(Image by Paul Kelly)
In a project world of hard data such as schedules, budgets, and risks, it is sentiment analysis that provides the opportunity to improve how we manage the important soft skill of communication. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can analyze emails, messages, and even verbal communication, to provide an assessment of how people perceive the project overall, how they feel about their role, and how they react to messages delivered by the project manager. It is the ultimate feedback tool that allows a project manager to adjust the communication plan and the message content based on a sentiment analysis metric.
NLP, in simple form, finds the most frequently used positive words or phrases compared to negative ones. This becomes a numeric value, usually expressed as a percentage, and is similar to a customer satisfaction survey without the need to actually have people complete a survey. In addition to the simple result, sentiment analysis can be applied continuously and reveal trends in the metric. This is even more valuable as the project manager can take action to improve deteriorating morale and do so in a much timelier manner than otherwise possible.
NLP is being added to numerous collaboration tools in the workforce to provide additional value to managers. The more challenging aspect will be how to use the results. A project manager needs to decide what actions to take and when to take them.
NLP only provides metrics, not a process. It is the project manager that needs to determine how to improve motivation or avoid further degradation in project team sentiment. This is an important first step in being able to interpret and use NLP results as the capabilities in this field continue to advance.
Written by: Courtney Madruga & Paul Boudreau
Courtney Madruga received an undergraduate degree from the University of Ottawa and recently completed the Post Graduate Program in Project Management at Algonquin College, Canada. She is driven to find innovative solutions, has a sharp focus on customer satisfaction, and has excellent leadership qualities. Courtney currently works for Stonemeadow Consulting where she conducts research into AI-based concepts for project management.
Paul Boudreau is currently involved in the research and development of AI tools for project management. He published two books on this topic: Applying Artificial Intelligence to Project Management, and How the PMO Can Use AI to Improve the Bottom Line (both are available on Amazon). He is also a project management professor in the School of Business at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada