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All posts by Kevin Dee

Quarterly Job Market Update Across Canada – First Quarter 2017

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on April 20th, 2017

Canadian Job MarketGeneral Observations:

The unemployment rate at the end of the first quarter was 6.7%, an improvement over the 6.9% unemployment rate at the end of the last quarter.  During the previous 12 months Canada added 276,000 jobs.

The stock market continues to be relatively volatile, but perhaps that is the new norm.  For the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX and it has enjoyed a reasonable period of growth ending the first quarter of 2017 at around 15,600 points.  This was up slightly from a reading of 15,300 at the end of last quarter.

Oil canThe oil patch has settled a little, but that isn’t a great news story.  With the price of a barrel hovering around the $50 a barrel range there is a still a conservative approach to adding jobs.  There has been some exodus of foreign money from the oil patch, allowing Canadian companies to increase their property holdings.  While in some ways that is good, it is an indicator that the big players are investing their money in more business friendly jurisdictions.  Even the approval of some pipelines has not generated the positive job impact it might have done a couple of years ago.

Canadian dollar the LoonieThe Canadian dollar seems to be settled around the 75c US level for now, which is where it was last quarter.  While there are some small benefits of a weak Canadian dollar, including positive impact on tourism, overall it is a negative for the Canadian economy and thus for job creation.

The banking sector is one of the bigger employers in Canada, and the Canadian banks have fared well this year with their stock prices riding high.  They are also prudent money managers and have been very careful with their hiring.  Areas of growth for the banks have been any area that improves productivity and profitability, including robotics.  In addition risk mitigation in an era of economic uncertainty has created specific demands.

The telecommunications companies are other big employers in Canada and are also very cost conscious.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they too, are also careful about keeping employment costs under control, particularly as they are also acquisitive, which can mean a big focus on integration of acquired companies.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs in significant numbers, averaging more than 250,000 jobs a month.  The demand for skills in the US will lure talent from Canada which is good for the individuals but not so good for Canada in the long term.  What has not happened, and is different from previous economic times, is that Canada’s economy has not improved along with US economy, which is one of the indicators of our “new normal” environment.

Construction worker

The demand for the “trades” continues unabated, as the construction industry seems to be forever busy.  Cranes dot the skies of Canada’s largest cities, and home renovation projects are hard to staff!

The three levels of government in Canada are big employers.  Municipal, provincial and Federal governments employ a lot of people and with the current Federal government it was expected their ranks would grow.  There has been some growth in the Federal payroll, about 40,000 in 2016 but it was expected to be more.  All of these governments are dealing with the issue of a fast retiring upper echelon.  The pensions are so lucrative that large numbers of civil servants are eligible for, and invariably take, retirement at a very early age.  This will create opportunity for new jobs, but will also result in a significant brain drain from our government.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The reading at the end of the first quarter was 110, which was significantly up from last quarter when it was 96.  The reading is not adjusted and so is affected by number of available working hours etc.  Having said that the indication is a positive one.

Eagle LogoHere at Eagle we experienced a 25% increase in demand from our clients in the first quarter of 2017 versus the previous quarter, and the demand was about the same as the first quarter of 2016.  We also experienced a 20% increase in people looking for work over the previous quarter and a 16% increase over the same quarter last year.  This would suggest an uptick in activity that is a positive for the economy, if we can keep it going.

 More Specifically:

cn towerThe Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is Eagle’s busiest region, representing about 60% of our business.  It is also the 4th largest city in North America, containing more than 50% of Canadian head offices and with a population of approximately six (6) million.  This market has remained one of the busier markets in Canada, yet has not been as buoyant as previous years, with banks, telcos and provincial government all just a little slower with their hiring.   We have seen a small increase in demand in the first quarter and anticipate things will pick up as the year progresses.

The Saddledome in CalgaryWestern Canada is of course comprised of the oil patch in Alberta and the rest.  Some provinces have fared better than others, with certainly Alberta taking the brunt of the hit because of its resource based employment.  BC was actually the fastest growing province in Canada in 2016 but with an election coming and legislative interference harming the housing sector, the BC economy has started to slow down.  Saskatchewan has fared better than other provinces with a business friendly government although it too is hit by a decline in oil revenues and is struggling with deficit reduction, so no job boom here. The Conference Board expects Alberta to be the fastest growing province in Canada for 2017 but that remains to be seen as the province is not attracting foreign investment (because of Federal and Provincial government policies) and unemployment remains high.

Parliament building in OttawaEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”.  While there is a better mood amongst the Federal civil service under the Trudeau government, I can’t say that I share their optimism given his focus on anything but job creation.  There has been an increase in Federal government hiring in 2017 with our civil service now employing an extra 23,000 in just the last year (wonder why our taxes are so high?).  Quebec is enjoying low unemployment and continuing to fund new tech growth in the province (wonder where those transfer payments are spent?).  We anticipate that to continue in 2017.  The Maritime Provinces continue to struggle to create employment and we don’t expect much change there.

The Hot Client Demand.

