Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shared Concerns

I read these words with interest the other day.

"Today, more than never before, the economic battle is the main task , because it is on this work that the sustainability and the preservation of our social system rest.

Without a sound and dynamic economy and without the removal of superfluous expenses and waste, it will neither be possible to improve the living standard of the population nor to preserve and improve the high levels of education and healthcare ensured to every citizen free of charge.

If the people do not feel the need to work for a living because they are covered by extremely paternalistic and irrational regulations, we will never be able to stimulate love for work or resolve the chronic lack of workers; teachers, police and other indispensable trades.

If we do not build a firm and systematic rejection of illegal activities and different expressions of corruption, more than a few will continue to make fortunes at the expense of the majority.

If we keep the inflated payrolls in nearly every sector of national life and pay salaries that fail to correspond with the result of work we cannot expect the prices to cease climbing constantly or prevent the deterioration of the people’s purchasing power."

Now these don't come from Manchester or Liverpool and are not a sneak preview of what's to come in Birmingham. But the sentiment and general thrust of it could be used, I suggest, at anyone of them.

I have always been struck more by the similarities between peoples across history, geographies, and ideologies than the differences. Reading Chaucer I find behind the Germanic language characters that are readily identifiable to me today. Travelling the world you meet people whose concerns and aspirations are much the same as ours. Looking at early business history I see the same concerns and issues being grappled with as modern entrepreneurs face, albeit mediated through different technology. It is that belief that we have more in common than we often give credit to that I think is both hopeful and positive. I also believe that Social Media, when used well and appropriately is a wonderful tool to help us to nurture and tap into shared enthusiasm, shared innovation and shared prosperity.

Oh and who said those words – General Raul Castro Ruz.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Emergent Reporting

Maybe it is the ghastly weather in Glasgow that makes me cast my mind back to that lovely balmy evening in Matera that I mentioned in my Blog after the IFKAD 2010 conference. I had a conversation with Rob McLean of Matrix Links on what we described as “emergent reporting” and promised to elaborate on it. Well better late than never here it is.

Rob is a leading thinker on financial reporting and valuation of intangibles and we were considering how the use of Social Media (SM) could influence financial reporting as it has already affected Marketing and Communications. One of the most profound impacts of SM is how it changes the dynamic in communications. Traditionally Communications has been a case of establishing the message and then managing the channels that carry that consistent message to the eager and waiting public. The theory being that if you manage it enough and are consistent enough the message will eventually get home.

The rise of SM and its viral power and emergent nature means that it is simply not possible to manage it in the traditional way. It is by definition unmanageable. Communications are democratised to the extent that it has become essential for communicators to listen and then respond to the emerging view and in this way the exchange becomes a conversation and the dynamic of the relationship is completely changed. The benefit is that by listening to this complex environment previously invisible insight can be made visible, and in so doing it can open up new possibilities and opportunities that would otherwise have remained hidden.

How might this effect financial reporting? Well Rob and I considered and agreed that reporting is, in its current mode, a communications exercise. It has an agenda to present a particular view of the financial position of an organisation to a variety of stakeholder groups.

Now this leads to debate and varied interpretations. In some cases it has implications in markets, and brand value from a CSR perspective. Part of the challenge is that these different stakeholders have different needs and interests, and will be looking at different things in the figures. It is difficult to prepare a statement that will please all parties.

So, our idea was how about putting raw data out there and let the various parties derive their own reports. So the deal is, you can have the data as long as you provide us with the report back. We can then analyse your reports. The dynamic is entirely changed and as a result the organisation would gain deep insight into what each group was looking for by the way it used the raw data, and be able to respond directly to each groups concerns. This type of emergent reporting would be underpinned by social media tools and create a completely new reporting model.

I don’t expect it to happen in the short term, but it is, in my view, an interesting idea. And for those that say it will never happen, I say that I recall people saying how communications and marketing weren’t going to be changed by SM.