Sebastian Alberione
Senior Manager | Eng. | Tax

Data management is critical for businesses.

To find out more about data governance and the related issues, I met with Marcelo Cardoso, Co-founder of Prodago Solutions, which provides data governance advisory services and markets Prodago (Lean Data Governance Platform).

How does a data governance process add value to a business?

The main value of data governance is the ability to explore data and facilitate innovation using digital transformation initiatives. Without a governance process, the business could be exposed to data quality issues that could have a significant impact. Today, data are at the heart of all organizational decisions and transformations (analytics, business intelligence, artificial intelligence, automation, etc.). Organizational transformation and innovation initiative do not see the light of day without quality data.

What do businesses generally do?

There is always some form of data governance in a business, even though it may go by another name. Defining data formats for new IT systems or configuring intranet user access rights are examples of data governance. The main issue is that, generally, organizations react to problems rather than identifying the risks underlying data used in the most critical business processes and operations and applying preventive corrective measures.

What are the greatest errors to avoid and what approach do you suggest?

The most common error when implementing such processes is the failure to link governance measures and business objectives. The traditional approach consists in setting up an “organization”. A committee is created and a network of data managers for the various sectors is identified, but this does not always work.

We suggest identifying a sector’s business objectives and analyzing transformation initiatives in terms of these objectives (for example, a 3600 view of clients). The critical processes associated with these initiatives and the data they use are then identified. Corrective measures (data rules and responsibilities) are applied if gaps are found in the quality of data needed to ensure the performance and security of the processes.

It’s important to have some traction within the organization and set priorities because data governance cannot be implemented across the board unless the relative importance of the data has been determined. This requires considerable effort.

Technology is evolving rapidly and data are increasingly more prevalent (internet of things, megadata, etc.). How does this impact governance?

Organizations are aware that data are no longer just the result of a business process, they now see data as an asset. More and more, data are becoming the responsibility of the business side of an entity rather than just the IT department. In recent years, advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, predictive analyses, etc. mean that entities are making more intensive use of data and not necessarily in the context in which the data were created. Data are collected from various sources and cross-referenced to generate value. Governance is essential in this context.

To call on the services of Marcelo and his team, visit website contact page.

If you would like to further explore this topic, Marcelo suggests visiting this site for some interesting articles.

25 Apr 2017  |  Written by :

M. Alberione is your expert in taxation for the Montréal office. Contact him today!

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Pierre Laberge
Manager | Tax

A good number of SME leaders in the forest industry make decisions without objective, accurate information.

To improve the performance of their businesses, it’s essential that they measure the factors affecting the main stakes.

It’s important to do a real time follow up of the key indicators of operations management, such as: the overall rate of return (availability, efficiency, quality), the equipment’s utilization rate, workers’ productivity and the unit cost of production. With this information, work methods can be quickly and efficiently adjusted.

Current technology makes it possible to acquire a substantial amount of information, at low cost, for both forestry entrepreneurs and those performing harvesting, transportation and road work. The use of GPS data, digital forms, forest inventory results and geomatics data provides appropriate accuracy for analyzing a wide range of key indicators.

While using Excel to present scorecards is obviously the most affordable method, the program has its limitations in terms of data presentation options and security. Furthermore, users must be fairly proficient to develop complex scorecards. When the databases grow and information comes from numerous sources, the use of a spreadsheet presents further risks of error and requires manipulation time.

An increasingly interesting option to consider is the use of cloud Web platforms. Data can easily be stored and secured online and the rights can be controlled from users’ accounts at different access levels. The results are available in real time on a webpage and can be consulted from any device, e.g. a computer, phone, tablet computer or even a television. Furthermore, this formula is much more flexible from a visual presentation point of view and is much less restrictive than traditional spreadsheets.

However, while this solution offers a world of benefits, it incurs monthly implementation and maintenance costs. It must therefore be determined whether it’s preferable to acquire internal resources or call upon an external service provider. The quality of the platform and the maintenance cost will be the two deciding factors.

