AI drives data analytics surge, study finds

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Enterprise managers have an insatiable need for better analysis of ever more data, and the pandemic has only intensified the quest. That is among the conclusions of a recent report from analyst firm 451 Research.

“Trends in Data, AI and Analytics, 2021” surveyed a wide range of enterprise IT shops and found that many were increasing their investment in collecting data and generating better analysis. As a result, AI analytics is bringing new life to data analytics tooling.

In many cases, the new analysis depends upon deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to find a true signal or trend.

Was this shift the result of COVID? The firms in the survey were basically split on that question, with 51% agreeing that “My organization has increased the number or scope of active analytics projects as a result of COVID-19.”

This shift showed a reversal of a trend that 451 Research identified in the beginning months of the pandemic. When lockdowns and other measures began, many companies paused new projects, and data-driven analytics were an easy target. As such projects have started up again, significant changes are taking place.

“The unprecedented level of change we have seen means that historical data and models are no longer relevant,” suggested an earlier survey from 2020 in the 451 Research series.

How have things changed? For many, an increase in remote work meant more opportunities to track and measure. The report suggests that this leads to more options for analytics that are driven by a need to understand how to deploy resources and satisfy customer needs in a markedly new business environment.

Data analytics shift with business models

Between the employees working at home, the widely distributed office space, and the request for more digital services, analytics can help decision makers understand just what parts of the business are working and which ones aren’t.

Much of this is part of a trend that’s been unfolding from long before the pandemic and will continue independent of it. The report found that many survey respondents expect broad growth across all analytical options, from traditional business report generators to self-service business intelligence/visualization tools.

The greatest growth was found in automated business metric/incident detection and alerting tools, an area that offers managers a way to track key metrics for dangerous changes.

“There’s a prevailing opinion in the data and analytics sector that traditional forms of business intelligence, specifically reports and dashboards generated by IT and data analysts, as well as the second wave of analysis tools involving self-service business intelligence/visualizations tools, are withering on the vine,” noted the report. But 451 Research pointedly adds that the survey data “tells a different story,” and such tools are not withering.

Indeed, the tools are finding greater use, the report concludes, because AI and what the report calls “augmented intelligence” are becoming a common part of business intelligence and reporting. For instance, 25% of respondents are using automated business metric/incident detection and alerting tools now, but 39% expect to be using them in the next two years. In general, automated suggestions and other heavily processed analysis will form the foundation for more dashboards and other business intelligence.

COVID spawns data culture

The report also explored how the pandemic may shift how firms nurture what it calls “a data culture.” Many survey respondents reported investing in new products and tools to simplify data analysis and reduce data siloing.

The form these data storage facilities will take, though, is still an active area of experimentation and investment. The report notes that new capabilities and new products are blurring the lines between concepts like the data lake and the data warehouse. The product lines are converging as vendors of distinct offerings add similar features.

“Establishing a pervasive data culture requires more than technology investment. While data management investment ranks at the top of organizations’ reported efforts to support data culture, the broader challenge is one of change management,” offered the report.

That applies to change from the pandemic and whatever is coming next.

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