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  • 94% are not using real-time data to make decisions 
  • 97% of operations leaders believe it takes significant effort to get insights from their data 
  • Almost half are basing decisions on data that is three months old 

Operations leaders within financial services are facing decision paralysis, painting a concerning picture for the industry across South Africa. The latest research from ActiveOps, provider of AI-powered Decision Intelligence for service operations, has revealed that senior operations heads are unable to make critical decisions due to poor data – highlighting a concerning state of play that involves significant data issues and challenges that are impacting businesses’ ability to achieve their priorities in 2024.  

To better understand the current data landscape, as well as AI adoption and maturity within operations in financial services and uncover the challenges they face with data, ActiveOps commissioned market research of more than 800 Chief Operations Officers, Chief Financial Officers, and Senior Heads of Operations across the globe. This included South Africa, the UK, the US, the Republic of Ireland (ROI), Australia, Canada and New Zealand. 

Almost half (47%) of operations leaders in South Africa are basing decisions on data that is three months old, with just 16% using data that is less than a week old. As well as data being out of date, 97% shared that they have to put in significant effort to get insights from their operational data, while a third feel that they rely too much on assumption when they make decisions.  

Bhavesh Vaghela, Chief Marketing Officer at ActiveOps said: “It is clear from our research that operations have serious problems with their data. Many have invested heavily in process reengineering and automation to drive efficiencies, and to support digitisation strategies, but have failed to address the fundamental data problem. Managing in an environment of spreadsheets, data siloes and decision making by hunch is not tenable, and operations teams can’t achieve their goals if these challenges and barriers remain.” 

Growing revenues is the top priority for businesses in 2024, but the degree of challenges is significant. Currently, around 30% believe that performance across employee engagement, operational performance, cost control and effective decision-making is poor or average, and over 60% don’t have the data and environment to capitalise on AI.  

While the current situation is bleak, there is optimism. 67% of businesses are just starting out on their AI journey, and the majority believe that trusted operational data will significantly improve employee engagement, operational performance and the ability to make effective decisions.  

Bhavesh continued: “Basing critical decisions on insights that are incomplete, inaccurate and many months old puts operations on the back foot. In today’s world, where customer demands are so high, speed of decision making to drive productivity and efficiencies becomes a competitive advantage. Leading to faster turnaround times, reducing overtime, limited staff burnout and avoiding costly SLA breaches.”  

Despite challenges, there is an indication that operations leaders recognise the power of data if it was accessible, relevant and available in real-time. The key to this is Artificial Intelligence (AI), and financial services companies will need to prepare themselves to embrace this technology so they can realise their potential through decisive decision-making. 

Bhavesh concluded: “AI has the potential to transform the world of operations and confidence from operational leaders seems high. However, data holds the key to not only automate processes but to also support human decision making – via predictive and prescriptive insight in real-time.  

“It’s time for operations leaders to and turn their AI optimism into tangible practices and results. A lot of work needs to be done to get their data to a point where it is relevant, consistent and trusted. Only then can they make the best possible decisions for their business and realise the potential of AI and real-time data, beginning the journey from data drudgery to a leaner, transformed organisation.” 

To find out more, read the full whitepaper here 


Research methodology 

ActiveOps commissioned Censuswide to survey over 850 Chief Operating Officers, Chief Financial Officers, and Senior Heads of Operations within the Financial Services sector, to gather insights on their priorities for 2024, challenges they were experiencing with their operational data and adoption of AI. The research was conducted between February and March 2024 in seven countries including the UK, Republic of Ireland, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.