Meet the Next Messenger

EPMOs can boost their efficiency by using chatbots to automate basic tasks.
By Abid Mustafa

In the digital age, enterprise project management offices (EPMOs) have to adapt to remain both relevant and competitive. They need to maximize the value they deliver to the C-suite while simultaneously digitizing low-value activities. But the conventional approach to automating manual EPMO tasks—providing and filling in project templates, and producing executive reports using software tools, web portals and social networking platforms—might soon be a thing of the past.

The next big automation innovation to hit the digital universe will revolve around the chat platforms and messaging apps that now dominate
the social space. These apps have created the opportunity to streamline communication using chatbots—intelligent, interactive pieces of software that are able to understand and process customer requests in real time.


What makes chatbots unique is the ease with which they capture and process customer requests. Plus, they are platform agnostic and can be deployed on legacy platforms. So how does this fit into the EPMO world?

EPMOs typically excel at helping organizations improve their project management methodology and standards. This generates a constant demand for project management templates from the rest of the organization. Today, employees have to download project templates from an internal repository and then read the user guide or schedule training time with someone in the EPMO. But chatbots have the potential to handle this manual task without compromising the user experience.

Chatbots could help users fill out project templates, such as risk and issue registers. They also could streamline executive report generation by aggregating data and producing a document that requires only minor final touches. This allows EPMO staff to move projects forward by prioritizing other valuable tasks, such as resolving disputes between key project stakeholders.


Admittedly, the current scope of success for chatbots is limited, but early EPMO adopters may see lasting dividends. It is entirely feasible to foresee chatbots chugging away in the background, validating project budgets, tracking delayed tasks, providing updates on tasks accomplished, monitoring dependencies and so forth.

Critics might point out that chatbots rely on the cloud and big data to deliver results. But this is only true for the most sophisticated chatbots. Simple versions don’t require that level of technology.

In any case, the fact remains: Companies are being forced to digitize or die. And EPMOs, like other support departments, are often passive when it comes to adopting new technologies and work practices. To overcome this inertia, EPMOs must become active participants in the drive toward digitization, and chatbots present a unique opportunity to contribute to the organization’s business value chain.

Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for eight years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle. 

Source: PM Network 07/2017 - SUNKEN TREASURE 

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