Alan – The Artifically Intelligent PM Assistant

Alan - Artificially Intelligent PM Assistant

Dateline: December, 2024 — Steelray launches Alan, our (fictional) Artificially Intelligent Assistant Project Manager.

Let’s follow along as Alan takes on the day.

Alan begins early by checking his news feed, noting that dock workers in Brazil are threatening to strike in January. He sends an alert to the risk analyst, checking to see if the strike has been accounted for, how the risk would be mitigated, and whether a “Plan B” exists.

In other market news, new oil industry projections indicate a price dip in the coming months. Alan assesses near-term projects and calculates some schedule shifts to take advantage of lower prices before they go back up. He pings the PMs via email and highlights the schedule changes.

Later that morning a PM named Beth checks a Slack feed from Alan; he’s cross- referenced her project data with HR and reports that a key assigned resource has scheduled vacation during a critical activity. He also notes that a small shift in the project path will avoid overtime rates. Beth adjusts accordingly.

Near lunch, Alan reports back to Stephen, who’s looking to update forecasts for the OmniCorp project. Alan has been anonymously polling the participants on activities and projections, and informs Stephen that their sentiments, combined with previous project data and external factors, indicate the project will complete two weeks later than the original projection.

That afternoon, Alan detects an unusual materials charge expensed to the DOT project. The items are appropriate for the job, and the total fits into the budget, but a high one-time cost is an anomaly. He shoots a text message to Purchasing and the PM?might this be a red flag?

Before close of day, Travis, director of sales, has Alan weigh in on a new project proposal, since Alan’s access to almost unlimited data points, coupled with his machine learning capabilities, allow him to eliminate much of the guesswork in cost and timeline estimation. Travis reviews the three project scenarios offered by Alan and feels prepared for tomorrow morning’s sales meeting.

Sound like fantasy?

For the moment, it is. But not as far from reality as you might think.

Some people are hesitant about the role of AI in the future, but we see a landscape of neural nets, algorithms and bots that enable people to reach higher degrees of excellence.

And, as we continue to experience a revolution in AI?in medical diagnosis, driverless cars, stock trading, marketing, business strategy?project management won’t be far behind.

In fact, we’re planning on it.

Steelray is incorporating AI into our flagship products?to continue providing greater depth of knowledge and actionability so our clients know the truth in their data and can do something about it.

Stay tuned…

Seven Business Practices that Need a Second Look

According to this recent article on Nautilus, there’s a long-held belief in educational systems around the world:

Cursive handwriting is an important and valuable skill that should be learned by all children at an early age.

The thinking is:

  • It’s faster than manuscript
  • It helps with spelling
  • It helps with dyslexia

So, cursive is taught early and heavily promoted over manuscript (the simple, unconnected method we learn first).

But, according to research, there is no real benefit to cursive. On the contrary, manuscript may be?superior in most respects.

And, in today’s device-driven world where almost nothing is written by hand,?we hardly even read anything in cursive.

It seems like the notion to continue using it is, well, dumb ? a classic case of tradition trumping evidence.

This got me thinking about parallels in the business world. About?initiatives, programs and policies we continue to embrace that have little merit. Here’s a short list:

business?Practices that Need a Second Look

1. Rewards programs to boost performance

Performance programs are thought to boost morale and incentivize employees, but they often benefit only a few while disenfranchising those who don?t make it to the top.

2. Yearly and quarterly employee performance reviews

Ongoing checkins, properly done, can be much more effective at giving employees?and management?the insight they need to be more effective at their jobs day-to-day.

3. ?No meetings? policies, because meetings are boring and unproductive.

Meetings are critical for strategic planning and communication, so perhaps the solution is not to ditch them, but to learn how to have better meetings. Conversely, not all meetings are created equal. Are you swamped with ?status? meetings that are better served by reports and emails? Is the meeting actually serving a goal?

4. Corporate communication and knowledge sharing via an intranet.

Do people use it? Does it integrate into daily workflow? Intranets are hard to do.

5. Hiring people we ?like” during the interview

Research shows that the interview process is laden with personal, subconscious bias. Many interviews are highly unstructured and ineffective.

6. 360? feedback programs

Employee feedback initiatives easily fail, unless they’re ongoing, driven from the top, and result in tangible responses by management.

7. Customer-first policies

According to Richard Branson, putting your employees first results in the best customer experience possible (which, in a way, actually puts your customers first).

What’s on your list?

The Four Stages of Team Competence

Recently a recruiter reached out to me about a three-month Scrum Master role. Was I interested? No, I love my job at Steelray. Did I know of anybody? Well, maybe, but…three months?

A Scrum Master’s core objective is to foster highly aligned, high-performing development teams, which takes time?certainly longer than a few months. Here’s why:

The Team Competency Model

I?d invite you to consider that the specific skill sets of teamwork are acquired through the ?Four Stages of Competence? ? a learning model that applies to teams just as much as individuals:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The team doesn?t understand team skills and doesn?t recognize the deficit.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    They don’t understand team skills, but know they need them and want to do something about it.
  3. Conscious competence
    The team is actively acquiring skills, but it takes a lot of attention and intention to apply them.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The team has had so much practice together that?being?a team has become “second nature.”

It?s been my experience that most teams are Stage Two, some are Stage Three, many (too many) are Stage One, and a rare few make it to Stage Four.

How About You?

Considering the huge benefits of great teamwork, it’s worth taking stock to and looking at your own competencies. Where are you on the model? Not just your developers, but sales, marketing and operations? Even senior management?

The litmus test is pretty simple:

  1. To what degree is everyone on the same page with the work?
  2. To what degree is everyone on the same page with how they work together?

You may find there?s room for improvement. Even if you?re at stage four, it?s worth being intentional and devoting ongoing time and energy.

Just give yourself longer than a few months. 🙂