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BI and Cash Flow Uppermost Fixations for Finance Folks

Getting on top of cash flow and mastering the potential of business intelligence top the list for CFOs and other finance executives as they look to the challenges of the coming year. So says a just-released study from global consulting firm Protiviti.

Protiviti’s 2014 Finance Priorities Report sought to identify the preoccupations of those finance bigwigs swinging the biggest bats by asking 220+ CFOs, vice-presidents finance, directors of finance and controllers more than 100 questions about their primary financial concerns for the next stretch. The questions honed in on five categories: process capabilities for financial transactions, process capabilities for financial analysis, emerging issues, technical capabilities and organizational capabilities.

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The results reveal that the current crop of financial leaders is united in its pursuit of more efficient strategic planning, forecasting, resource allocation, budgeting and profitability analysis in a bid to respond more precisely, quickly and with more flexibility to the increasingly volatile global economic scene.

And among the most important identified trends the research unearthed about their plans to achieve this objective? For one, a recognition of the importance of efficiently managing cash flow and working capital. “Cash is king,” was the prevailing sentiment of more than one survey respondent.

For another, a major push among professional organizations to get a more effective handle on the performance and profitability of product and service lines, customers, customer segments and sales channels.

“Without question, more and more companies are looking to harness business intelligence and big data,” Jay Thompson, a managing director with Protiviti’s business process improvement practice told the media upon the survey’s release.

“[And they] want to analyze their data to gain an indepth understanding of their customers, products and other business areas in order to identify the best opportunities for profitability.”

To that revelation we say this: “Bring it on.”

Self-Employment Gets a Boost

The Age of the Self-Employed Canadian, it seems, is upon us.

So says Statistics Canada, whose latest raft of research points out that a massive chunk of the new jobs being created in this country are on the backs of individuals who’ve determined that busting out on their own is the only way they’re going to make an income in this place.

Ultimately, it’s a bit of a bad-news/good-news piece, this.Image

On the one hand, it’s heartening to learn that Canada’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.1 to 6.9 percent in September. It’s reassuring, too, to hear that some 245,000 jobs were added to the Canadian economy as of August over the same date a year earlier.

But parse the numbers a little and understand that a celebration over this development might be a little unfounded.

Because, while the contingent of private-sector workers increased by 1.5 percent in the past year, the number of self-employed individuals grew by a whopping 3.6 percent in the same period. (The public sector, meanwhile, contracted by 0.4 percent.) Between August 2012 and August 2013, a full 40 percent of new jobs created in this country — some 95,600 positions — were self-initiated.

And so the good news — that Canadians are self-starters and, moreover, that their entrepreneurial bursts can bloom into robust job-creation machines that hold genuine promise for improving the employment scene for others — is tempered by an increasing understanding that traditional employers are increasingly reluctant to take on new permanent hires inside a still wobbly economy. And so the folks with jobs are also the folks sweating concerns about meeting payroll and financing retirement and paying for a visit to the dentist.

“In an uncertain world,” Tiff Macklem, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, told the media last week, “firms need to see demand pick up before they will commit.”

Canada Job Grant Meets Fierce Resistance

There’s a groundswell of hoopla around the controversial Canada Job Grant of late, with politicians nationwide voicing opposition strong enough to yank the whole thing off the map.

The Canada Job Grant is the feds’ proposed skills-training program. Unveiled as a keystone of the 2014 federal budget earlier this year, the grant will bring the federal, provincial and territorial governments together with employers “to invest in skills training for unemployed and underemployed Canadians so that they are qualified to fill the high-quality, well-paying jobs available.”

The fund recommends transferring $300 million from the $500-million pot Ottawa already gives to the provinces to underwrite programs that provide job support for marginalized groups — First Nations people and individuals with low levels of literacy among them — into training grants.

Under it, the federal government would pay one-third of the $15,000 in training moneys earmarked for each worker, with the other two-thirds covered equally by employers and the provincial governments.

The opposition to the plan hones in on the risk at which it puts some of the successful and necessary provincially run programs already in existence.  

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Here’s the 411 on the CJG affair.

• Many Canadian jobs are perpetually vacant because there simply aren’t individuals with the applicable training to take them on. This is so despite a national unemployment rate of 7.1 percent.

• Earlier this week, provincial leaders attended a skilled labour roundtable in Toronto with representatives from the labour sector to discuss the solution this grant purports to be. Of the program’s 33 private-sector stakeholders, only three expressed support for it.

• “All premiers agreed that the program as it stands will not go ahead in any province,” BC Premier Christy Clark told the media scrum after the meeting.

• The grant’s challengers argue that each province would have to pony up in excess of $600 million to meet the grant’s requirements if it hopes not to cut back on current programs.

The federal government is scheduled to enact the Canada Jobs Grant on April 1, 2014, but has signaled that it’s open to compromise. Further discussions are expected to get underway in November.