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Section 4: Performance: Achievement of Expected Outcomes

4.1 General Findings

Although many of the projects were ongoing, most reported significant progress towards achieving their performance targets. Several projects addressed skills training and improving access to well-trained human resources, including skills training and employment for Indigenous Peoples. Many project proponents reported that other individuals, businesses or organizations also benefitted from their project; these other beneficiaries (e.g., participants) were involved in, for example, industrial marine training, mining, the oil and gas sector and small business development for Indigenous Peoples. When questioned about the success of their interaction with proponents, 95% of participants indicated they achieved their objectives and that their organization benefitted from improved market share/competitive position, information for future endeavours and maintaining/creating partnerships or contracts.

Departmental representatives identified a few unintended positive impacts such as increased awareness of business productivity among SMEs (i.e., lean manufacturing) and increased awareness of departmental programming (i.e., successful projects in skills development have led to increased requests from other groups). Few department representatives could identify any negative impacts resulting from the programming other than the narrower focus on, for example, skills development which limited investments in other types of projects focusing on SMEs.

Factors facilitating or impeding success

Survey participants mentioned success factors such as collaboration between industry and other project partners, projects that were well timed (i.e., the project fit with demand and aligned with government priorities) and assistance from various levels of government. Key informants noted a number of additional success factors including: leveraging other sources of funding; industry and partner engagement; effective project due diligence, selection and monitoring; and alignment with provincial priorities. Focus group participants listed similar success factors (i.e., leveraging, partner engagement and alignment) as well as flexibility in both type and implementation of projects. Specifically, the ease of communication with departmental staff in adjusting projects increased project success and programming responsiveness to industry needs.

Survey participants reported that the most common factors constraining success included: limited time frames to complete the project; narrow definition of eligible costs; and challenges related to evaluating, acquiring, and learning about a new technology. Some key informants mentioned factors such as lack of willingness among businesses to invest in business productivity or growth and the weak economy following the 2008 slowdown. Focus group participants noted the difficulty in accessing longer-term (i.e., two to five years) follow-on funding limited the success of some projects. Shorter projects (i.e., 1 to 2 years) hindered their ability to build momentum or generate longer-term impacts. Focus group participants indicated that some communities or organizations are unwilling to partner and that some proponents are unable to pay staff and up-front costs prior to departmental reimbursement.

A number of the comments raised by the key informants and focus group participants related to the delivery of WD’s programs prior to the introduction of the WDP call for proposal process. This new process has addressed some of the concerns raised.

4.2 Performance Measurement

To better focus the department’s activities, WD’s Program Alignment Architecture (PAA) was revised in April 2013. Therefore, the business productivity and growth projects span two PAAs with different programs and sub-programs. The strategic outcome in both PAAs focuses on developing/growing and diversifying the western Canadian economy.

Programs. Projects approved between April 2009 and April 2013 addressed the Business Development Program whereas projects approved between April 2013 and April 2014 addressed the new PAA Program - Business Development and Innovation. Both programs support western Canadian businesses, industry, and research organizations to enhance business productivity and global engagement. The expected result of both programs is western SMEs that are engaged in international business, competitive, and strong.

Sub-programs. Projects approved between April 2009 and April 2013 addressed four sub-programs under WD’s former PAA: 1) Improve Business Productivity; 2) Access to Capital; 3) Industry Collaboration; and 4) Technology Adoption component of the Technology Adoption and Commercialization sub-program. Projects approved between April 2013 and April 2014 addressed the Business Productivity and Growth sub-program under WD’s new PAA. The descriptions and numbers of projects corresponding to the business productivity and growth sub-programs are summarized below:

2009/10 to 2012/13 PAA

  • Improve Business Productivity Sub-Program (59 projects). Support western Canadian businesses, business service providers, industry and research organizations to undertake initiatives to enhance business productivity and competitiveness.
     
  • Access to Capital Sub-Program (2 projects)18. Improve access to risk capital for entrepreneurs and small businesses through financing and services offered in conjunction with other business services organizations and associations.
     
  • Industry Collaboration Sub-Program (1 project). Supports industry collaboration, joint venturing and strategic alliances that support entrepreneurial development and growth of the business sector in Western Canada.
     
  • Technology Adoption component of the Technology Adoption and Commercialization Sub-Program (10 projects). Supports small and medium-sized enterprises to increase adoption of technologies, products, processes and services in the marketplace.

2013/14 PAA

  • Business Productivity and Growth Sub-Program (15 projects). Supports western Canadian businesses, business service providers, industry, and research organizations to undertake initiatives to enhance business productivity, competitiveness, and growth of western Canadian SMEs.

4.2.1 Immediate Outcomes

The department tracks the sub-program level immediate outcomes through the Performance Alignment Architecture (PAA) performance indicators . Table 4.1 provides the results of projects over the time period of the evaluation. The results provided include indicators that aligned with WD’s new PAA effective from 2013. Results aligned with WD’s former PAA effective from 2009 to 2012 have been included at the bottom of the table.

