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By Bill Brantley, president and chief learning officer for BAS2A, a strategic talent development consultancy for state and local governments

While preparing a keynote address about using artificial intelligence in project management, I decided to try out ChatGPT to see whether it could contribute something to help me expand on Steve Job’s quote that computers are bicycles for the mind.


I typed, "Please complete this analogy: If computers are like bicycles for the mind, what is AI?"


ChatGPT replied, "If computers are like bicycles for the mind, then AI is like an autopilot system for those bicycles, guiding and enhancing the journey of thought and discovery."


ChatGPT's amazingly on-target answer has particular relevance to the realm of project management. Modern thinking on project management has shifted from a singular focus on bringing projects in on schedule, on budget, and on scope to providing significant value to customers and organizations. Nowadays, project managers focus instead mapping out the flow of materials, information, and activities needed to deliver a product or service – so-called “value streams”.


Understanding the value stream is critically important, in part because it identifies waste areas—like delays and unnecessary actions—whose elimination can boost efficiency, reduce costs, and accelerate delivery. This approach enhances workflow, maximizes customer value, and supports informed decision-making by displaying the entire process. The value stream method fosters continuous improvement and consistency by aligning activities with organizational goals and customer needs, leading to successful project outcomes and increased customer satisfaction.


Challenge: Complex Projects Have Complex Value Streams


Large-scale projects often have complicated processes and many stakeholders, resulting in complex value streams. These include various activities, interactions, and dependencies involving different departments, organizations, and locations. To manage these complex value streams, project managers need to know the role and impact of each part of the whole project.


This requires careful planning, coordination, and ongoing monitoring to ensure everything works well and moves toward the project's goals. The details of these value streams also show the need for flexibility and adaptability in dealing with unexpected problems and changes, making the efficient management of complex value streams an essential factor in achieving complex projects.


Action: AI Aids the Project Manager in Navigating Project Value Streams


Think of a project manager who oversees the development of a new software application with multiple teams in different time zones. The manager could use AI-based project management tools to track real-time progress, foresee potential setbacks, and automatically change workflows and resources to maintain momentum.


In one case I’ve come across, an AI system detected a frequent delay in the integration phase because of time zone differences between teams. By looking at historical data and current performance metrics, the AI suggested changing the workflow to base it on hours worked, rather than specific calendar dates and times[RG1] [WB2] . This proactive approach, made possible by AI, helped the project manager deal with issues before they became severe, ensuring that the project followed the schedule and effectively met its goals.


Five Ways State and Local Governments Can Benefit from AI-Enabled Value Streams


1.     AI-Enabled Policy Making: AI assists state and local governments in processing vast data sets to inform decision-making. AI-enabled policymaking allows for efficient resource allocation, project prioritization, and adaptive strategies to enhance value streams.

2.     AI Tools for Risk Management: AI tools can preempt problems, leading to smoother project execution and more reliable public service delivery.

3.     Improving Administrative Procedures: AI automates routine administrative tasks, reducing errors and freeing staff to focus on critical project management aspects. This results in quicker project completion and better use of public funds.

4.     Enhanced Communication and Collaboration: AI improves interdepartmental communication and coordination, offering insights into optimal collaboration practices and ensuring unified efforts towards common project goals.

5.     Holistic Benefits of AI Integration: AI customizes services to meet local needs, supports environmental sustainability, and promotes continuous learning and improvement in government project management. Over time, this leads to more targeted services, eco-friendly initiatives, and enhanced efficiency and service delivery.


Impact: State and Local Government Project Managers Can Benefit from Value Stream Navigators


An AI-enabled value stream navigator can help government project managers better understand their projects by analyzing huge amounts of real-time data. It can find out where there are problems, anticipate possible delays, and recommend the best ways to go through complicated administrative and regulatory processes. The value stream navigator helps project managers make better decisions, deal with risks before they become issues, and simplify processes.


Also, an AI-enabled navigator can help project managers use their resources more efficiently, ensuring that human, financial, and material resources create the most value. It can also improve stakeholder teamwork by giving a clear picture of the project's status and difficulties, creating a shared approach to reaching project objectives. In summary, by using the abilities of an AI-enabled value stream navigator, government project managers can manage public sector projects more effectively, resulting in better outcomes, cost reductions, and higher satisfaction among constituents.


Learn more about AI's impact on project management and other topics at the University of Maryland’s 2024 Project Management Symposium.


The contents of this Guest Column are those of the author, and not necessarily Barrett and Greene, Inc.



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