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Government policy makers need to be at tech events

By Denzil Doyle techtuesdayottawa

One of the best networking opportunities in the Ottawa area is something that is known as Tech Tuesday and is sponsored by Terry Matthews. It is held on the first Tuesday of every month at the Marshes golf club and is open to the public. I have never seen a mission statement for the event but the people who attend range from entrepreneurs looking for money, to recent college grads looking for jobs. The focus is very much on information technology and how it can create wealth for Canadians.

There is no charge for attendance except for drinks at the bar. However, organizations like accounting and legal firms tend to serve some finger food for those who might feel the pangs of hunger before the event winds down.(It starts at 5:30 pm and ends about two or three hours later, depending on whether or not there is a formal presentation of some kind.)

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Canada’s focus needs to be on tech products, not research

By Denzil Doylehigh tech

Canada’s current prime minister seems to have a better understanding of the impact of technology on the country’s economy than most of his predecessors. He is not afraid to refer to key reports like the Jenkins Report and to engage in dialogue with the trade associations that are relevant to the industry. However, he would be well advised to urge his speech writers to be a little more selective in his use of the phrase “R&D.” Like most politicians and bureaucrats, his speeches suggest that if we just do more R&D, our payback from the technology that it creates will be automatic. As a result, they have established goals for R&D in Canadian industry, and they have been critical of Canadian industry when those goals are not met.

What we must do is focus the dialogue more directly on Canada’s share of world trade in technology-based products and services and less on R&D. For example, it would be refreshing to hear the PM make a statement like, “It is unacceptable for a country like Canada to have such a large trade deficit with the rest of the world in technology-based goods and services.” The dialogue will not be easy; the definition of high technology can be vague and so can its value on both a national and international basis. Worse still, there is a strong lobby for the status quo and it is generating lots of R&D dollars, particularly for government laboratories and universities.

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Advice for high-tech CEOs: Have a forecasting culture

By Denzil Doyleforecasting

If I had only one piece of advice to give CEOs in the high-tech industry, it would be to work hard at implementing a forecasting culture in their companies. The most visible sign of such a culture would be a bonus system that rewards employees not only for meeting budgets that have been approved by senior management, but for their ability to forecast how close they come to doing so.

Most CEOs give forecasting a low priority; it’s often seen as another level of reporting that is not worth the effort. In fact, there’s also little agreement on the parameters to be included.

The cornerstone of any forecasting system is the sales forecast. At the beginning of each month, every salesperson and sales agent in the distribution channels should be required to forecast their bookings (orders received) for each of the next four quarters. In the jargon of the trade, this is referred to as a monthly updated four-quarter rolling forecast. Then, at the end of each quarter, every salesperson would have his or her actual booking figures compared with those that were forecast at the three intervals during the quarter.

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The youth unemployment problem needs more than R&D

Youth-unemp-picBy Denzil Doyle 

Judging by the amount of student unrest that occurred last year, ostensibly focused on high tuition fees, our politicians at all three levels of government would be wise to brace for more of the same in the coming academic year.

The first thing they should do is get a better understanding of what is bothering our youth, because a little bit of investigation would reveal that tuition fees are relatively low on their totem pole of unrest. We must understand that young people are better educated than they have ever been in the past, that they are entering the workforce with unprecedented debt, and the job opportunities are nothing like they were for previous generations. The mismatch is more pronounced in the manufacturing sector and it is due mainly to the complete absence of some of the more innovative components of that sector. For example, we assemble automobiles in Canada but we do not design them here and we have very little involvement in the more strategic activities like product design and product migration.

Where it makes sense for Canada to innovate Read More

The tech world should defend the Keystone pipeline

keystone-pipeline-route-map

By Denzil Doyle 

It is encouraging to see the emphasis that President Obama is placing on the jobs and other economic spinoffs that will be created by the proposed Keystone pipeline, because if the arithmetic is done properly the numbers will surprise even the staunchest opponents of the project. They will demonstrate that the pipeline industry is a mature industry that uses a broad range of proven technologies.

The communications between Canada’s scientific community and its politicians and bureaucrats leave a lot to be desired. The environmentalists would have us believe that whether we are talking about the north-south or the east-west pipeline, we are dealing with unproven technology. To hear them talk, one would think that they are the world’s first pipelines and they will leak continuously.

The fact of the matter is that there are over two million miles of pipeline in North America and they are monitored by over 20,000 devices called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. Some of them have been in use since the early ’70s and the majority of them use satellite technology. A typical pipeline has a SCADA terminal at every pumping station and there is a pumping station about every hundred miles.

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