Automation, data privacy trump AI in top IT goals for 2020

Despite the hype, just 14 percent of large firms plan to invest in AI next year; automation and data security get the first pick.
22 November 2019

Data security is the key priority for 2020. Source: Shutterstock

Given how often artificial intelligence (AI) takes the crown in enterprise tech headlines— (this article is no exception)— you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be the most pressing priority for investment in the coming year.

That’s not to say uptake is lagging; in fact, with the “age of AI” said to be drawing closer, companies are looking to bolster their teams with the manpower to implement the technology.

Such demand is contributing to a “data scientist shortage”, according to recruitment firm Robert Walters, as businesses look to hone talent for the next generation of AI-influenced jobs.

But, while AI— or at least creating a better force to understanding and acting on surging supplies of data— is certainly on the radar for the long-term, new research from infosec vendor Netwrix suggests other areas are proving more pressing in the near-term.

In a survey of more than 1,000 IT professionals worldwide about their project planning for 2020, automation and data security sat as the top two areas for advancement, while AI projects didn’t even make the top ten.

The findings suggest companies are taking a more conservative ‘walk before run’ approach when it comes to taking advantage of the mounting heaps of data at their disposal.

Data security

Given the high-profile penalties handed out to leading brands, such as British Airways and Marriott— and even firms associated with security— in the last few years, it’s reassuring that the study showed that data security is the top priority for three-quarters (74 percent) of organizations.

Having solid data privacy practices and technology in place is not just a box ticked and a safeguard against fines and reputational damage; customers— businesses and individuals alike— place trust as a crucial consideration when dealing with brands.

Meanwhile, data breach history— as well as how businesses have prepared for and managed them— can have a tangible impact on a company’s future value.

With the majority of businesses (at least claiming) to be ready to up the ante with data privacy initiatives next year, the current window for leeway for those that show lack of due care will quickly narrow. Data privacy missteps will become less frequent, and their impact more severe.


While AI and machine learning will hold the key for more elaborate forms of automation and intelligent applications, more ‘basic’ forms of automation driven by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are likely to be the logical first step for many.

At present, many companies have raced to deploy RPA software but are not proving to generate the returns they expected, that’s despite the market on track to hit a worth of US$4.3 billion by 2022, nearly double current estimates for 2029 of US2.3 billion.

According to Netwrix, more than half (54 percent) of those in its study plan to focus on automation manual tasks.

In 2020, it’s likely, as consultancies and vendors continue to bolster their experience and iron out best practice for implementation, we’ll see RPA being deployed more effectively and organizations enjoying the competitive advantages of business automation as a result.

For now, it seems that actual applications of AI are the reserve of big-spending, well-staffed, global organizations. Just 14 percent of companies of between 10,000 to 50,000 employees plan to deploy AI-based solutions in 2020.