Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Trends in 2021

January 7, 2021

There is no doubt that COVID has been a disruptor – it has impacted the way we work, caused budget cuts and deferred decisions around programs and initiatives that, pre-COVID, would have been considered mission-critical. However, in many ways, COVID has also been a catalyst for change. In this video, Rob Turner, EVP, Sales and Marketing, and Krasen Paskalev, EVP, Delivery and Expertise, at Adastra take a look at the year that was and uncover some of the key Data and AI trends for 2021.

The past year has seen digital adoption being fast-forwarded by five years. From interacting with our colleagues to understanding and engaging with our customers, from the way we produce and deliver products/services to the deployment and hosting of new technology solutions, everything has been forced down an accelerated path of change. Even the way we evaluate and prioritize technology decisions has changed – all in a span of 9 or 10 months. With digitalization no longer a strategic differentiator but a must-have for survival, CIOs and technology leaders in many organizations have been thrust to the forefront to help enable new digital capabilities within organizations.

Despite the trials and tribulations of the past year, the expectation and demand for “more” has not eased, and instead, COVID has been yet another in a series of bar-raising events, establishing a new set of expectations for both customers and internal stakeholders. However, with continuing budget constraints, technology spending in most organizations will likely remain constrained, bringing us back to the dilemma of “Do more, do better and faster, with less.”

Rob Turner talks about the need to shift organizational and leadership perspective from “doing more” to “being more”. While the difference may seem subtle, “being more” essentially focuses on providing thought leadership, defining a value proposition centered around data as a strategic asset, and driving, rather than being driven by, digital change. This can be done by being clear about what you are trying to achieve and establishing sturdy “scaffolding” to get you to the next level of performance. Traditionally, scaffolding comprised of people, processes, and technology, but as the customer needs and demands get more sophisticated, data has become a critical component of this scaffolding.

In the context of “being more with less”, data is the enterprise asset that stands to deliver the most. Organizations have ample, readily available data, and with a little effort, they can maximize the value extracted from it. As a business asset, data offers unparalleled advantages, ranging from its reusability, to its ability to drive knowledge and insights for operational and strategic decision-making.

However, there are also some challenges when it comes to extracting the most out of organizational data. Data may not always be easily accessible to all those who need it and, in many cases, people may not even know that certain data exists in the organization. It may not be well catalogued or described, causing challenges with its understandability. It may not be properly integrated or aligned, and data from the same data domain may be available in different places. Data quality is a key issue, and the available data may be incomplete, outdated, invalid, or inconsistent. Finally, there may be valuable insights hidden in the data that can only be uncovered by analytics and AI.

Krasen Paskalev sheds light on industry trends that are driving the value of data and that will continue to shape digital transformation through 2021. Key among these are:


Having quickly proven its worth, Cloud has turned from disruptor to mainstream. Cloud is the catalyst for most present data initiatives and offers significant benefits including:

  • Cost optimization, through the ability to pay only for what you use. This will be a key advantage as cost continues to be a critical influencer in 2021.
  • Flexibility, scalability, agility, and speed, allowing organizational vision to translate into solutions faster
  • Availability of best-of-breed technology on the Cloud
  • Advanced capabilities such as serverless, no-code, low-code
  • Secure data access and availability

Many organizations are contemplating or implementing a multi-Cloud strategy, leveraging the best mix of benefits offered by different Cloud vendors.

Data Democratization

Organizations should be able to leverage data assets across the company and should aim to make it accessible to everyone for decision-making. As users leveraging data become less technical, there will be increased emphasis on delivering data via visualizations and self-serve analytics, leaving the IT team with the task of building the overall Business Information Experience (BiX).

To successfully enable self-serve capabilities, the following elements will become all the more important:

  • Good and easy to use data catalogues
  • Training on tools and capabilities
  • Trusted, good quality data

AI and Automation

We expect to see AI and automation augment the workforce more significantly in 2021, allowing employees to do more with a collaborative (human-to-human and human-to-AI) approach. Automation improves productivity of well-known, repeatable tasks, and AI and data science allow uncovering of hidden insights to drive better decision-making.

The reengineering of business processes, business workflows, and technology solutions to enable seamless integration and augmentation will be another focus area.


In order to leverage data with confidence, it needs to be clean, accurate, valid, and complete. Governance is the lynchpin that holds all the benefits of data together and creating a cultural shift around Data Governance is key to success. It is important to have all of the components of governance, including:

  • Cataloguing, defining, and understanding data
  • Measuring and improving data quality
  • Governing data ownership, accessibility, and security

With a solid foundation built on a flexible, scalable architecture, ubiquitous access to high-quality and well-governed data, and an organizational culture that enables and leverages analytics, AI, automation, and digital solutions, organizations can significantly improve their ability to deliver more with less.

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