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for Financial Analysts, Accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus Controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Outside of Eagle’s realm some of the in-demand in the trades, a growth in demand skills include the classic tradespeople, drivers, and new tech skills like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, video gaming skills etc.

 Summary:

 There are some positive indicators that would suggest light at the end of the tunnel, but it is early to tell whether that will lead to economic growth.  At a very low growth in GDP, and increasing government debt loads and no clear fiscal policies to help I do not anticipate significant job growth in Canada for a while.

There are however bright spots, caused by demographic shifts (retiring Baby Boomers) and new technologies.  The growth of the “gig economy” creates new opportunities for people to define their own destiny and become mini-entrepreneurs.

The effect of US policy changes by the Trump administration remain to be seen.  Having said that early indicators could see immigration (positive for Canada), trade agreements (possibly negative for Canada) and defense (possibly negative for Canada) all having some impact.

In today’s Canada job seekers need to understand the growing sectors, the in demand jobs and be willing to go where the work is.  If I was looking for work I would be moving to the larger centres, investing in in-demand skills and increasing my marketability with the right “attitude”.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter in 2016 and some of its influences.

Business Owner? Invest in YOU!

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on March 23rd, 2017

learning quote from Brian HerbertEagle has been working with independent contractors for more than twenty years.  One of the challenges that any business owner faces is in personal development and it is particularly tough for the owner of a one person business.  If “the business” is taking time out for training, then it is not making money  and a second issue is that the business also has to pay for training.

When I started Eagle I had a similar dilemma, how do I continue to learn about running a business and still do my day job.

“Develop a passion for learning.  If you do, you will never cease to grow.”  Anthony J D’Angelo

Here are some ideas:

Read! It seems obvious … but so few people do it! I love the Executive Book Summaries because they are an 8 page (20 minute read) synopsis of some of the greatest business books. A very affordable annual fee lets me download pdf files that I print and read when I have a few minutes between meetings or when I’m traveling! I also subscribe to Harvard Business Review which produces short, very informative and relevant documents that keep me thinking, give me ideas and help me to stay relevant.

Network! I started a small group of fellow CEOs that gathered on a monthly basis to share stories and collectively grow. There are many existing groups that provide the same experience.  Over the years I have belonged to numerous such groups .. including the group of CEOs who ride motorcycles!  If you are an independent contractor why not start your own networking group?

Online Training.   In recent years there has been an explosion of available, and free or very affordable, training online.  Sites such as Coursera and others like it have great training in a plethora of subjects.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  John F Kennedy

My advice to any business owner, particularly the independent operator …invest a little in yourself and you differentiate from almost everyone else!

IT Industry News for February 2017

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on March 8th, 2017

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the ICT industry for February 2017. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Februarys …

Five years ago, February 2012 was not a blockbuster month for M&A, but there was some interesting activity.  The biggest deal of the month saw Oracle pay $1.9 billion for talent management company Taleo.  Siemens Canada paid $440 million for networking equipment company Rugged.com.  IBM bought BYOD company Worklight; Dell bought backup and recovery company AppAssure; Apple bought mobile search company Chomp; dell logoand LM Ericsson bought Ottawa based BelAir Networks.   Four years ago in February 2013 Dell went private in a $24.4 billion deal that included a $2 billion investment by Microsoft.  Oracle paid $1.7 billion for networking company Acme Packet Inc.; Rackspace bought big data company ObjectRocket; Telus was busy with two acquisitions, electronic medical records division of the Canadian Medical Association and digital forensics company Digital Wyzdom; HP also sold the Palm operating system to LG for their smart TVs.  February 2014 was busy in M&A. Facebook make a big move with the $16 billion Oracle logo a large software company originally noted for its databaseacquisition of Whatsapp.  Comcast made a $45 billion play for Time Warner Cable and regulatory approval or otherwise is imminent; Oracle paid a reputed $400 million for data management platform company Bluekai; LinkedIn paid $120 million for online job search company Bright; and Klout was bought for about $100 million by Lithium Technologies.  Google made a couple of acquisitions, online fraud company Spider.io and secure logon company Slicklogin.  IBM bought database as a service company Cloudant; and Monster bought a couple of companies, social profile company Talentbin and job aggregation and distribution technology company Gozaic. Finally, Microsoft announced Steve Balmer’s retirement and appointed a new CEO, Satya Nadella.  February 2015 saw some interesting activity.  The $6.3 billion merger of Staples and Office Depot and the $1.6 Billion purchase of Orbitz by Expedia are two examples of sectors experiencing massive consolidation.  There was a big buy in the communications and IT space with Harris paying Microsoft logo$4,75 billion for Excelis to establish a 23,000 person company.  There was a big data center play with UK based Telecity Group paying $2.2 billion for Interxion Holdings.  Microsoft made a couple of acquisitions, paying $200 million for pen-tech maker N-Trig and $100 million for mobile calendar company Sunrise.  Samsung bought a mobile payment company (competing with Apple pay), LoopPay.  Also out buying was Twitter which picked up Niche, a network of social media creators.  There were a number of interesting deals in Asia, including Sapdeal buying luxury fashion estore Exclusively; Foodpanda made six acquisitions of online meal delivery services to establish itself as a powerhouse in that space.  Showing some forethought Australian job board OneShift has bought Adage, which is a job board serving people over 45.  Last year in February 2016 the biggest deal saw HNA Group of China pay $6 billion for Ingram Micro.  Two other billion dollar deals Cisco logoincluded Cisco paying $1.4 billion for IoT company, Jasper Technologies and a consortium of Chinese internet firms making a $1.2 billion bid for Opera. Microsoft was busy with a couple of acquisitions, Xamarin a cross platform mobile application development company, and Swiftkey which produces predictive keyboard technology.  Another busy company was Alibaba Group which was investing in a bunch of companies, including a $100 million investment in Groupon, and smaller investments in microblogging site Weibo; software company Momo; augmented reality startup Magic Leap; Chinese retail chain Suning; and Singapore telco SingPost.  Other companies of note out buying included IBM who bought digital agency Aperto and Blackberry acquired cybersecurity company Encription.

