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From the editor.

Few products are more popular than candies, gums and other confections, and over the years that popularity has spawned a host of makers, some very large (like Hershey, Mars or Nestle) and others that are virtually mom-and-pop operators. Old-line, family-owned boutique companies are common.

Yet, as Managing Editor Ellen M. Heffes found in our cover story, the confectionery business is like virtually every other manufacturing industry, consumed with issues like sourcing, brand, maximizing line extensions and consolidation. In a series of interviews, top finance executives at three well-known companies detailed key strategies and focus areas--and revealed a number of common themes and concerns.

Fraud has become a lightning rod for trouble in recent years, but it now appears that certain companies (Enron, for instance) had a culture that let it blossom. Writer Paul Sweeney talked with a number of accounting and fraud experts about how things got the way they did--and ways to improve.

The status of the workplace in a generation or two won't be a personal issue for most readers. But the ever-increasing pace of automation threatens to unleash profound changes, even for white-collar finance workers. Researcher Dick Samson talked with me about his examination into this area and some of the startling projections made about future trends.

SFAS 150, which deals with accounting for equity at private companies, has emerged as one of the more confounding rules of recent years--"a triumph of theory over economic reality," argues valuation expert Alfred King. Bill Sinnett spoke with a number of private companies about their frustrations with FASB's ruling, now delayed, which they contend would portray many healthy companies as having negative equity.

While many CFOs are accused of taking too much of a bottom-line approach to technology spending, others clearly view tech spending the way they assess most other investments--on the return and the value that are created. Canadian writer Ian Palmer spoke to a number of CFOs and CEOs about the ways their organizations approach IT outlays.

And speaking of technology, a special section on IT security offers a series of articles. Jonathan Gossels, president of SystemExperts Corp., presents a primer on basic strategies to security, including the precept that "practical security rests on three key principles--authentication, authorization and auditing." A second piece on network security examines issues related to defenses against hacking and computer viruses, and a third article, by writer Gregory Millman, raises the idea that it's insuperably hard to know what kind of return companies get on their security spending.

Bankruptcy is a financial challenge, first and foremost, but two consultants at Hewitt Associates argue that a key element to a successful turnaround is resolving people issues. Smart thinking about the shape of the future business, and who is needed to run it, will do wonders to deliver a strong reorganization and reemergence, they write.

Budgeting and forecasting are core subjects for finance officers, and new products are constantly in the pipeline. Yet a far-seeing approach, not just the latest bells and whistles, may be the best asset in successfully applying such systems, argues Accenture manager Stephen W. Hunt. Sounds like good advice for any corporate undertaking.
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Author:Marshall, Jeffrey
Publication:Financial Executive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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