Social Business and CFOs : the reconciliation ?

Not everybody in enterprises is as convinced and aware of the benefits of Social Business. For many reasons some even reject the matter. We talk a lot of CHROs and the role they’re supposed to play in such transformations but another person as an important part to play : the CFO.

Yet and contrary to HR, IT or marketing people, few people mention CFOs in such projects, except when they decide the benefits are not worth  the investment. And the few things we know about their opinion is not reassuring at all as we can read in this article published in the Sloan Review a couple of month ago.

CFOs may be the ones that are the most interested in the difference between success and impact and, as we can see everyday, common discourses are far from being reassuring from this standpoint. In a revenue/costs/risks approach, they are even the ones that are concerned by each of the three pillar.

That said, there are chances things change in the future.

Many issues due to a poor understanding

For CFOS, a social business initiative is one more risk to handle and they won’t pay attention to the nature of the initiative and of the risk unless they they have a clear understanding of the benefits. Without a revenue/cost approach they won’t understand what to expect so there are chances they won’t digg further and apply constraints and policies that will harm the project even if not appropriate.

It’s even harder for them to get the point that the prevalent discours is still like “believe and pray”. I’m not  saying they can’t understand what’s at stake and o how important the ongoing transformations are, but that’s not the way they use to think. If a painter tells you “let’s try this color, it’s trendy”, you can take the risk. If your banker tells you “there’s an opportunity to invest but I don’t know how the product really works, we’re still looking for the model and I have clue of what the return will be and when” there are chances you’ll keep your money for something else. Logical. So CFOs are in the same logic since their job is not to refresh the intranet but to manage the company’s finances.

Last but not least, social business still looks like a matter of communication and buzz for lot of people. Consequence of a successful hold-up by marketing and communication departments on the matter. Hence the fears regarding to an uncontrolled over-communication with all the risks it implies on sensible data and information. No matter sensitive information have always leaked and will still leak by word to mouth and that a business conversation in a restaurant is at least as risky as an unfortunate tweet, they won’t change their mind.

It’s all about assets valuation

So let’s talk to their reason instead of their feelings. Let’s talk with their words and go beyond the communication focused approach that may mislead them. Social Business is also – and most of all – a system aiming at developing and increasing the value of assets that used to get few attention but which status is going to change. In addition to showing how social business can help to increase revenue and reduce costs, there are things to say on it impact on what accounts for 80% of a business valuation and is still hard to leverage today (I’m not going to tell the ROA story for the 100th time but…). Then CFOs may ask for some clarification but there are chance they’ll buy the approach.

All this to say than with a new discourse and an assets based approach there are chances that CFOS won’t embrace social business by passion but by reason. ANd that’s a pretty good point.

To end with this matter, the social and digital transformation of organizations being much more than a matter of technology and rather a matter of value model, of ability of mobilizing and developing resources and assets, I’m convinced that we won’t reach the ultimate step without the active participation of “numbers people”, accountants, finance people in building new models.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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