Which brings us back to the present …

The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itFebruary 2017 saw very little M&A action.  Nokia paid $371 million for Finnish telecom software company Comptel, as it reinvents itself, and Apple picked up an AI startup company RealFace.    Another company in the news, but for the wrong reasons was Samsung which is in the middle of a significant bribery scandal.

On the economic front there were a lot of positive indicators out of the US, including adding another 246,000 jobs.  Canada also added 48,000 jobs in January which followed a good December in job creation.  Around the world, the UK is starting to see some labour impacts from the Brexit decision as EU nationals are not applying for jobs they used to do.  Brazil reached a record high in unemployment, in India hiring activity declined and in China there is expected to be a boom in hiring.

Perhaps more interesting this month than the M&A activity, or lack thereof, were some other tidbits of news.

The Irish government have an Action Plan for Jobs that is ahead of plan as of 2016 and is looking to create 200,000 net new jobs by 2020.  Maybe Canada could take a look at an interesting program like this!

An Ipsos survey suggests that Canadians are spending more time on mobile apps than ever, which might explain why everyone you see walking along the street has their face buried in their phone!

Another survey suggests that within the last year 60% of small businesses were the victims of cyberattack!

Finally, another study suggests that global gender diversity is moving, albeit slowly, and at this rate it will take another 20 years to hit parity!

That is it for my monthly look at what was happening in the technology space over the last month, compared to the same month in previous years.  I’ll be back in about a month’s time, until then … walk fast and smile!

IT Industry News for January 2017

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on February 7th, 2017

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the ICT industry for January 2017. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Januarys …

Five years ago, in January 2012 things were very quiet in M&A – former tech giant JDSU was back on the acquisition trail, even if just to pick up a small Vancouver based company, Dyaptive Systems. Symantec paid $115 million for LiveOffice to help with its storage capabilities, Google bought a bunch more IBM patents, and Xerox picked up Laser Networks in the managed printing space. Rim (now Blackberry) also announced a change in leadership. Three years ago, in January 2013 Cisco bought mobile network software company Intucell for $475 million and sold its Linksys division to Belkin. The biggest dollar value deal was AT&T’s purchase of some of Verison Wireless’s airwaves for $1.9 Billion. Other deals saw NCR buy video software ASTM company uGenius Technology; Canon Canada acquired long-time partner and document management company Oce Canada; NetSuite bought retail management systems company Retail Anywhere; and AVI-SPL bought Duocom-Duologik. January 2014 was an interesting month with a few big M&A deals. Google was an especially busy player, selling its Motorola Mobility handset unit to Lenovo for $2.9 billion but paying $3.2 billion for Nest Labs and the company also bought Bitspin. The other big deal saw VMware pay $1.17 billion for mobile device management company AirWatch. Other big names on the acquisition trail included Oracle who bought cloud based service delivery company Corente; Microsoft paid a reputed $100 million for cloud based service company (seems to be a theme) Parature; Ricoh purchased IT service company Mindshift from BestBuy; and Hootsuite bought analytics company Yahoo logouberVu. In January 2015, the biggest deal was Hutchison offering more than $14 billion for O2. Other big dollar news saw Yahoo looking like it might be remaking itself, spinning off its $40 Billion stake in Alibaba to become smaller, leaner and either buy or be bought! The final M&A activity involving a “B” was Telco equipment company Commscope offering $3 billion for TE Connectivities network business. There were also a number of very well-known companies out buying, and in no particular order … Amazon paid something like $300 million (approximate) for chip designer Annapurna Labs; Expedia bought its online travel competitor Travelocity for $200 million; Samsung paid $100 million for Brazil’s largest print company Simpress; Google paid about $100 million for mobile payments company Softcard; Facebook bought Wit.ai a company that has a Siri like Dropbox logosolution that can be embedded in other products; Dropbox bought CloudOn a document editing and productivity tools company; Twitter paid somewhere between $30 million and $40 million for Zipdial, an Indian company that does some funky marketing thing with phone hang ups; and finally Microsoft made two acquisitions, startup text analytics company Equivo and in a departure from its history it bought open software company Revolution Analytics. There were no huge deals in January 2016, but there was plenty of activity with some of the household names out shopping. IBM bought video service provider Ustream; Microsoft bought game form learning tool MinecraftEdu; Apple bought “emotion recognition” company Emotient; and Oracle bought media web tracking firm AddThis. Toshiba bought an ERP solutions company Ignify, and a number of smaller deals included Juniper Networks buying BTISystems Inc.; FireEye bought iSight partners; Acceo Solutions bought Groupe Techna and SmartPrint bought LaserCorp’s Toronto based managed print services business.

