How Data, Analytics & AI Shaped 2020, and Will Impact 2021

Artificial intelligence and automation were key tools in the IT enterprises' pandemic war effort in 2020. Here's how they will continue to change the game in every organization in 2021.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

December 22, 2020

4 Min Read
Image: charles taylor -

The IT enterprise may have started the year stalled on its efforts to deploy at scale production machine learning and artificial intelligence projects, but that didn't last long. The global pandemic's impact included serving as a catalyst to accelerate any number of IT projects for a new way of doing business, and those included AI and automation.

Why's that? The shift to working remotely for so many desk workers necessitated a change in how to do business, sure. But the shift to remote work coincided with a giant spike in demand for customer service and support. For instance, at the consumer bank, who was answering the incoming calls from customers about whether stimulus checks had arrived or cleared? Those calls didn't exist in 2019. Now in 2020, there was a huge spike in these calls and fewer workers to field them.

These conditions made AI and automation a priority for enterprises in 2020. One of AI's top use cases to date, chat bots, experienced a huge increase this year as organizations sought to automate common interactions or manual tasks to accommodate spikes in demand and fewer available workers. These technologies were deployed to assist in administering government stimulus programs, customer service, and employee work-from-home initiatives, to name just a few.

Another big trend in 2020 and going into 2021 is edge intelligence. While so much of computing shifted to the cloud in 2020 in a pivot response to the pandemic, as one analyst said, "The edge completes the cloud." Technologies such as 5G coupled with artificial intelligence will only enhance the work that can be done at the edge. In a year when remote working saw the biggest level of acceptance ever, the time has certainly come for edge intelligence.

As those remote workers and some office workers return to their desks in 2021, they will be working with greater ease in their familiar analytics toolsets, too. That's because augmented analytics, a set of technologies that have leveraged machine learning to make data management, data governance, data preparation, and data analysis easier, has arrived in business intelligence and other analytics tools. That means that business users no longer have to send their analytics requests to data scientists. Data analysis is becoming more democratized and the tools have become easier to use for everyone in the enterprise. These technologies will help as CIOs and data executives across the enterprise look to secure and locate data in 2021.

Now as we reach the end of one of the wildest years in our long memories, we offer you a selection of some of the most important trend stories in data, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence for 2020, as well as a look forward into how all these factors will shape a new world in 2021. Let's hope for a Happy New Year.

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The State of Chatbots: Pandemic Edition

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How Enterprises Prioritized AI in 2020

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A Question for 2021: Where’s My Data?

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About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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