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Financial operations leaders are facing “decision paralysis,” with more than half believing the data they are using is irrelevant and almost one-third relying on outdated data that is difficult to access. 

New York, NY, 20 June 2024: Operations leaders in the US are experiencing decision paralysis, painting a concerning picture for financial services across the country. According to a recent survey by ActiveOps, a leading provider of AI-powered Decision Intelligence for service operations, poor-quality data is preventing businesses from achieving their goals in 2024. 

Detailed findings from the global survey have been published in an ActiveOps report titled ‘Ready or Not, AI is Here’. Key takeaways from the report relevant to the US include: 

  • 50% of US operations leaders believe the data used in their business is irrelevant 
  • 45% cannot access the right data to make real-time decisions 
  • Nearly 30% of leaders base their decisions on data that is a week old

These findings reveal that operations leaders within financial services are struggling to make critical decisions due to outdated and unreliable data. The survey, conducted with over 800 Chief Operations Officers, Chief Financial Officers, and Senior Heads of Operations across various regions, including the US, sheds light on these struggles as well as the challenges faced by leaders around AI adoption and maturity. 

“Decision-making is practically impossible” 

In the US, operations leaders are particularly concerned about the relevance and timeliness of their data. The survey found that 45% of leaders face significant challenges in accessing the right data to make real-time decisions. Additionally, 50% believe the data they use is irrelevant, making decision-making “practically impossible.” This directly impacts a company’s ability to respond swiftly to market changes and operational challenges. When leaders cannot make timely and informed decisions, it hinders strategic planning and the implementation of necessary adjustments. This stagnation can lead to missed opportunities, increased operational risks, and reduced competitive advantage. More than 90% of respondents noted that gaining insights from their current data requires “significant effort”, indicating a substantial obstacle to achieving business objectives. 

“We use data that is more than a week old” 

The survey also reveals that nearly a third (27%) of US operations leaders within financial services are making decisions based on data that is a week old. Using outdated data undermines the accuracy and relevance of decision-making processes. Decisions based on old information can lead to actions that are misaligned with current realities, causing inefficiencies and potentially costly mistakes. For instance, market conditions, customer behaviors, and operational statuses can shift quickly, rendering week-old data obsolete. This lag in actionable insights not only delays responses to emerging challenges but also reduces the ability to capitalize on new opportunities promptly. The gap between real-time needs and available data exacerbates risks and diminishes overall business performance. 

“It is clear from our research that operations have serious problems with their data, and if they carry on down this path, there’s no way that they can achieve their goals if these challenges and barriers remain,” comments Spencer O’Leary, CEO for North America at ActiveOps. “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 by spreadsheets, data siloes and decision making by hunch, is not a future that is able to help operations achieve their goals if these challenges and barriers remain.  

“Basing critical decisions on insights that are incomplete, inaccurate and weeks 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. This leads to faster turnaround times, reduced overtime, limited staff burnout and avoids costly SLA breaches.” 

Despite the challenges laid out in the report, there is a recognition that accessible, relevant, and real-time data is crucial for effective decision-making. The key to this is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is seen as a key enabler in transforming data usage, with 44% of US operations leaders now firmly believing that adopting AI in service operations will yield deeper, more meaningful insights. However, the adoption of AI is still in its early stages, with 57% of US respondents just starting out with AI or not using it at all. This slow adoption rate highlights a significant opportunity for growth within the sector, and companies that can accelerate their AI capabilities are likely to gain a competitive edge through faster, more informed decision-making. 

“AI has the potential to revolutionize the world of operations by providing predictive and prescriptive insights that go beyond historical data analysis,” continues Spencer. “By adopting AI, operations leaders can gain real-time insights and forecasts, enabling more proactive and strategic decisions, while overcoming the current limitations of data relevance and accessibility. This isn’t just about improving data handling, but about transforming the entire decision-making framework to be more agile and responsive to changing business dynamics.” 

The full report, titled ‘Ready or Not, AI is Here’ can be downloaded here: https://activeops.com/globalresearch 

 

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.