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Appen’s 2021 State of AI Report Finds Budgets Up

Survey finds decisions moving away from silver bullet solutions to improvements to internal operations.

Note: TDWI’s editors carefully choose vendor-issued press releases about new or upgraded products and services. We have edited and/or condensed this release to highlight key features but make no claims as to the accuracy of the vendor's statements.

Appen Ltd., a provider of training data for organizations building AI systems at scale, released its seventh annual State of AI report. This year’s report reveals a significant year-over-year increase in AI budgets, ranging from $500,000 to $5 million per year, up 55 percent compared to last year. In 2021, AI decision makers are moving away from the AI silver bullet and towards the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to support internal processes, as they focus on better understanding their data, as well as efficiency gains.

The report also found a shift in responsibility for AI projects from business decision makers to technical practitioners (technologists), indicating an increased focus on operationalizing AI projects. Technologists implementing and maintaining projects is a signal that AI is maturing within organizations and being delegated into management layers in the business.

Key takeaways from the report include

  • Impact of COVID-19. Enterprises of all sizes confirmed they accelerated their AI strategy as a result of COVID-19 in 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021. However, organizations that have an external data provider are twice as likely to significantly accelerate their AI initiatives than those that don’t.

  • A shift in decision-making responsibility. In 2021, a significantly higher percentage of technologists are responsible for making decisions for AI projects and putting them into practice. C-level executives are responsible for AI initiatives for 39 percent of organizations, down from 71 percent last year, with companies delegating responsibility to vice presidents and directors.

  • Budget increases. AI budgets of $500,000 to $5 million have increased by 55 percent year-over-year, with only 26 percent reporting budgets under $500,000 as companies have found that smaller annual budgets prevent them from being perceived as a market leader. Not surprisingly, annual AI budgets of $1 million or more lead to a higher probability of deployment than budgets under $1 million.

  • Focus on the data. An overwhelming majority of organizations have partnered with external training data providers to deploy and update AI projects at scale -- a reflection of the fact that data acquisition, preparation and management are the top challenges AI practitioners face. Companies who use external data providers are 1.5 times more likely to say their company is ahead of others in AI deployment.

  • Key disconnects remain. Business leaders and technologists don’t yet agree in areas such as ethics and interpretability. Technologists have a greater concern for ethics (41 percent versus business leaders’ 33 percent); business leaders are more concerned with interpretability (47 percent versus technologists’ 38 percent).

The full report is available at (short registration required).

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