AI budgets are expected to increase significantly in 2021, with decisions shifting from the C-suite to technologists, shifting away from “silver bullet” solutions and toward enhancements to internal operations.
As AI has become more mainstream in the enterprise landscape, many enterprises want to keep up the momentum by expanding their investments in AI-powered tools and solutions. According to Appen’s seventh State of AI 2021 report, there’s a substantial yearly increase in AI budgets, ranging from US$500,000 to US$5 million per year. Since 2020, the budget has grown by 55%. The report shows that in 2021, AI decision-makers are shifting away from the AI ‘silver bullet’ and towards using artificial intelligence to support internal processes while focusing on better understanding the data as well as efficiency gains.
“With the adoption of AI going up exponentially, as expected, we can see that budgets have gone up as well. Contributing components of successful AI, five years ago is a lot different compared to what the industry is relying on right now,” commented Wilson Pang, Chief Technology Officer, Appen in a conversation with EnterpriseTalk. He further added, “High-quality data is the foundation for success for every AI project, and no amount of tweaking of algorithms can negate the consequences of bad data. Companies that want to deliver better results faster understand that and you see that reflected in current budgets.”
The annual report also found that there’s a significant shift in responsibility for AI projects from business decision-makers to technical practitioners (technologists), indicating an increased focus on operationalizing AI projects. Technologists implementing as well as maintaining projects shows that AI is maturing within organizations and being delegated to the management layers in the business.
A few takeaways from Appen’s report include:
- The impact of COVID-19 crisis: Enterprise leaders acknowledged that they have accelerated their AI strategy as a result of COVID-19 in 2020 and are not going to slow down anytime soon. However, organizations having external data providers are twice as likely to accelerate their AI initiatives than those that don’t.
- Decision-making responsibilities: In 2021, business leaders empowered their technologists to make decisions for AI projects as well as putting them into practice. In fact, only 39% of C-suite executives are responsible for AI initiatives, down from 71% last year, with organizations delegating their responsibility to VPs and Directors.
- Data focused: A significant majority of enterprises have partnered with external data providers to deploy as well as update AI projects at scale. It reflects the fact that data acquisition, preparation and management are top challenges facing AI practitioners. Enterprises that use external data providers are 1.5 times more likely to confirm they are ahead of their competitors in AI deployment.
- Disconnects remain: The report observed that business leaders, as well as technologists, still don’t agree in areas such as interpretability and ethics. Business leaders are more concerned with interpretability (47% versus technologists’ 38%) whereas technologists have more concern for ethics (41% versus business leaders’ 33%).
With enterprises increasingly encouraging investment in innovative solutions such as AI, it is crucial that they feed the right amount of data to the AI models while aligning the leaders over issues such as interpretability and ethics. This will not enhance the overall infrastructure of the enterprise but will also encourage a great collaboration between C-suite executives and technologists that has become a necessity in today’s enterprise landscape.