Integrating performance management tools takes time and effort, which represents an obstacle for most forestry entrepreneurs. They have to plan for communication issues with external systems and difficulties these might have with certain existing sources of data. Then this data would have to be measured, and the results monitored, and entrepreneurs would have to react accordingly. The Université Laval’s research project on forestry transportation and harvesting entrepreneurs, PRÉfoRT, demonstrated that without coaching, most entrepreneurs neglected their performance management system due to a lack of time and internal resources.

In conclusion, monitoring performance through scorecards would be beneficial for businesses. This would enable companies to not only to keep an eye on the different factors affecting profitability or attaining goals, but also to be able to observe trends in how these indicators are changing and respond faster, as applicable. Moreover, it would also be possible to measure the impact of certain organizational changes and report financial and operational anomalies.

References:

Antoine Larochelle Benoit, F.Eng. with LBprofor

LBprofor offers professional forestry services and supports businesses in complying with requirements and improving performance. LBprofor uses scorecards to monitor the performance of its operations and also encourages its clients to integrate these tools while making sure to carefully select indicators based on defined objectives.

To contact LBprofor, call us at 819-791-4449 or send an email to [email protected]

29 Mar 2017  |  Written by :

Pierre Laberge is a manager at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. He is your expert in taxation for the...

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Rémi Fortin
Manager | Eng. | Tax

Tax legislation contains only a few paragraphs regarding SR&ED tax credits. Over the years, case law has completed the legislation by interpreting particular cases where the taxpayer opposed the Crown.

One of the greatest cases in the history of SR&ED is Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Limited v. The Queen, in 1997. One of the arguments bore on what did or did not constitute an eligible SR&ED project. Justice Bowman rendered a decision based on the three criteria (five-question approach) defining SR&ED activity:  scientific/technological uncertainty, scientific/technological advancement and the presence of a systematic investigation. This definition of SR&ED, subsequently reused and reconfirmed, has become a cornerstone of the program. Not all cases however have had as much impact as the Northwest Hydraulics case.

Further cases have recently enabled the tax authorities to clarify or confirm certain aspects of the scientific/technological point. We will take a brief look at one of these cases to illustrate the lessons to be learned from case law:

Joel Theatrical Rigging (JTR) Contractors (1980) Ltd. v. The Queen

Reference: http://decision.tcc-cci.gc.ca/tcc-cci/decisions/en/item/218140/index.do

In this case settled in July 2016, the company contested the CRA’s refusal of its SR&ED projects on the basis that the claims did not meet the scientific eligibility criteria.

One of the projects involved the development of a device comprising a motor that would activate a hydraulic system to control the rate of descent of a theatre’s fire curtain. Current practice in the field consisted in using counterweights to achieve the same function.

The Judge agreed with the CRA’s decision, which stated that the problems involved in attaining the objectives could be resolved by “routine engineering”; the term typically “describes techniques, procedures and data that are generally accessible to competent professionals in the field”.

When analyzing a case, the reasoning and the process used by the Judge are just as important as the ruling itself. From the arguments of this ruling, the following points should be taken into consideration when determining the eligibility of SR&ED activities:

  • It was not clear whether the project was carried out by competent professionals in the field: the employees who worked on this project did not have a technical diploma or experience in mechanical or hydraulic design. They also did not have recourse to specialized external resources. “(…) the research teams did not include any professional engineers or researchers who held a university degree in engineering, and as none of the researchers with limited engineering training were called as witnesses (…)”.
  • There was no correct formulation of hypotheses on the basis of several tests in the process. The Judge provided a number of definitions taken from various sources and retained a simple one stating that a hypothesis should be formulated as a statement to be tested: “In other words, a hypothesis is a statement to be tested by an experiment or a trial.”
  • There was a lack of thoroughness in the experimental process. For example, during trials, the rate of the curtain’s descent was not measured: “It seems to me that, if the scientific method had been used (i.e., if there had been systematic observation, measurement and experiment), Mr. Marineau and his colleagues would have determined the precise weight used in the experiments and would have precisely measured the duration of the descent in each experiment so that they could determine whether, as they moved from one experiment to the next, the duration of the descent was increasing or decreasing.”

