Online social networking: do accountants play this game?

The question was asked on the CPA Congress blog, ‘Can accountants really add business value using these type of approaches ? I am sceptical about all of this?’.

See the original post here: Online Social Networking.

This is how I personally would respond to this question – you may take issue with what I’m saying, so feel free to drop me a comment below. I’m probably wrong, people are always telling me that.

Thanks for your comment. I think I see a couple of aspects to your question here. I may though have misunderstood the question – so please let me know if I’m wrong. I think you’re focusing on the policy approach in your question?

In addition to the policy approach, the workshop does also talk about some practical etiquette in online social networking (in fact, a chunk of the workshop is around this – half of it is on how to act in a social networking environment, and the other half is how the business responds. Since an alarmingly large number of accountants do seem to have friends, they do seem to use online social networking as well . A misstep in this space can result in a fairly tragic career-limiting move. So I think all accountants would profit from doing this part of the workshop.

Regarding the policy approach, the first aspect I see is whether accountants should be in the role of developing policies & procedures around social networking. As a general rule inside the business, I suppose you’re correct that pure accountants don’t get involved in this sort of thing. However, I would say that CPAs are a broad church and many members are not so much pure accountants as general managers (I’m sure I saw a stat on that somewhere). So – certainly not all CPAs, but some, would be/could be/should be involved in developing a response, or at least understand what the issues involved are. Since the CPAs tag line is ‘We mean business’, if social networking is a business issue then CPAs should be across it.

Secondly, I’d also suggest that there is still a fair bit to be learnt in all levels of business as to the potential impact of online social networking on businesses – it’s still an emerging business issue, and awareness is still low. So there’s a contribution to be made if someone wants to find out more about social networking and what they should be doing about it (the actual result after the workshop might very well be: nothing).

The third aspect of your question seems to be is whether ‘these types of approaches’ (perhaps in the hands only of accountants?) add business value. There are two aspects to the approach I’ve put out there – ‘policies & procedures’ and the ‘AS/NZS 4360:2004’. Policies and procedures are probably necessary if you’re going to have any type of ability to monitor behaviour in a legal manner, so I think the end result has to be a policy & procedure framework. That’s a generally accepted business approach. As for AS/NZS 4360, that is a fairly formal tool to adopt, but when you distil business down to its absolutely purest of essence, it is the value that the business gets and the risk you have to take to get it. 4360 provides a framework for risk, so we might as well use it as a starting point to work out what’s appropriate for the business – establish what we want, identify risks, estimate risk level, evaluate the risks and treat the risks. It is formal, but in my experience lawyers like ‘formal’ when you’re in court defending some action you’ve taken.

You’re right to be sceptical – this is an emerging area still, and I’d certainly not claim that all accountants should be undertaking this role inside a business. Or even that they should all come to the workshop. But I’d suggest most accountants need to be aware of the issues involved in online social networking at least, and at the worst someone walks out thinking ‘yep, I’ll flag this to the HR guys’.

Thanks: Micheal Axelsen

Hmmm.  I do dribble on don’t I?

Leave a Reply