In our latest expert interview, we caught up with our own John Edmonds and Szymon Pawlowski.


As expert architects and co-authors of PRINCE2 7, they are well placed to predict how the project management profession will continue to evolve in 2024:


“There’s been big enthusiasm for AI over the last couple of years and it gathered pace in 2023,” Szymon explained. “There’s now a cohort of companies that understand how AI will not only speed up project process and cut costs but know how it can be achieved in their own business. However, it’s the more innovative brands that have an expectation AI will deliver change quickly and are accelerating adoption as a result.”


But it won’t be plain sailing according to John: “We will be seeing more experimentation with regards to automating project activities, with failures and disappointments as a result. Things don’t always go to plan and outcomes fall short of expectations. That’s where I think project managers have an opportunity to step up.”


John added: “Every company is unique, so experimentation is the only way to learn how AI will apply to a specific business and its market. In these scenarios, project managers could well be viewed as the experts in managing change. This puts them in the limelight and raises the stakes. They’ll be expected to have the answers about how to test and adopt AI and therefore why things failed or didn’t go to plan.”


Project managers: well-placed for the AI revolution


It might seem like an unenviable position to be in, but John believes project managers have the tools already. “I’d be encouraging them to think what they know about threats and opportunities already and not be afraid to apply it. I believe their intuition will tell them that there is more benefit in applying AI to processes that are often repeated and are predictable in their outcomes – like monthly software updates – than trying to apply it to innovation in product, process or change programmes.”


“Project managers will appreciate that this helps to eliminate the unknowns,” he continued, “because with this approach there’s previous data to look at and benchmark performance against. You can truly see the impact adjustments and stay in control of the experiment.”


When it comes to project management, typically, John and Szymon see AI being most successfully applied to scheduling, reporting, risk management and assessing the impact of risks and issues. However, they both suggest that businesses applying AI in this way have something in common – good stakeholder engagement.  


Recognising the impact of change in projects


“Getting companies to think this way takes time and effort. Most of all it requires solid change management and stakeholder engagement skills from project managers. They need to be adept at explaining the risks and how to manage them to suit an outcome,” asserted John.


“Yes, if you’re thinking about where you’ll take your skills this year, then it’s vital to look at your capability and knowledge in terms of change management,” Szymon suggested.


He continued: “I think more project managers appreciate that change management is now a necessity in project management. They can’t ignore the implications that decisions have on day-to-day- working habits, culture, or an individual’s perception of change. That said, an appreciation is one thing; having the capability to look beyond the project is another.”


“That’s why PRINCE2 7 is so timely,” John said. “Project managers have an opportunity to lead the way and prove there’s more to their job than keeping the wheels on. PRINCE2 7 digs deep into this and will help them hone their change management skills.”


Taking a strategic approach with AI and data


He added: “I also think it will help to be more strategic. This is especially true for those who will gain time through the application of AI. Indeed, I think few companies have thought through the consequences of automating process. For all the work they remove they could find they generate more work.”


John used the example of AI data intelligence to illustrate his point: “If your data is more effectively mined through AI applications, then you’ll have better insight for product development and, in turn, you’ll have bigger portfolios to build and manage.”


“Project managers need to tune into this and help guide the organisation on how to respond to the opportunities and extra workload automation creates. In the case of AI, that means taking control of scenarios to help the organisation mature in its exploration and adoption of new approaches. It’s how you can ensure there are more successes than failures.” 


“I don’t think that will come easily to everyone,” Szymon suggested. “I talk to a lot of people about their career development and many struggle to have this strategic view. It’s a real specialism.”


The maturing project manager: dressing for the job you want


Both John and Szymon agreed that in this period of experimentation, more project managers will need to specialize to stand out. “It’s a case of dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got,” John explained. “That’s all about mindset. If you want to be the best project manager, then invest in keeping up to date with the latest in best practice thinking. Learn from others, attend workshops and conferences and study PRINCE2 7, as I believe it will help you to change your approach to work for the better.”


Szymon added: “In fact by sharing with peers and completing exams, I think many people will realize their career doesn’t have to follow a linear path. You can be highly successful and an asset to the organisation as a project manager or programme manager if you deliver added value by combining a rounded strategic view of the world with finely tuned expertise.”