Which brings us back to the present…

Cisco logoIn January 2017 the multi-billion-dollar deal of the month was Cisco’s purchase of app performance management company, AppDynamics for $3.7 billion. HP Enterprise purchased data center hardware provider, SimpliVity for $650 million. Microsoft acquired Montreal-based deep learning start-up Maluuba for an undisclosed sum. Google has announced plans to purchase Twitter’s mobile developer platform Fabric. Trello, the startup behind a leading task-management app has been purchased by Atlassian for $425 million. CRM giant, Salesforce bought Unity&Variety to enhance its productivity app service Quip Managed Service Provider of data and database administration, Datavail, acquired Canadian IT channel leader Navantis.

IBM logoSome non-M&A news in January included IBM announcing it broke the US record for number of patents granted in a single year – 8,088 to be exact. Avaya Inc. announced it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as a result of accumulating debt from their major acquisitions in the last ten years. According to a report released by Gartner Inc. 2016 saw a decrease in the shipment of PCs, the lowest it has been since 2007.

That’s my look at the tech news for January 2017. Until next month, walk fast and smile!

What COULD You Do With 20 minutes?

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on November 21, 2012

If you were to invest 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week towards “self development” what could you do?

Health & Fitness

I have a weight routine that takes me exactly 20 minutes. When I do it, I usually do 20 minutes of cardio first but if pushed for time I just do the weight routine.  There are 9 upper body moves that I execute one after the other as a circuit.  I do a set of abs before the first set, a set of abs between the sets and again after the second set… it all takes 20 minutes!  I can tell you that when I started doing this it had a dramatic affect on toning my upper body, and I only do it twice a week!  In addition to toning your body, weights increase muscle mass which increases the amount of calories your body burns!

A 20 minute brisk walk every day burns calories, builds some muscle, exercises your heart and gets some “fresh” air into your lungs.

20 minutes exercise each day for 5 days a week is more than 85 hours of exercise a year!

Brain Work

I can read an 8 page summary of a business book from Executive Book Summaries in 20 minutes.   If you read one book summary a week you can cover off the main concepts of more than 50 business books every year.

I can do a tough Sudoku or a crossword puzzle in about an hour… or 3 * 20 minute sessions.  If I devote my brain to that activity three times a week I am spending 50 hours a year exercising my brain.

Relationships

I can have a 20 minute conversation with my mom (sisters, friends etc) and we all enjoy it.

I can write 4 cards with hand written notes in 20 minutes . They might be to friends or clients, but they are always appreciated.

I can take 5 minutes to share a good business read on LinkedIn and enhance my personal brand as a knowledge expert.  If I invest 20 minutes over the course of a week I can share 200 stories in a year and the Kevin Dee brand gets noticed.

I can spend 5 minutes sending an email to a friend or relative to let them know how I’m doing, and that I’m thinking of them.  Again a 20 minute investment each week means 4 times a week (200 times a year) I am reaching out to people I care about.

How much time do you spend watching “mindless TV shows”?

How much time do you spend sitting on a bus or train?

How much time do you spend sitting in a hotel room while on business travel?

How much time do you spend sitting at the rink while your child skates?

There are lots of “20 minute opportunities” out there and you don’t need to cram them all with activity, but just maybe a small investment in 20 minute activities could give you a good return on that investment.

PS.  This is just scratching the surface … if you really think about it there are a million high return ways to use 20 minutes!

IT Industry News for October 2016

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on November 10th, 2016

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the ICT industry for October 2016. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Octobers …