 

Table 4.1 Results of Business Productivity and Growth Projects by PAA Indicator
Indicators Number Projects Reporting on Indicator Total Target Actual Results Reported
In–progress Completed
Expected Result: Access to business development services, capital and leveraged capital
  • # businesses created/maintained/expanded
0 40 3,302 3,398
  • # of business training services
0 1 125 114
  • # of business advisory services provided
0 1 15 6
Expected result: Adoption of sound management and business practices, and technology
  • # of SMEs investing in adoption of sound management or business practices/technology
1 4 162 84
  • $ invested by SMEs in adoption of sound management or business practices/technology
1 0 3,500,000 0
Expected result: Access to skilled labour
  • # of skilled workers hired as a result of training, skills certification/foreign worker recruitment
5 4 892 771
  • # of participants trained in skills shortage area
1 6 696 485
  • # of participants completing skills certification
0 219 144 50
Results from indicators in PAA from 2009 to 2012
  • # jobs created or maintained
4 33 8311 5,956
  • venture capital $ invested
0 1 $2,000,000 $2,000,000
  • $ increase in sales
0 13 $120,814,030 $153,765,878
  • # partnerships/strategic alliances
0 1 3 3
  • # of market research studies/plans completed in support of pursuing a trade, investment, or international R&D or tourism opportunity
0 1 1 2

 

  • About sixty three out of eighty seven (79%) projects were complete as of December 2015. Most completed projects met or exceeded their target expectations. Reasons for completed projects not meeting or only partially meeting targets include unforeseen delays, poor project administration or in the case of one project, inclement weather.
     
  • Progress reports from projects that were in progress indicated that these projects were on course to either meet or exceed their target expectations. Results for ongoing projects will be included and assessed in future evaluations of Business Productivity and Growth programming.
     
  • Examples of key results achieved through WD support for Business Productivity and Growth initiatives over the evaluation timeframe include: 3398 businesses created/ maintained/ expanded; 771 skilled workers hired as a result of training or skills development; 5596 jobs created or maintained; and close to $154 million increase in business sales.
     
  • About 10 projects collected data on client satisfaction with business services provided. Most of the projects involved participation in and/or delivery of community workshops, seminars, presentations and special events to clients. Client satisfaction targets established for events ranged from 75% to 96%. The percentage of clients satisfied by participating in the events ranged from 76% to 100% thus exceeding set targets.

4.2.2 Intermediate Outcome

The intermediate goal of the Business Productivity and Growth programming is “Western SMEs that are engaged in international business, competitive, and strong.”

WD’s Performance Measurement Framework identifies Program Alignment Architecture (PAA) indicators at the program and sub-program levels. However, given the difficulty of measuring indicators at the program level, reporting is currently mandatory only at the sub-program level and few projects report at the program level. Of the 87 projects included in this evaluation, only four identified program level indicators: number of SMEs that increase gross margins (2 projects), SME employment growth (1 project) and number of highly qualified personnel (HQP) jobs created (1 project).

Literature, however, supports a link between the immediate outcomes and the intermediate outcome20. Most economists agree that productivity growth is fuelled by “skilled workers, capable managers, scientific and engineering talent, and competitive pressure.”21

Although it is not possible to identify and assess the intermediate outcomes of WD’s investments in Business Productivity and Growth, interviews with key informants and reviews of individual projects provided examples of projects that demonstrated intermediate level results that allowed SMEs to add value and increase competitiveness. For example, WD support to two projects in film and television production in Manitoba contributed to increased competitiveness of the industry, job creation and foreign investment to the region.

Specifically, the department funded the On Screen Manitoba Incorporated project to support an economic development strategy for Manitoba’s screen-based media industry and the New Media Manitoba Incorporated project to support business development in Manitoba’s interactive digital media sector. Both projects have been completed and results included 204 businesses created, maintained or expanded. In addition, between 2009 and 2013, the co-production volume in Manitoba’s film and television production industry grew by 50% from $157.5 million to $227.8 million. Manitoba companies now own more intellectual property (IP) and the trend is rising. IP ownership represents a greater return on investment, stronger companies leading to better business opportunities, increased business capacity and job creation.

4.2.3 Long-term Outcome

Evidence that Business Productivity and Growth programming contributes to growing and diversifying the western Canadian economy

Although it is too early or not possible to measure long term impacts of WD’s Business Productivity and Growth projects, research shows that supporting SMEs is important to economic development. SMEs, defined as companies with less than 100 employees, comprise 99% of companies in Canada and play an important role in Canada’s economy:

  • As of 2008, SME’s accounted for 52.5% of Canada’s private sector GDP;
     
  • In 2011, SMEs were responsible for $150 billion or about 41% of Canada’s total value of exports;
     
  • In 2012, SMEs in Canada employed almost 90% of Canada’s labour force; and
     
  • In 2009, 31% of total research and development expenditures were attributable to small businesses22.

SMEs are particularly important to the western Canadian economy. Relative to the working age population, Alberta and Saskatchewan have more SMEs than other provinces, with ratios of 50.3 and 47.8 per 1000 population respectively in 2012. Both provinces also have a relatively high GDP per SME compared to other provinces across Canada. With respect to employment, Saskatchewan and British Columbia had the highest percentage of employees working for SMEs in 2012, at 93.3% and 93.7% respectively. Manitoba and Alberta’s rates were also relatively high at close to 92%23.

Consequently, continued support to strengthen and grow SMEs is important in order to continue to grow the western Canadian economy.

 


[18] Both projects were under the Community Futures Capitalization Program and supported Community Futures investment funds.

[19] Both projects for this indicator have been completed. As at the time of the evaluation, the final results for one of the projects was not available in the database.

[20] Immediate outcomes: 1) access to business development services, capital, and leveraged capital; 2) adoption of sound management and business practices, and technology; 3) access to skilled labour. Intermediate outcome: Western SMEs are engaged in international business, competitive, and strong.

[21] Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity. "Canada's innovation imperative. Report on Canada 2011".

[22] Industry Canada. "Key Small Business Statistics". 2013.

[23] Industry Canada. "Key Small Business Statistics". 2013.