After a year unlike any other, I am looking forward to 2021 with renewed hope and positivity. And I’m not just talking about the COVID-19 vaccines that promise to control the pandemic and bring life back to (somewhat) normal. I’m also hopeful for a renewed economy and global stability as the pandemic subsides and government as well as businesses return to “business as usual.”

While virtually every market sector and segment has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, technology has seen an outsized disruption. From manufacturing to supply chain and logistics to retail and consumer demand, businesses have needed to pivot quickly not just once but often twice or three times. However, technology is already showing some positive indicators for the coming year and I see some clear trends in the data science space.

Here are seven that are already beginning to emerge.

Rather than decreasing investment in data science, the coronavirus pandemic will continue spurring companies to increase their investment.

Organizations are making dramatic budget cuts in many areas in an effort to overcome the effects of COVID-19 and keep their business viable. Yet, in 2021, I predict that many companies will sustain or even increase their investment in data science. COVID-19 accelerated the Fortune 500’s move to public cloud and modern data science tools in the rush to support remote workers. This was one of the last remaining barriers holding back outright data science investment. Now the seal’s broken, it’s easier for organizations to continue the investment, and many of the Fortune 500 are investing in building a core competency in machine learning and data science as a “big bet” to be faster/smarter/better than their competitors.

As a corollary, the ongoing pandemic will accelerate development of model monitoring solutions.

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on nearly every facet of business operations, and organizations that depend on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate business decisions have been particularly vulnerable. One of the biggest issues that companies are experiencing is a massive data drift—a change in model input leading to performance degradation and inaccurate output, due to the large-scale changes in human behavior since the pandemic. The development of new and more robust model monitoring solutions that enable organizations to catch data drift will be a huge area of innovation and investment in 2021.

A new ‘sheriff’ is coming to town.

In 2021, Chief Analytics Officers (CAOs) and Chief Data Analytics Officers (CDAOs) will be the new face at the boardroom table, supplanting the traditional Chief Data Officer role as companies move from focusing on the “data” behind the models to the AI/ML models themselves.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.