects might be modified, put on hold, cancelled or closed out as incomplete to be reopened again later when conditions are more favorable. Utopia might not predict what will happen or could happen from the sea of unknowns, but it might learn to adapt. Just like Deep Blue had upgrades to its algorithms, Utopia would have its own drive for self-improvement. Undoubtedly, project management is far more complex than playing chess, and a "checkmate" can happen at any point. If technology is our key to being more successful, then we need to find a way to work with it and for it to work with us. Do you agree?

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