Businesses are dramatically increasing the resources they put into machine learning initiatives for 2021. Here’s what this means for your own ML strategy.

ML trend: Enterprises are dialing up their machine learning investments for 2021

In November, we conducted a survey with 400+ business leaders involved in AI/ML initiatives at their organizations and discovered the top 10 trends driving the industry in 2021.

One of the key trends we discovered is that organizations have increased the priority level of AI/ML initiatives—and are backing that up with increased spending and hiring. This post explores the trend in detail, and what it means for your own business as you head further into 2021.

64% of organizations have increased AI/ML priority in the past year

Increasing priorities

Our 2021 report revealed that organizations are increasing their investments in machine learning in a couple different ways. First off, 64% of all survey respondents reported that they’ve increased the priority of AI/ML relative to other IT initiatives in the past 12 months. Only 6% reported a decrease in priority—the vast majority of all respondents are either maintaining the same priority levels or increasing them.

And the fact of the matter is, most organizations already prioritize AI/ML initiatives above other IT initiatives. 76% of all respondents reported that they prioritize AI/ML over other IT initiatives—regardless of whether that priority level has changed in the past 12 months. This paints a clear picture that enterprises consider AI and machine learning to be a top priority, and that’s only increasing over time.

Increasing budgets

Prioritizing AI/ML initiatives is one thing, but are businesses backing that up with real money? The data says yes.

When it comes to spending, a full 83% of organizations have increased their AI/ML budgets year-on-year. What’s more, compared to our previous year’s report, we see an increase in that increase. That is, more organizations are increasing their budgets than before; in last year’s report, only 71% of respondents reported that budgets had increased. What’s even more fascinating to note is that in our previous year’s report, just 7% of respondents said their budgets were increasing by more than 50%. This year, 20% reported AI/ML budget increases of more than 50% from FY2019 to FY2020.

83% of organizations have increased AI/ML budgets year-on-year

83% of organizations have increased AI/ML budgets year-on-year

Increasing headcounts

The final way that enterprises are dialing up their ML investments for 2021 is by increasing data science hiring. Indeed, it’s one thing to increase a budget. It’s another thing to invest in the creative talent that will drive your business forward, year after year after year. Our data shows that year-on-year, the average number of data scientists employed has increased by 76%.

the average number of data scientists employed has increased 76% year-on-year

The fact that organizations are significantly increasing headcounts—in a year that held tremendous economic uncertainty—signals just how serious they are about ramping up their AI/ML investments and innovation.

What this means for your 2021 ML strategy

The data has spoken, and more and more businesses are realizing the importance of AI and ML to drive their businesses forward and maintain their competitive edge.

It’s clear that the organizations making these moves in 2020—prioritizing AI/ML initiatives, increasing spending, and expanding data science teams—expect their strategies will begin producing results sooner rather than later. 2021 is shaping up to be extremely competitive in this regard, as the organizations making serious investments in AI/ML will quickly outpace those still sitting on the sidelines.

The bottom line? If you’re not already investing in machine learning, 2021 is the year to start. And if you’ve already started developing ML models, 2021 is the year to accelerate your investment in them—and ensure they’re delivering results for your business. In both cases, machine learning operations (MLOps) can help.

Discover all 10 enterprise ML trends

This is only one of the trends that we discovered in our survey of 400+ business leaders. Check out the full report today to explore all 10 trends we uncovered in our research. 2021 will be a crucial year for ML initiatives—set yourself up for success by understanding where the industry is headed and how you can make the most of it.

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Daniel Schafer

Sales Professional with interest in MLOps. More posts from Daniel