Features, Insight, Opinion

AI in 2021: Transforming data security and process optimisation

By Ali Shabdar, Zoho Corp, MEA Regional Director

With COVID-19 disrupting former methods of business and most companies going fully or partially remote, data security has become an issue. With data no longer stored in specific network and device parameters, business data has been left exposed and at risk. That’s where AI will play an important role in 2021. Advanced AI technology will help enable data security by detecting potential threats and data breaches before they happen.

For example, AI will be used to recognise suspicious activity that could be seen as an indicator of a security attack. With AI setting thresholds becoming more sophisticated, 2021 will see security breaches minimised thanks to security becoming more proactive.

Besides data security risks, the shift to remote work has forced companies to become digitised rapidly, and with so much more data generated from the efforts, the need for AI tools has grown. In 2021, AI embedded into new and existing roles and workflows will optimise everything from driving to helping businesses sell more, and beyond. The future will be a combination of AI and humans working together rather than competing.

The benefits of AI from this year onwards will mostly come from process optimisation and revenue maximisation. AI will touch business software and redefine what is possible from an optimisation stand point. At the same time, AI will have an emphasis on data protection from both a business perspective and a legal one. With the increase of data breaches, we’ll see AI working in malware detection, root cause analysis, outage prediction, adaptive authentication, and more.


Smart BI is accelerating due to AI, Intelligent Storytelling, and more. In the last few years, BI (business intelligence) has gained momentum in becoming an essential catalyst for business growth, and with COVID-19 impacting the acceleration of software technology, we see BI rapidly changing to fit the future of business. In this year we can expect to see BI and AI working together to create augmented analytics and augmented data.

With augmented analytics, businesses will be able to identify data types automatically, model information straight from the source, and automate suggestions. With AI and BI working in unison, jobs will be completed more easily, faster, and more effectively. Aspects such as conversational analytics will gain more popularity and be readily adopted so that business users can simply ask questions in natural language and the engine will be able to understand and generate answers within seconds. Propelled by AI’s integration with BI, expect to see users with less technical backgrounds gaining analytic literacy in 2021.

Storytelling, also known as automated insights, will also help businesses in this year. Instead of users spending time determining which insights are more impactful for their business, intelligent storytelling will highlight key findings for them. The system will be able to track changes and build a narrative that’s digestible to the user and points to key findings.

Storytelling will also be able to generate presentations automatically to eliminate tedious busy work. It is important to note that while storytelling will impact business in 2021, it will need to be adopted in a way where deliverability of insights will come from regularly used business tools, such as email or a chat. Enabling storytelling to be accessible in these types of software tools will be a key component in driving the consumption of storytelling BI.

Embedded BI and self-service BI are also on the forecast for rapid growth in 2021. With embedded analytics giving end users the ability to manipulate data, businesses will be able to generate advanced analytics, rather than static reports as seen in the past. Momentum around embedded BI adoption has been growing over the years and interactive filtering will be more common in the near future.

Because of embedded BI, users will be able to create actionable insights, and business apps with analytical aspects will become more integrated. Additionally, self-service BI will provide businesses with AI enhancements to automate search engine reporting, insights, augmented data preparation, unified business analytics, and more. It has become critical for businesses to have the ability to connect all data points so they can have a 360-degree view of business insights. Unified business analytics will prove to be an essential aid in that process.

With COVID-19 and remote work accelerating cloud adoption, connected cloud will be a huge influence on BI in this year. Businesses will be looking for vendors that offer cloud-based BI as well as vendors that offer either self-managed cloud networks or private cloud servers like AWS and Google Cloud.

Additionally, mobile BI will prove to be more prevalent in 2021. Mobile BI will enable anywhere access to insights to work in harmony with a “work from anywhere” environment. While a limited screen size continues to be a challenge for mobile BI, specific mobile interfaces will become more prominent and will bring in aspects such as conversational capability to help drill down data further.

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