Top Skills Needed for Project Managers in the Age of AI


Beyond Hype



By Ricardo Viana Vargas

Lisbon, Portugal

Navigating the Winding Road to the Future

The uncertainty brought in by emerging technological developments like AI, machine learning, and deep learning is going to affect us all.

With that in mind, we must think differently about our career paths as these advancements challenge traditional notions of career management.

The question is: Is this just hype, or should we pivot our skills to keep our work relevant?

Understanding the Hype Cycle

Let’s start by understanding how innovation happens in our society.

AI is not an exception.

Consider this: AT&T introduced the “AT&T Picturephone” back in 1964, a device that combined voice and video. However, its features were too limited to offer real benefits, such as document sharing and replacing face-to-face meetings.

Reflect on how far we’ve come with phone technology in nearly 60 years.

Innovation doesn’t happen overnight; it takes several steps. Prof. Rita McGrath of Columbia Business School eloquently describes this business cycle in her Stepping Stone Strategy Model, with five key phases: hype, dismissal, emergence, the inflection point, and post-inflection maturity.

During the hype phase, entrepreneurs launch products, investors fund them, and journalists rave about the latest innovation poised to change our lives forever. But inevitably, there are skeptics who cast doubt on the new technology, leading to what we call the “dismissal phase.”

Consider the recent unveiling of the Apple Vision Pro. It’s a perfect example of hype and dismissal. Open any tech news, and you’ll see experts voicing their opinions, like the “It’s the best headset demo ever” from The Verge to the “Apple’s Vision Pro Isn’t the Future” from Wired.

Following the dismissal phase is the emergence phase. This phase is where critical decisions about business models, infrastructure, asset ownership, and business relationships are made within the business ecosystem.

At the so-called “inflection point,” we experience explosive growth. It’s the tipping point where the new technology gains mainstream acceptance and significantly impacts the industry.

The winners are far ahead and are equipped to gain leverage from the valuable opportunity for growth. Those who could not jump on are starting to decline.

The post-inflection point is the maturity stage, where it’s evident to everyone how innovation will change the world. However, only a few know how to navigate and benefit from the change.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles by Ricardo Vargas, PMI Fellow and recognized thought leader, is based on his LinkedIn newsletter called Beyond Hype in which he periodically shares his thoughts on emerging issues and potential concerns related to project management or the PM profession. Ricardo is a former Chair of the PMI Board of Directors and the author or co-author of many books on project management, including the recent  Project Management Next Generation: The Pillars for Organizational Excellence (co-authored with Dr. Harold Kerzner and Dr. Al Zeitoun). Learn more about the author in his profile at the end of this article.

How to cite this paper: Vargas, V. V. (2023). Top Skills Needed for Project Managers in the Age of AI, Beyond Hype 4, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/pmwj133-Sep2023-Vargas-top-pm-skills-for-age-of-AI-beyond-hype-4.pdf

About the Author

Ricardo Viana Vargas, PhD

Minas Gerais, Brazil
Lisbon, Portugal


Ricardo Viana Vargas is Managing Partner at Macrosolutions, past Executive Director of the Project Management Institute’s Brightline Initiative, past Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Infrastructure and Project Management Group, and former Chair of the PMI Board of Directors. Passionate about transforming ideas into action and a popular speaker at international PM events, Ricardo is recognized worldwide as a chief advocate for the project economy. Specializing in implementing innovative global initiatives, capital projects and product development, he has directed dozens of projects across industries and continents, managing more than $20 billion in global initiatives over the past 25 years.

Ricardo shares his expertise with millions of professionals around the globe through his 5 Minutes Podcast,” which he’s hosted since 2007. He has written 16 books on project management, risk and crisis management, and transformation, which have been translated into six languages and sold more than half a million copies.  His latest book Project Management Next Generation: The Pillars for Organizational Excellence, in partnership with Dr. Harold Kerzner and Dr. Al Zeitoun has recently been released.

Ricardo’s influence on project management was affirmed when he became the first Latin American to be elected Chairman of the Project Management Institute. More than two decades ago, he founded Macrosolutions, a global consulting firm with international operations in energy, infrastructure, IT, oil and finance. Between 2016 and 2020, Ricardo directed the Brightline Initiative, a Project Management Institute think tank bringing together leading organizations in a coalition dedicated to helping executives bridge the expensive, unproductive gap between strategic design and delivery.

Prior to his work with Brightline, Ricardo was Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Infrastructure and Project Management Group, leading more than 1,000 projects and $1.2 billion in humanitarian and development projects. He has worked as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur in artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, chatbots and machine learning resulted in tools and products that have revolutionized how users bring agility and agile management into project management software.

Ricardo holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Federal Fluminense University in Brazil and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, as well as a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. He can be contacted at ricardo@ricardo-vargas.com or ricardo-vargas.com  or Linkedin: com/in/ricardovargas.

To view other works by Ricardo Vargas, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/ricardo-viana-vargas-phd/