As enterprises continue to grapple with the pandemic, proving the ROI of analytics and AI, enabling intelligent automation, and leveraging data for diversity, equity, and inclusion will be critical.

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Data analytics is a domain in constant motion. Early in 2020, it seemed clear that organizations would continue to invest heavily in analytics to support their digital transformations. But the world of analytics and AI looks very different in March 2021 than it did in February 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced enterprises to adopt new ways of working, squeezed budgets, and rendered obsolete many models that relied on historical data.

In 2021, research firm Gartner says data and analytics teams must pivot from traditional techniques that rely on big data to a new class of analytics focused on “small and wide” data. The pressure is acute: A survey of boards of directors conducted by Gartner in July 2020 found that 78% of respondents considered analytics a top-three game-changing technology for their industry as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis; 69% of respondents felt the same way about AI.

As IT leaders focus attention on data analytics and AI in 2021 and beyond, they should keep the following three closely related trends top-of-mind.

Analytics and AI projects must prove their ROI