As recent political events demonstrate, some outcomes are nearly impossible to predict. That’s why human judgment is such a critical complement to technology.
“Over the weekend, somebody called me up and said, ‘Cathy, enough of the analytics and data. Look at what happened with the election.’”
Finance departments will immediately recognize what Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert is talking about. For all the promise of analytics, automation and even artificial intelligence, surprises like Donald Trump’s recent victory are enough to make almost anyone dubious.
Engelbert’s comments were captured by Accounting Today during her presentation at the recent Financial Executives International’s Current Financial Reporting Issues conference. She didn’t sound particularly chastened by the Trump factor, however.
“The Democratic side apparently had a huge analytics machine and massive polling, but I saw something that said, ‘Enthusiasm beats analytics every time.’ So what does that mean?” she asked. “I think for us it means that using these tools and technologies like AI to augment human intelligence and to really be able to find the insights in the data is more and more important if you’re not a believer in analytics driving sound business decisions. I still believe no matter what happened (in the election) that we have an opportunity to really use this to our advantage.”
Statistics show that Engelbert is far from alone. A research study from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) revealed 83% of its members support the idea of more automation if it saves time and money or helps with indecision in their organizations. Data analytics came in as having the greatest impact at 63%, and only 29% thought artificial intelligence or automation would create job losses.
“While only 22% answered that reliance on automation or technology has led to their organization taking a wrong decision in the past five years, 39% said this has never happened as they know that they cannot solely rely on automated processes. Instead, results are double-checked,” the report said.
The same sentiment — that analytics and AI only make humans better is humans are deeply involved in how they are used — was expressed in a post by Brian Peccarelli, president of Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.
“The fact is, for every futurist’s forecast that robots will soon replace human finance and accounting professionals, the technology firms at the center or the robo-revolution can’t hire human financial technologists fast enough,” he wrote. “The reason for this, of course, is that the future is not really about replacing human beings; it’s about making humans smarter. To get there, we need technologists with the domain expertise to build new breakthroughs, but also the soft finance skills to navigate corporate culture and identify client pain points as we all move through a period of massive change.”
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