With regard to Point 2, it could be assumed that these hypotheses could be implicit for each design iteration, but it is still possible to be able to reconstitute them from the facts and they must be specific and innovative. A good hypothesis at the basis of a trial is what mainly distinguishes a systematic investigation from a “trial and error” process.

Point 3 is an argument rarely used in case law to refute the presence of SR&ED. Note however that, in this particular case, the Judge does not set the bar very high in terms of scientific thoroughness.

Nonetheless, there is a positive aspect resulting from the comments of this ruling: the Judge reiterates that contemporaneous documentation, while beneficial, is not essential for demonstrating the existence of SR&ED: “Although Northwest Hydraulic indicated that one of the criteria of SR&ED is a detailed record of hypotheses, tests and results, some cases have suggested that this particular criterion may not be absolutely essential.”

This case constitutes another situation where SR&ED projects in applied mechanics are difficult to defend. The current practice in this field is quite vague and arguments must be convincing. Also, work must be performed by personnel at the cutting-edge of technology and a thorough development process must be adopted.

29 Mar 2017  |  Written by :

Rémi Fortin is your tax expert at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton for the Sherbrooke office. Contact...

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A Budget Characterized by Prudence and Giving Priority to Services to the Population

Provincial Budget, March 28, 2017

Finance Minister, Carlos Leitão’s, fourth budget remains balanced and focuses primarily on major investments in education, health and public transit.

Tax reduction for individuals

The government announced a reduction of the tax burden on citizens, in particular by accelerating the elimination of the contribution to the health services fund in 2016 for taxpayers earning less than $134,000. Additionally, as of January 1, 2017, the increase in the first income tax bracket exempt from tax to $14,890 will generate a tax reduction benefitting all Quebec taxpayers. This adjustment will reduce the tax burden by about $295M for 2017-2018, representing slightly more than $1.4B over five years.

Health and education at the forefront

It comes as no surprise that the Quebec government announced an increase in health and education investments. In the first strategic sector, health, the government is increasing spending by 4.2% for 2017-2018, which translates into an additional increase of $742M, i.e. a $1.2B increase by 2018-2019.

In education, there will be an additional investment of $3.4B over the next five years. Since educational success is at the heart of this budget, the government is setting aside $1.5B of this amount for higher education.

Public transit

Public transit has not been ignored in this budget. In addition to investing in three major, job generating, public transit projects (the Réseau électrique métropolitain with an investment of $1.3B, extension of the metro blue line and Québec-Lévis bus rapid transit), the government plans to set aside over $800M to finance public transit for the next five years, including $475M for the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain and a $333M additional contribution to the operating costs of public transit in every region of Québec.

Jobs and businesses

Businesses need greater means to unlock their full potential and the budget brings a breath of fresh air. Acquiring talent is crucial to support business growth. The government is allocating $289M in additional resources to implement measures aimed at workforce development. Over the next five years, supplementary resources totalling $834M will be allocated to research and innovation, including $118M for the life sciences strategy and an extra $100M for the creation of a scientific and industrial super-cluster devoted to artificial intelligence. The upcoming action plan on entrepreneurship will receive additional credits of $70M and $35M will be allocated to foster entrepreneurship among young people. Lastly, an amount of $200K per year will be invested over two years to support entrepreneurship by immigrants in the regions, a project supported by the Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Québec.

Business taxes

The government is enhancing two measures supporting business investments, resulting in tax relief of $165M over five years:

  • a three-year extension of the tax holiday eligibility period for large investment projects; and
  • the introduction of an additional capital cost allowance to support modernization and productivity.

We invite you to read the following document for more information on the tax measures announced in the 2017-2018, budget.