This article was originally published in the Autumn 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.
EY has a rich history of innovation and is no stranger to advising and helping clients navigate through their digital journeys. The organisation explores new and emerging technologies to innovate inside its walls, and also passes those learnings and values to clients. For example, one area has been in adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to its approach to traditional services like tax and audit by tapping into the power of AI to automate and streamline processes dramatically.
AI and automation have been hot topics, thanks to their transformative potential and also their capacity to introduce new opportunities by disrupting old models. EY took a hard look at the impact that AI would have on its audit services. What if AI and automation could drastically reduce the number of documents EY smart auditors need to review so they can spend more time advising clients?
EY identified ways to give its people time back to work on the most important activities. This exploration culminated in the use of AI capabilities, supported by Microsoft, to automate over 250 processes globally, freeing up an estimated 2,000,000 human hours annually while improving quality and accuracy.
The EY vision to improve its services through AI and automation has manifested in a multi-year plan, with each year in its roadmap representing specific and real advancements. Each step and progress must adhere to EY key principles for automation: that they free up resources, improve decision-making and, ultimately, complement rather than replace people.
Now that EY had successfully proven the internal service value of AI, it was ready to apply and provide those types of successes as new services to its global clients. The EY approach is human-centred, pragmatic, and outcome focused. Its goal is to help clients achieve tangible progress and, guided by a robust ethics framework, to improve its workers’ and customers’ lives. To EY, AI and intelligent automation are proven tools and capabilities used to advance and improve services in ethical and thoughtful ways.
When looking to support its new AI and automation services, EY wanted an alliance partner with aligned values. The organisation found similar values in Microsoft. Both organisations focus on the empowerment of people. Both organisations take the ethical implications of AI seriously. Moreover, both organisations address business and societal needs in practical ways.
“We are partnering with EY to combine Microsoft AI with intelligent automation. Using Azure AI, we are automating traditional services, streamlining processes, and improving worker productivity,” said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the One Commercial Partner organisation at Microsoft.
Simran Sachar, AI partner lead and senior strategy manager at Microsoft, believes a strong alliance partner ecosystem is key to bringing AI innovations that help deliver high value to customers. “Our alliance with EY is solid, grounded on the strong ethical use of AI and creating business value for customers,” says Simran. “Together, we bring the power of our AI platform and EY knowledge to help customers accelerate their digital transformation through AI, solve high-value problems, and gain business service value by deploying AI solutions at enterprise scale.”
For EY, the benefits of practical and useful AI tools that could be deployed immediately were important. The organisation found this in the AI platform developed by Microsoft, which provides pre-built solutions like Azure Cognitive Services. Chris Aiken, executive director of the AI and automation practice at EY, sees this as a great way to quickly provide customer value. “Our alliance with Microsoft helps enable us to offer joint solutions that marry Microsoft’s innovative technology with EY deep domain and sector knowledge. We help our clients accelerate performance by realising the full potential of digital across the enterprise.”
Today, EY clients are getting real value from this flexible approach to AI. One such client, a major Asia Pacific dairy products business, delivers its products across a vast network spanning from small local stores to large groceries. Because its products have short shelf lives, typically five days or less, ensuring effective inventory management is critical. EY and Microsoft helped enable this client to revolutionise its inventory management approach, improving both top-line sales and operational savings.
EY is also advising governments on how they can apply AI to boost national economies and drive new levels of efficiency and quality in government services. The Government of Malta has been working with EY to create a first-of-its-kind national AI strategy.
Together, the Government of Malta, EY, and Microsoft are advancing a national digital transformation programme with the capacity to affect every segment of Malta’s economy, every government agency and every business and citizen in the island nation.
“EY and Microsoft are working together to help the Government of Malta realise its digital transformation objectives, enabling business agility through the use of once-futuristic technologies to meaningfully improve service quality for our citizens and businesses,” says Pierre Vella, head of programme management at the Malta Information Technology Agency.
As EY works with clients to uncover their next AI opportunities, it also looks ahead to the horizon across its AI automation vision – going from robotic process automation to hybrid and intelligent services, the use of cognitive automation, and beyond. As it does, the company will continue to push the art of the possible through AI-driven automation to transform how organisations work and provide more value to their customers. EY will also continue to be a steward for safe and ethically sound AI solutions – ones that help deliver on the promise of AI for the good of the planet.
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