Five years ago in October 2011 an industry icon, Steve Jobs passed away and IBM announced Virginia Rometty as their first female CEO.  On the M&A front Oracle made a couple of buys, including RightNow Technologies ($1.5 Billion) and Endeca Technologies; Sony bought Ericsson out of their Sony Ericsson joint venture ($1.5 Billion); Red Hat bought storage company Gluster ($136 million); and Cisco bought BNI Video ($99 million).  The October 2012 news was dominated by Hurricane Sandy and the US presidential election.   The big deal of the month was a $1.5 billion merger of two US cell EMC logocarriers, T-Mobile and MetroPCS.  There were also a number of smaller deals, with EMC beefing up in the security area (Silver Tail), Telus expanding its medical solutions portfolio (Kinlogix Medical) and Avnet improving its IBM capabilities (BrightStar and BSP).  In the social networking world Yelp bought its European competitor Qype in a $50 million deal.  Three years ago, October 2013 was not a dynamic M&A month, although there was certainly some activity.  Oracle announced two acquisitions, both “cloud based companies: Big Machines provides pricing and quote date for sales and orders; and Compendium is a content marketing company.  Other “names” out shopping included Avaya buying the software division of ITNavigator for its call centre and social media monitoring software; Rackspace bought ZeroVM a tech company with a software solution for the cloud; Intuit bought consulting company Level Up Analytics, primarily to acquire its talent; VMWare bought “desktop as a service” company Desktone; Netsuite bought human capital software company TribeHR; and Telus enhanced its mobile offering with the HP logopurchase of Public Mobile.  In October 2014 we saw a new trend, with two public companies both choosing to split into smaller entities.  HP announced it was creating a business service focused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and personal computing & printer company HP Inc.  Symantec also chose to split into two independent public companies, one focused on business and consumer security products, the other on its information management portfolio.  Other interesting news saw IBM pay $1.5 Billion to GlobalFoundries so it would take away its money losing semiconductor manufacturing business.  NEST bought out competitor Revolv; EMC bought three cloud companies, The Cloudscaling Group, Maginatics and Spanning Cloud Apps; and in Korea, Kakao and Daum merged to form a $2.9 billion dell logointernet entity.  Last year October 2015 brought some big deals with the biggest seeing Dell offer $26 billion to buy storage company EMC.  Interestingly an EMC subsidiary, VMWare was also out shopping, picking up a small email startup, Boxer.  In another deal involving “big bucks”, Western Digital paid $19 billion for storage competitor Sandisk.  IBM were also writing a big cheque, paying $2 billion in a big data/internet of things play for The Weather Network (minus the TV operations), and IBM also picked up a storage company, Cleversafe.  Cisco paid $522.5 million for cybersecurity firm Lancope; LogMeIn paid $110 million for LastPass; Trend Micro paid $350 million for next generation intrusion prevention systems company HP Tippingpoint; Red Hat picked up deployment task execution and automation company Ansible; Vasco Data Security paid $85 million for solution provider Silanis; and Apple bought a speech processing startup, VocalIQ.  As industries converged it was interesting to see Securitas pay $350 million for Diebold’s US Electronic Security business.

Which brings us back to the present …

Just like four years ago October 2016 news has been dominated by the US Presidential election … and of course the upset happened!  Maybe the election is why the M&A market was slow this month?  Not much in the way of deals, with one BIG deal seeing Qualcomm Google signpay $47 Billion for NXP Semiconductor.  The only other sizable deal saw Wipro pay $500 million for IT cloud consulting company Appirio.  Google picked up Toronto based video marketing startup FameBit and Pivot Technology Solutions picked up Ottawa based Teramach … and that was about it for October.

Other news saw Google step into the smartphone world with the release of Pixel, at a time Twitter logowhen wireless use in Canada is more than 50% of telecom revenues, however that is a crowded and hyper-competitive space so it will be interesting to watch.  Twitter announced layoffs plus the fact it will be shutting down the video service Vine.  Lastly HP Inc. also announced layoffs in its plans.

Despite all of the hype and vitriol of the presidential campaign, most indicators that were based on numbers were reasonably positive.  A couple of subjective indices (measuring confidence) were down, but nothing crazy.  There were also numerous reports from IDC and Gartner this month with predictions of growth in many tech sectors including total IT spend, cloud spending, security spending etc.  About the only areas that are trending down are PC sales which is no surprise and smartwatches, which is a surprise.

I would be remiss in my husbandly duties if I did not point out Janis Grantham’s inclusion in the 2016 Global Power 100 — Women in Staffing list.

I also found it surprising that it is five years since Steve Jobs passed away, it just doesn’t seem that long ago.

That is my update on tech news for October 2016 … until next month, stay positive, walk fast and smile!

Life Long Learning

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on September 21st, 2016

learning quote from Brian Herbert

When did you last take some training?

When did you last invest in your own career?  (Forget about what your employer does.)

Do you have a personal training plan?

Do you have a career plan?

Do you understand how your industry is being affected by technology, by regulatory change and by global competition?

Can a call centre in Africa do a part of your job … for a fraction of the cost?

Can a robot replace you … or some part of what you do?

Is your company being overtaken by disruption?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

Take control of your own destiny, because life has a way of happening:

  • have a great attitude (its all in your head);
  • have  a good work ethic (anyone can do this, but many don’t!); and
  • have great skills.

Take advantage of every training opportunity possible AND invest in yourself!

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”  Brian Tracy

Quarterly Job Market Update for Q3 2016

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post was originally published on the Eagle Blog

General Observations:

The third quarter of 2016 continued the “new normal” for Canada’s economy, which was not a positive thing!  Until oil prices get up into the $70+ range, consistently, we are unlikely to see a recovery in the very important oil sector.  Interest rates remain low but need to edge up in anticipation of the next recession, but the mere suggestion of interest rate increases causes a weakening in the markets.  The US economy continues to improve, but we are not seeing the expected “pull through” that we have seen in the past.  The Canadian dollar hovers around the 75c US mark which makes it more expensive for imports and Canada imports more than it exports.

