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AI-hype Meets Project Planning

Updated: May 20


A comparison of 2 people, one struggling infront a computer one happy

AI is the latest trend impacting every industry. But when looking at the construction and project industry, how much of it is noise? If we look back, in the last decade or so we’ve seen different trends popping up and then quietly fading. Big Data, Cloud Computing, and Crypto just to name a few. There was a period where almost everything was on Blockchain, even iced tea (not joking, check this out). The fad disappeared and only a small subset of use cases where a lot of value is added remains.

Is AI going to follow the same path?

To answer the question in broad terms we believe the answer is yes, the fad will disappear at some point. But what will remain will bring drastic changes to project planning and the day-to-day job of the planner. The reason for this is that what AI technologies are enabling today impacts not only the application layer, it will bring a fundamental change to the domain layer.

 

Let’s use an example to showcase this. With Big Data and Cloud Computing, a planner could “easily and cheaply” use Power BI to create an interactive dashboard showing progress updates to be shared with the wider team. These trends made sharing knowledge easier, but you still required a planner to:

  1. Manually develop the schedule

  2. Manually update the schedule

  3. Manually create the dashboard

All three tasks have a high value-add component and a massive repetitive/low value-add amount of work. It takes an expert planner to comprehend how to break down work on the schedule for a new project, but inputting all this information into P6 or Microsoft Project takes a lot of time and isn’t much fun. Same for updating progress or creating a dashboard.



Enter AI technology

With the latest technology powered by Artificial Intelligence algorithms available today in the market, for this same example, a planner could:

  1. Use AI to analyze 100s of past project schedules using Natural Language Processing algorithms that can classify similar activities between projects to derive learnings and insights. Then, these learnings can be used to generate a new project schedule with at least 80% accuracy, removing most of the bulk low-value-added work. For example, there won’t be a need to spend time figuring out the average productivity for interior lighting installation on a residential high-rise project in Madrid. Like this example, there are 1000s of them on any given project. This is why it takes weeks to develop a 1st pass schedule. AI schedule optimization software automates repetitive manual work, liberating the planner and enabling them to focus on the critical scope and fine-tuning the schedule.

  2. Mount 360-degree cameras on hard hats or drones that use Computer Vision algorithms to analyze what is physically on-site and compare vs a BIM model. This way progress gathering can be automated. Not 100%, but a significant amount of it. Yes, there will still be a lot of scope that can’t be visually evaluated such as technical approval by an Authority or a Quality Control test which will require the expert evaluation of the project planner. Nonetheless, Computer Vision technology can remove most of the bulk work and is an agnostic, independent “party” evaluating the progress of work.

  3. Neural Networks and Advanced Learning Algorithms enable the user to use prompt-based commands instead of having to manually configure stuff. In the dashboard example, it’s as simple as writing a prompt to a text-based bot assistant, requesting to create a dashboard displaying certain data in a particular way; no need to spend time creating dashboards manually, which may become obsolete quickly or lose their configuration. Every user can create tailor-made dashboards with the information that matters to them. Removing this manual low value-add work unlocks the possibility for the expert planner to run 100s of analyses ultra-fast to extract as much information as possible. The project will still need a planner to understand and decide what information is critical to be shared for decision-making but, this planner won’t be bogged down by fighting with Excel or Power BI configurations.

Wrapping it up

Although the general AI fad will continue for a while and we will see anything from AI pillows to AI-powered hair products, it will start to wind down at some point once a new trend gets hot (our bet is Quantum Computing).

But, for the project planning discipline, the changes AI technologies bring will have fundamentally changed the day-to-day work of a planner. If you are afraid that AI will make your job redundant, fear not, but a planner leveraging AI technologies will!

If you want to take a step forward and start using advanced technologies to take planning to the next level, feel free to reach out.



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