CFOs’ Anti-Social Tendencies may be Changing

CFOs are more reluctant than their colleagues to support social business. While understandable, there are forces that may be creating some changes in the attitude of CFOs. This blog post is part of our series on social business in the C-Suite.

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In most companies, the CFO typically isn’t the biggest cheerleader for social business.

Our May 30, 2012 report: Social Business: What are Companies Really Doing?, published in collaboration with Deloitte, found that only 13.5% of CFOs surveyed view social tools as important to their organizations. This contrasts with the 28% of CEOs, presidents and managing directors that regarded social tools as important.

This skepticism among CFO’s isn’t too surprising, considering that the profession’s obligation is to scrutinize costs, ensure that monies expended show a clear return, and typically apply quantitative methods to evaluate value.

It also doesn’t help that CFOs must be particularly mindful about consequences of inadvertently releasing information that violates financial disclosure laws. In one well-publicized case, Francesca’s Holding Corporation fired its CFO last May after it determined he improperly distributed company information on Twitter and Facebook.

And, unlike a CMO or CIO, who might anticipate some potential benefits of social initiatives paying off directly to their own functional areas, it’s not so obvious for a CFO to see an immediate benefit for his/her own department. (An article in Deloitte’s Insights for CFOs published in the Wall Street Journal this past January, though, examined how CFOs can use social software to make the process of closing the books more transparent, efficient, repeatable and defensible.)

But the implications of not supporting social business can go beyond the CFO’s own operations. Depending on how much influence a particular CFO may have, he or she may have the power to slow down or even halt a company’s move towards becoming a more social enterprise.

Interestingly, though, over the past year one of the profession’s key trade journals, (Boston, MA) has published a series of articles about social business with the same message to its readers: stay open and consider the advantages of more engagement. Articles have examined research that showed how social business can improve a company’s competitiveness, efficiency, and even its bottom line. The headlines had similar types of messages: “CFOs can’t afford to opt out of social media;” and “Social media’s biggest business risk, more enlightened CFOs say, is failing to participate in social media.”

So where is the CFO headed when it comes to social business?

Our own recent survey results provide indications of greater awareness of the potential importance to the organization. While CFOs remain the smallest group of C-level executives who consider social to be important to their business, things may be changing — and fast. Although only 13.5% of CFOs surveyed about social business for our 2012 report responded that it was important to their business, in our more recent survey from the summer of 2012 — just months after the report was issued — that number more than doubled to 33%.

Future posts on social media perceptions within the C-suite will look at CIOs and CMOs, as well as whether there needs to be a Chief Social or other new C-level position in a company that is responsible for social business.

Look for the full 2013 MIT Sloan Management Review–Deloitte report out this summer.


Social Business

Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
More in this series

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