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AI in 2021: Transforming data security and process optimisation

For businesses across Australia, 2020 dawned with big goals and bold visions. The reality, it turned out, was very different, with the simple ability to survive top priority for much of this year. Australia’s resiliency and recovery has been remarkable, though, with a flattened curve stimulating stronger-than-expected economic growth that continued earlier this month with official confirmation that the country was out of recession

That’s not to say that the hard work is over; far from it in fact. Millions of Australians are still accessing crucial JobKeeper payments – which are set to end in March – and returning to pre-pandemic economic prosperity will require businesses to innovate in the new digitally-empowered world of work. Crucial to that, and a brighter 2021, are the technologies and trends that will provide safeguards, improve productivity and allow businesses to seize every opportunity. In 2021, and indeed well beyond that too, many of these advantages will be powered by evolutions in artificial intelligence (AI) that will streamline, safeguard and smarten processes across every industry.

Enhancing data security

With COVID-19 disrupting the traditional world of work as we knew it, and most companies transitioning fully or partially remote – permanently in many cases – data security has become a significant concern. Without centralised networks and specific device parameters, business data is more exposed and at risk than ever before. Data literacy levels in Australia are concerning, and well below what is required for everyday workers to minimise risks and maximise the possibilities of digital transformation. 

From popular travel booking platforms to Australian universities, a series of damaging cyber attacks in the last few months alone are a stark warning of the threat. In 2021, advanced AI technology will play a crucial role in mitigating risk and enabling greater 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 particular focus on malware detection, root cause analysis, outage prediction and adaptive authentication. 

AI can efficiently analyse user habits, identify abnormalities and concerns, and determine a pattern. With this data, it’s much easier to identify vulnerabilities quickly, before they become a serious issue. If, as is expected, millions of people continue to work remotely in 2021, AI represents an invaluable, proactive safety net to guide Australia as it continues its economic recovery in the new normal.

Improving process automation

The benefits of AI are not just for safety, but optimisation. The rate of digital transformation in 2020 was rapid, and the scale of changes and restrictions businesses must implement or adhere to, today, are significant. However, businesses don’t require groundbreaking tactics; instead, optimisation – and the productivity it catalyses – can be the simple competitive advantage businesses need.

AI, embedded into new and existing roles and workflows, can help optimise everything from marketing and sales, to collaboration and admin. For example, conversational analytics will allow business users to ask verbal questions, in their natural language, and the system will be able to generate answers within seconds. The business equivalent of Siri or Alexa.

Like AI, business intelligence (BI) is also an essential catalyst of optimisation and growth. BI will help businesses collate and analyse data, and turn it into informed, insights-driven decisions. If AI is used to forecast or improve future processes, like security threats, BI develops past data to improve, for example, business processes and customer service.

Working together in greater unison, BI and AI will provide augmented analytics and data businesses can leverage to identify data types automatically, model information and automate suggestions. The adoption of BI in Australia in recent years has grown quickly, as has the simple-yet-sophisticated ways it is being leveraged. For example, instead of users spending time determining which insights are most impactful, storytelling – or automated insights – will highlight key findings automatically, build narratives and even auto-generate presentations. With time-consuming burdens eased, businesses have more time to pursue growth and new opportunities. 

Digital adoption has long-been considered the future of work; connecting businesses to global customers, bringing teams together and helping organisations build smarter, future-friendly operations. This year, we’ve seen a decades-worth of digital adoption in less than 12 months. With such rapid change, comes inevitable issues. But with AI now more affordable and accessible than ever before, businesses of every size and sophistication stand to benefit from two of today’s greatest competitive advantages, security and optimisation.

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Vijay Sundaram

Vijay Sundaram

Vijay Sundaram is the Chief Strategy Officer of global technology platform, Zoho. With 45+ apps in nearly every major business category, including sales, marketing, customer support, accounting and back office operations, and an array of productivity and collaboration tools, Zoho Corporation is one of the world's most prolific software companies.

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