Survey Says: The Pandemic is Causing Enterprise IT to Wake Up to the Value of AI/ML

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be driving enterprise IT to plan increased investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies (ML), according to a newly published survey, and a growing number of decision makers are concluding that they should have been doing it all along.

The survey ("2020 Enterprise Trends In The New Normal") was conducted by Seattle-based machine learning operations (MLOps) platform provider Algorithmia, and completed in August 2020. It collected the responses of 100+ IT directors and above who are involved with AI/ML and work in companies with at least $1 billion in annual sales and 5,000 or more employees.

Among the IT leaders responding to Algorithmia's survey, 42% aid at least half of all their AI/ML projects were impacted from a priority, staffing, or funding standpoint as a result of the pandemic. Another 54% said their AI/ML projects had focused primarily on financial analysis and consumer insight prior to the pandemic, but that these projects will be focused on cost optimization (59%) and customer experience (58%) when we come out of it. This suggests that, alghough IT might lock-in on cost-cutting when times are tough, the survey's authors conclude, over the long-term they will prioritize the adoption of new technologies that enhance and enable automation.

Regardless of focus, IT leaders surveyed by Algorithmia are in agreement that AI/ML projects will be a priority going forward. 65% of survey respondents said that AI/ML projects were at or near the top of their priority list before the pandemic, and 33% said these applications are now higher on their list since the onset of the pandemic. Additionally, 43% said AI/ML matters much more than they thought as a result of the pandemic, and 23% said they realize now that AI/ML should have been their highest priority IT initiatives all along.

The survey data also showed that IT leaders are planning to spend more on AI/ML going forward, and the pandemic is increasing demand for people with AI/ML job skills. 91% of survey respondents said they were spending at least $1,000,000 annually on AI/ML prior to the pandemic, and 50% said they are planning to spend more than that going forward. Meanwhile, a lack of in-house staff with AI/ML skills was the primary challenge for IT leaders prior to the pandemic, according to 59% of respondents, and the most important AI/ML-related job skills coming out of the pandemic are going to be security (69%), data management (64%) and systems integration (62%).

"When we come through the pandemic, the companies that will emerge the strongest will be those that invested in tools, people, and processes that enable them to scale delivery of AI and ML-based applications to production," said Algorithmia CEO Diego Oppenheimer, in a statement. "These past several months have been difficult for most companies, but we believe investments in AI/ML operations now will pay off for companies sooner than later. Despite the fact that we're still dealing with the pandemic, CIOs should be encouraged by the results of our survey."

Algorithmia's flagship MLOps platform was designed to allow data scientists and ML engineers to automate the DevOps, management, and deployment of AI/ML models in the language they choose. It enables users to connect data sources, orchestration engines, and step functions, and deploy models from major frameworks, languages, platforms, and tools.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at