Technology EY

Automation and Human Judgment: Understanding How They Work Together

Sponsored by EY

Insights on how automation, combined with human value, can have a significant impact on meeting the needs of today’s finance organizations.


Artificial intelligence – known simply as AI – is one of the most talked about, yet least understood topics in the business world today.

While AI’s promise to give the world self-driving cars and revolutionized healthcare is exciting and worthy of conversation, there is not nearly enough talk about the near-term, pragmatic benefits of artificial intelligence. 

To help provide more clarity around this important and transformative technology and its near-term impacts, we sat down with EY’s global artificial intelligence leader, Nigel Duffy, as part of the EY Better Finance podcast, to discuss his point of view on machine learning, artificial intelligence and the immediate impact these technologies can have on the finance function.

The main reason, according to Duffy, as to why AI is less understood than previous technologies is that it isn’t just one technology, but rather a number of different technologies like machine learning, speech recognition, computing vision, natural language processing, and planning.

“I think the thing that’s hard for people is because it’s a set of technologies rather than one coherent capability, it’s hard to think about how it can impact your business,” said Duffy.

In the enterprise, AI has the potential to transform all sorts of functions and roles from the back office to the front office. Duffy says that he sees the most opportunity in bringing AI to many of the routine tasks typically completed by people today.

For the finance function specifically, “deep learning will allow AI to automate much of the processing of unstructured data: think invoices, purchase orders, contracts, etc.”

By helping to automate some of the simple tasks, AI can enable finance teams to add more value to their organizations, allowing them to continue to have a perspective on the past, but also think about how it influences the future.

“If we can do this, we can remove a lot of the more mundane work and allow human beings to bring their value… deep analysis, deep understanding, and the human interaction part where understanding a problem might involve engaging with the rest of the business,” says Duffy.

A conversation about any new and transformative technology would be remiss if the potential threats to an enterprise were not addressed as well. From bias, to a lack of visibility into AI decision-making, there is plenty to carefully consider. 

According to Duffy, when it comes to implementing AI in the enterprise, it is all about creating balance and thoughtfully combining humans and AI where they complement each other most.

“I would say that automation creates an opportunity for more human judgment, or allows us to focus the human judgment on the more valuable parts of the process,” says Duffy.

AI does not replace human necessity, but rather allows people to be able to focus on the meaningful things which only human cognition can contribute, leading to more focused and enjoyable work experiences.

Adds Duffy, “Taking those mundane tasks off people’s plates frees them up to do the things that humans are good at, to do the things that really got them into that field in the first place.”

For more information on the rise of technology and its impact on the finance function, listen in to our conversation with Nigel on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher or visit