The unemployment rate at the end of the third quarter was 7% which was a 0.2% worse than the 6.8% of Q2, but slightly better than the Q1 rate of 7.1%.  During the previous 12 months Canada added 139,000 jobs which was 21,000 more than the 12 months up to last quarter.  In a sign of our changing times, the majority of these were part time jobs.

The stock market continues to be volatile, and is one of the sources of concern for the Bank of Canada.  For the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX and it has enjoyed a reasonable period of growth, currently at around 15,000 points as opposed to 14,100 points at the end of the 2nd quarter.

As already mentioned, the oil patch continues to take a pounding and we don’t anticipate much positive change before 2018.  With oil starting to settle at around $50 a barrel we are not likely to see the start of any major projects.  The reality is that many companies in the oil patch are considering even more cost saving initiatives including layoffs.  Many companies are looking at divesting Canadian assets and investing in other geographies with less opposition and more government support.  Many workers who migrated to the oil patch during the boom have left, which will make things even tougher when a recovery happens because it will be difficult to entice them back.

The Canadian dollar in comparison to the US dollar is a long way from the days when we flirted with, and passed parity.  At time of writing the dollar is hovering between 75c US and 76c US, which is just a couple of cents weaker than the end of Q2.  The good news is that this helps the oil patch because they sell in US dollars and most costs are in Canadian dollars.  It is also helpful to our manufacturing sector, but that sector has been severely depleted over the years and Canada is a net importer meaning that overall a weak Canadian dollar is not good for Canada.

The banking sector, while a big user of talent and one of the largest employers in Canada, is also very careful.  The banks continue to be very careful with their hiring and are being careful to control their staffing levels.  Toronto and Montreal continue to demand talent, just perhaps a little more restrained than in other times.

The telecommunications companies are other big employers in Canada and are also very cost conscious.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they too, are also careful about keeping employment costs under control.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs, but at a reduced rate of about 150,000 per month.  The demand for skills in the US will lure talent from Canada which is good for the individuals but not so good for Canada in the long term.  What has not happened, and is different from previous economic times, is that Canada’s economy has not improved along with our neighbours, which is one of the indicators of a “new normal”.

The construction industry seems to be forever busy, to which anyone trying to get work done will attest.  Despite the slowdown in the big jobs like the oil sands, there appears to be a constant demand caused by infrastructure upgrades in many of our cities and we have the promise of more such work funded by our growing national debt (was that my out loud voice?).

The Liberal government has been in place for about a year and are continuing to both spend and raise taxes.  One example is their forced carbon tax, which is really just a money grab (does anyone really think this money won’t go into regular government coffers?) and is going to cost Canada jobs and hurt Canada’s economy at a time when it can ill afford it.  There are some expected government projects and infrastructure spending initiatives that should benefit the private sector.  In addition, spending in some ministries will be reduced as others benefit from the new agenda.  Some opportunities will be seen in sectors such as health, environment and education.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The latest score for the Index was 108 in September, which was up 2 basis points from the end of Q2.

Here at Eagle the big impact on our business continues to be the oil patch, but other clients are taking advantage of a tough economy to look at their cost base.  This has led to layoffs and slower hiring patterns.  Year-over-year the number of people applying for jobs has increased by about 11.75%.  Demand from our clients was down more than 8% year-over-year.  This suggests to us that the people affected by the layoffs are now active in their job searches.  We also believe that demand is very patchy, with no sectors booming in demand for professionals.

More Specifically:

Toronto is one of the largest cities in North America with a population exceeding 6 million and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is home to the most head offices (almost 700) and most head office staff (around 75,000) in Canada.  Consequently it is also the hottest job market in Canada and generates about 60% of Eagle’s business.  While it remains a busy market we have seen some impact from downsizing in large companies that has increased the availability of senior people in the market.  Having said all that, if I were looking for work this is where I would like to be.  The sectors that are always looking for people include the financial, insurance, government and telecommunications sectors in addition to the retail sector and the construction industry.  There is also a fair amount of demand in the engineering and manufacturing space.

Western Canada and more specifically Calgary as the “oil capital” of Canada, has taken the brunt of the hit from the drop in oil prices.  There have been multiple rounds of layoffs, and more are projected, with the possibility that it may be 2018 before we see a recovery.  When the big oil companies are hurting there is a trickle-down effect to all of the services companies that serve them and the local economy is affected in retail and housing specifically.  The NDP government has done nothing to help boost confidence in Alberta for investors.  It should not be forgotten that both Saskatchewan and British Columbia have an oil sector too, and while they have been equally hit, those provinces seem to be doing better because their economies are less dependent on one sector and certainly Saskatchewan is a better managed province.  We have seen reasonable, but not strong, demand for talent in Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg and Edmonton but remain cautious about the longer term impact of the loss of oil revenues.  This could affect everyone as provincial tax coffers suffer and the ancillary businesses are hit.

Eagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”. There is a better mood in Ottawa and within the Federal Government (other than the morale issues caused by a non-functioning pay system) but that has not translated into a bunch of work, as we know the contracting process is long and arduous.   There is an expectation that the Liberal government will get some projects back on the books, and there is optimism that a new agenda will lead to more business in the National Capital Region specifically.  Montreal is relatively unchanged, not booming but a steady demand for resources, particularly in the financial and telecommunications sectors.  The Maritime Provinces have traditionally had higher rates of unemployment and this continues to be the case.

