The Current State of AI 2021: Report Now Available

What You Need to Know About the Seventh Annual Industry Report

In our seventh edition of the State of AI and Machine Learning Report, we continue to evaluate an industry that is changing rapidly year-over-year. Our goal with the report is to provide a current picture of the trends, priorities, and challenges faced by businesses building AI technology.

Once again, we surveyed both technical and business leaders to understand their approaches to AI development, and their answers indicate the important shifts taking place industry-wide. And naturally, there are global trends to account for as well. The pandemic continues to exert pressure on organizations to evolve and globalize their technology to fit an increasingly virtual world. We surveyed our respondents on this important topic to better understand its effects on AI development.

As in previous years, we investigated priority differences between technical and business leaders, looked at increasing budgets and deployments, and noted trends in AI technology applications. For the first time, we looked at how organizations are leveraging external data providers to combat the persistent challenge of collecting and preparing quality data. 

All together, these factors and others included in the report provide AI practitioners with a set of learnings on how to organize people, processes, and tools for greater likelihood of success in the field. As companies start to overcome barriers to deployment, investment in AI and machine learning is becoming less optional as a core strategy to compete.

What is the 2021 State of AI and Machine Learning Report?

Appen State of AI 2021 – Making Machine Learning Work in The Real World

The State of AI 2021 report is the output of a cross-industry, mid and large-organization study of senior business leaders and technologists. The report examines and identifies the main characteristics of the expanding AI and machine learning landscape by gathering responses from AI decision-makers.

Together with The Harris Poll, our research partner, we surveyed 501 respondents in an online poll, including 251 business leaders and 250 technical leaders. The random sample consisted of directors, VPs and above of product management, engineering, IT, data, and data science at companies with 100+ employees. The results reflect the real population within a margin of error of ~5%.

The methodology we used ensured that at least 32% of responses came from organizations under 1,000 employees, whereas 68% represent 1,000+ organizations, 17% being greater than 25,000 full-time employee companies.

The Current State of AI and ML

This year, the report demonstrates the critical need for companies to adopt AI technology initiatives now before they’re left behind. More than ever before, businesses are discovering how to successfully leverage AI for external and, increasingly often, internal applications. The pandemic has ultimately accelerated the development of new products, processes, and services built on a foundation of machine learning models. We see this clearly in the reported increase in budgets and deployments. 

As the industry evolves, the report indicates there’s been a shift in priorities toward factors like data diversity, bias reduction, and scaling. Fortunately, business and technical leaders seem increasingly aligned on the importance of these elements as the gap between the two types of decision-makers narrows. 

What the report echoes from last year, though, is that the development of machine learning models is still highly challenging. Obtaining high-quality training data remains a barrier to deployment, with many companies turning to third-party data providers for needed tools, expertise, and processes. To be successful, people building AI must tackle this challenge head-on. In the meantime, Appen will continue to monitor the industry as AI moves from the edges to a core offering for most organizations.

Who Will Benefit From The State of AI Report?

Thousands of AI practitioners look to the State of AI each year to help guide their businesses in their own AI development. Leaders look to the report to gain a better understanding of the current landscape and trends around AI technology initiatives among business leaders and technologists to help inform their own strategies.

Media publications also leverage the report to analyze, discuss, and understand emerging trends. The report has been featured in publications such as:

You can download the State of AI and Machine Learning Report here.

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