Appen’s Annual State of AI Report
Through surveying senior decision-makers on both the business and technical side of companies large and small, the report discovered how leaders are finding ways to make AI work in the real world, what they’re prioritising, and where they still face major challenges.
“Insights from this year’s State of AI report clearly indicate that companies are going all-in on AI,” said Appen CEO Mark Brayan. “When we first set out to understand the state of AI and machine learning seven years ago, organisations globally were eager to start AI projects but weren’t making meaningful progress. Today, in a time of transition during the pandemic, AI is considered core to survival, and we see this in the results of the survey – increased budgets, more technologists in charge, and increased reliance on external training data providers.”
Key points from the State of AI 2021 report
Increased AI budgets
Respondents to the survey suggested that allocated budgets for AI initiatives are increasing in 2021, with 53% of AI teams reporting budgets in the $500k to $5 million range (compared to about one-third in 2020), although the budget was highly correlated with company size. The growth in budgets indicates that the industry is continuing to grow, with AI becoming critical in all industries.
The research showed that companies that are partnered with an external training data provider have larger budgets in the $500k to $5 million range compared to the ones that don’t work with a data provider.
Delegating of AI responsibility
In 2021, a significantly higher percentage of technologists are responsible for making decisions for AI projects and putting them into practice. C-level executives are responsible for AI initiatives for only 39% of organisations, down from 71% last year, with companies delegating responsibility to VPs and Directors.
Gaps between business and technical leaders
The report finds that business leaders and technologists don’t yet agree in areas like ethics and interpretability. Technologists have a greater concern for ethics (41% versus business leaders’ 33%), while business leaders are more concerned with interpretability (47% versus technologists’ 38%).
Prioritising high-quality data
An overwhelming majority of organisations have partnered with external training data providers to deploy and update AI projects at scale – a reflection of the fact that data acquisition, preparation and management are the top challenges AI practitioners face. Companies who use external data providers are 1.5 times more likely to say their company is ahead of others in AI deployment.
COVID-19 continues to accelerate AI development
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an accelerating effect on AI efforts. Although small companies were the most likely to have been negatively impacted, the majority still felt things continue apace or speed up. Nearly 75% of those using external data providers saw an acceleration.
ManageEngine Survey Finds Global AI Use Increase
ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation, has announced results from its recent market study, The 2021 Digital Readiness Survey, finding that 86% of organisations worldwide are using artificial intelligence (AI) more than they did two years ago. However, only 35% of the global respondents reported that their confidence in the technology has significantly increased.
The focus of the study was to understand technological changes in a post-COVID world, in areas such as remote work, security, business analytics, and AI. It was found that organisations worldwide mainly increased their use of AI to improve business analytics (63%), increase operational efficiency (62%) and enhance the customer experience (60%). While a majority of global respondents (94%) believe that AI will meet business expectations—and 65% stated AI had delivered measurable business results—some fears remain around the technology’s performance.
“The potential for AI to improve business efficiency and the customer experience was firmly on show through 2020, with AI handling everything from increased customer service volumes to oversight of self-service processes,” said Rajesh Ganesan, vice president at ManageEngine. “While AI is being handed more responsibility and is applied in more business-critical use cases, our research shows this is a double-edged sword and that more work is needed to embrace the technology and lift internal capability to ensure AI achieves its promise.”
Is business analytics the key to success?
The growing use of AI coincides with a broader trend of using analytics to improve the use of available data and the speed and accuracy of decision-making. In the post-pandemic era, profitability and competition are also driving organisations across the world to invest in business analytics platforms and capabilities.
Business analytics is an umbrella term for several types of analytics—descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive.
The biggest user of business analytics by far is IT. An average of 63% of IT departments worldwide cited this in the survey. However, in North America, 67% of executives noted their use of business analytics, which was higher than their IT departments’ use (61%). Business areas such as marketing, sales, human resources, operations and R&D are also showing interest in business analytics but are well behind IT and executives on adoption and actual use.
Other key global findings of the survey
– A mighty 96% of organisations are planning to continue supporting remote workers for the next two years. Concerningly, the report also found that 84% of IT professionals believe that remote workers have increased their enterprise’s security risk.
– More than half (56%) of respondents stated that improving their security infrastructure is a key driver of adopting new technologies.
– 78% of organisations revealed that remote workers download software without obtaining approval from the IT department; this shadow IT mainly included mobile-specific applications (40%), online meeting tools (38%) and document sharing solutions (31%).
– 84% of respondents use more cloud services now than they did before the pandemic began. However, most respondents believe that improved security (56%), performance (52%) and reliability (51%) would increase their company’s confidence in cloud-based solutions.