The Hot Client Demand

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts  always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for Financial Analysts, Accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus Controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Summary:

Canada’s economy continues to languish, and since the last recession we have been caught in a continual low interest rate, stimulus focused cycle that has never quite taken off.  The more recent “oil recession” has hit Canada hard, given that we are a resource rich country and there is no near end in sight.  Statistics show there are jobs being added in Canada, but the numbers are not impressive particularly when you see how the US is doing and most of those jobs are part time.

Federal and provincial governments are talking about stimulus spending and infrastructure projects, so there is an expectation this will create some boost to the economy, although I have not seen it.  If interest rates remain low, as expected, and the dollar remains fairly low, then we might also see some further growth in Canada’s relatively small manufacturing base.

Given that investment portfolios have recovered from the 2008 recession, we are seeing a rise in the Boomer retiree population which will create demand for highly skilled resources.  With Canada’s overall unemployment rate at 7%, we can deduce that the unemployment rate for trades and skilled workers to be much lower, perhaps even approaching skill shortage levels.  Even in these uncertain times, we see shortages in many niche skill areas.

There are definitely still opportunities created because of those retiring Boomers and the need for companies to remain competitive.  We see opportunity in the construction industry, the financial sector, the telecommunications sector and the insurance sector.  We see the markets with the greatest demand as being Toronto, Vancouver and perhaps Montreal.  Ottawa is showing promise and could pick up if new projects are initiated by the federal government.  Government spending will also provide a temporary boost to employment as the stimulus money becomes available.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter in 2016 and some of its influences.

IT Industry News for September 2016

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on October 6th, 2016
Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the ICT industry for September 2016.

What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of September in previous years …
Five years ago in September 2011 Broadcom paid $3.7 Billion for NetLogic.  Google was busy, buying restaurant reviewer Google signZagat plus acquiring 1,000 patents from IBM.  Ottawa’s Zarlink was bought by Microsemi for $525 million.  SAP bought Crossgate, Twitter bought Julpan and CSC bought Indian software testing company AppLabs, and Hitachi Data Systems continued the consolidation in the storage industry with the acquisition of BlueArc.  September 2012 was a quiet month in M&A deals.  Infosys increased its management consultancy capability with the $330 million purchase of Lodestone.  Lenovo bought Stoneware, a software company focused on the cloud, and Ericsson bought ConceptWave.  A couple of interesting investment moves saw Microsoft invest in Klout and Silicon Valley VC Chameth Palihapitiya invest in Xtreme Labs. Three years ago in September 2013 Blackberry announced a quarterly loss of almost $1 million and laid off 4,500 people. Microsoft bought Nokia’s devices and services unit for more than $7 billion. Ebay paid $800 million for payment platform Braintree; Synnex bought IBM’s customer care division for $505 million; Rogers added to its data centre capacity with the $161 million purchase of Pivot Data Centres; Extreme Networks bought Entersys Networks for $180 million; and Manitoba Telephone Microsoft logoSystems bought Epic Information Systems.  September 2014 saw some big deals announced, including Microsoft’s $2.5 billion purchase of gaming company Minecraft, Lenovo’s $2.1 billion purchase of IBM’s x86 server business and Cognizant’s $2.7 billion purchase of healthcare company, Trizetto Corp.  Hootsuite had an injection of cash and bought two companies, social telephony company Zeetl and social media marketing platform Brightkit.  Google also made two acquisitions, biotech company Lift Labs and desktop polling company Polar. There were plenty more deals announced, including Yahoo’s $8 million purchase of cloud based document hosting company Bookpad; Cisco’s purchase of private cloud company Metacloud; SAP’s purchase of expense software company Concur; Blackberry’s purchase of virtual identity software startup Movirtu and Red Hat’s purchase of mobile app company FeedHenry.  Last year in September 2015 there was a fair bit of M&A activity but no blockbuster deals.  Microsoft was very active, closing three deals, IBM logoAdxstudio which provides web based solutions for Dynamics CRM; app developer Double Labs; and cloud security firm Adallom.  Accenture picked up the cloud services company Cloud Sherpas; IBM added cloud software startup StrongLoop; Netsuite paid $200 million for cloud based marketing company Bronto Software; and Blackberry paid $425 million for competitor Good Technology.  Hardware company Konica Minolta bought IT Weapons; Qualcomm bought medical device and data management company Capsule Technologie; Networking and storage company Barracuda Networks bought online backup and disaster recovery company Intronis; and Compugen bought some of the assets of another Canadian company Metafore.

Which brings us back to the present …

HP new log 2016September 2016 was a slow month for M&A but there were a couple of large deals.  Tech Data paid $2.6 Billion for the technology solutions group of Avnet, and HP made the biggest printer acquisition to date, paying $1.05 Billion for Samsung’s printer business.  Other deals saw Google pay $625 million for Apogee, and restaurant company Subway bought online order taking software company Avanti Commerce.  One investment that caught my eye, in the staffing world saw Accenture invest in crowdtesting company Applause.

Economic news was generally positive around the world with a few exceptions, Brazil being the most obvious having had 17 straight months of job losses.  The US was, surprisingly to me, fairly positive in most indicators despite the upcoming election and their “interesting” potential presidents.  The Canadian outlook seemed generally positive, of course these reports were prior to announcements of carbon taxes.  The economy certainly doesn’t “feel” positive.

Yahoo logoYahoo had some more bad press, this time for a security breach that happened two years ago affecting 500 million accounts and Blackberry announced that it was getting out of the hardware business.

A couple of studies looking at emerging technologies saw increasing investment in big data analytics and IoT in the manufacturing sector and a suggestion that robots might only replace 6% of jobs in the future.  (I wonder if a robot could become President? Or Prime Minister? OR Premiere?  Pretty sure right now I might vote for them!))

That’s what caught my eye over the last month, the full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.  Hope this was useful and I’ll be back with the October 2016 tech news in just about a month’s time.

IT Industry News for August 2016

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on September 8th, 2016

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the Tech industry for August 2016. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of August in previous years …

Five years ago in August 2011 Hurricane Irene hit the US coast, there was a mini-market crash and the world’s economies continued to struggle.  Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility and IBM paid $387 million to add Algorithmics to its analytics portfolio, they also bought UK based analytics company i2.  Skype which was in the process of being merged into Microsoft, bought GroupMe, Bitly bought Twitterfeed and IBM logoCitrix bought Ringcube.  August 2012 was slow in the M&A space with IBM busiest, paying $1.3 billion for HR solutions and services company Kenexa, plus they bought flash memory developer, Texas Memory Systems.  The other “big name” deal was Google’s purchase of social media marketing company Wildfire Interactive, reputedly for $250 million.  Three years ago in August 2013 IBM paid $1 billion for Trusteer, a cybersecurity company specialized in the financial services sector;  Qualcomm sold its fleet management software unit for $800 million to private equity firm Vista Equity Partners; and the other big dollar buy was AOL paying $405 million for online video company Facebook logoAdap.tv.  Facebook bought speech recognition company Mobile Technology; Software AG bought analytics firm Jackbe; Opentext paid $33 million for cloud based software company Cordys; and SAP bought ecommerce company Hybris.  August 2014 saw no blockbuster deals, however a number of big name companies were out with their cheque books.  Intel paid $650 million for the LSI Axxia networking chip business; Vmware bought application delivery provider CloudVolumes; IBM bought Lighthouse Security Group to bolster its cloud based identity and access management capabilities; Google bought two startups, Emu to boost its messaging capabilities and Directr for its video advertising business; Facebook bought a security startup Privatecore, and the last BIG name saw Yahoo buying app company Zofari.  Last year in August 2015 there were two billion dollar deals.  Symantec sold Veritas (which it paid $13.5 Billion dollars for 10 years ago) to a group of investors for $8 Billion.  IBM also paid ”big bucks”, shelling out $1 billion for Merge Healthcare.  Smaller deals saw Calgary based Above Security bought by Hitachi; Transcomos bought 30% of Vietnamese daily deals site Hotdeal; Freshdesk bought live-chat company 1Click; and PLDT bought ecommerce startup Paywhere.

Which brings us back to the present …

August 2016 saw a fair bit of M&A activity although there were no billion dollar deals.   The largest deal saw global staffing company Randstad buy one of the larger job boards, Intel logoMonster for $429 million.  A similar sized deal saw Intel shell out $408 million for artificial intelligence company Nervana.  Hewlett Packard Enterprises paid $275 million for SGI (what was left of Silicon Graphics); Apple paid $200 million for artificial intelligence company, (there is a pattern here), Turi; Salesforce bought business analytics company Beyondcore for $100 million; and ScanSource paid $83.6 million for telecom cloud services company Intelisys Communications.

Microsoft logoOther acquisitions saw Microsoft snap up two companies, artificial intelligence scheduling software company Genee in addition to their XBox division buying interactive livestreaming company Beam.  Nutanix is buying two companies to bolster its Enterprise Cloud Platform, Calm.io, a DevOps automation company and PernixData, which offers data analytics and acceleration capabilities.   Other smaller deals saw Palantir, an analytics and consulting company buy data visualization startup, Silk; and Magnitude software is buying Vancouver based, data access and analytics company Simba.

Cisco was in the news for more layoffs, announcing 5,500 people, approximately 7% of their workforce, will lose their jobs as the company switches its focus from hardware to software.

Economic indicators around the globe were not too bad, with the US still talking growth, albeit slightly slower than previously expected.  Other markets generally saw positive numbers on employment, except perhaps Mexico and Canada (which lost 31,000 jobs in July).

A number of reports looking at emerging tech markets suggest that IoT, Cloud services and Video as a Service are all areas of growth … and thus possible areas for investment.

Eagle logoThat’s what caught my eye over the last month, the full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.  Hope this was useful and I’ll be back with the September 2016 industry news in just about a month’s time.

Until then, Walk Fast and Smile!