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Mapping The Future

Invigorating the IT-BPM industry with the Philippine country brand

05:01 AM December 04, 2017

Is the Philippines in danger of losing its grip on IT and business process management (BPM), its stronghold and source of economic dynamism?

Robotics, artificial intelligence, and advanced higher value skills among the Philippines’ competitors are real threats that loom large on the horizon and threaten the Philippine IT-BPM industry as the global environment evolves in a period of marked uncertainty.

For all of us in the Philippines, one thing is clear: Amid political, cultural and socioeconomic disruptions, it is imperative for the Philippines to present its unique capabilities and competitive advantages to potential IT-BPM operators so that it could stand out among its competitors and prove, once and for all, why its leadership in the sector is well-deserved.

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To better understand how the Philippines can continue to hold its own amid all these changes in the global scene, EON conducted a study of the IT-BPM industry, employing desk research, social listening, quantitative research in the form of a survey, and qualitative research in the form of in-person interviews to gain insight into the industry.

The results were presented in the recently concluded 9th International IT-BPM Summit with the theme “PH DNA: Human Tech”.

The research revealed interesting insights, allowing us to better understand the views of internal and external stakeholders on the strengths, weaknesses and the road ahead for the IT-BPM industry and its subsectors—Animation and Game Development, Contact Centers or BPOs, Global In-House Centers, Healthcare Information Management, and IT and Software Development.

As expected, the research showed that infrastructural development is a cross-cutting concern. Moreover, thought leaders noted that potential investors may be deterred by negative perceptions of the Philippines, brought about by international media reports that create a perception of political instability. Respondents also noted the uncertainty created by the mixed messages from government, as well as the lack of a comprehensive communications program.

Yet, analysts and locators alike have noted that perceptions of political instability are not likely to deter those who have already invested in the Philippines because they understand the way the country functions.

More importantly, despite myriad criticisms, respondents noted that Filipinos as a people are determined and place a premium on customer service. They noted an intangible quality which characterizes the Filipino workforce that they believe will sustain investments in the years to follow.

In short, the respondents noted the existence of that factor at the heart of the Philippine country brand—that distinctive character that differentiates us as a people, that gives us a distinctive strength in the industries we excel in, and that allows us to meet the challenges thrown our way.

As with any other brand, there needs to be a way for us to communicate clearly who we are to our investors, and that is by capturing the essence of the Filipino spirit—that intangible strength that locators and external stakeholders all acknowledge as the factor that makes the Philippines unique.

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In fact, the Filipino spirit is a major factor contributing to the resilience of the Philippine IT-BPM industry. Just like all Filipinos, the industry has managed to endure difficulties and find ways around roadblocks, while smiling and retaining our good spirits along the way.

This Filipino spirit, which is well and alive, is the heart and soul of the Philippine country brand.

For many years now, EON has advocated building the Philippine country brand, anchored on the Filipino spirit and penchant for service, which is our unique selling proposition.

In defining the Philippine country brand, we identified the qualities that describe the Filipino spirit, as follows: creative, colorful, caring and collaborative, or the 4Cs. These same traits are well and alive in the IT-BPM industry which has, in fact, capitalized on these traits to become the global powerhouse that it is today.

In the face of tremendous change and uncertainty that has thrown the future of the Philippine IT-BPM industry into question, I strongly believe that it is the Filipino spirit that will take us forward and allow us to stay as a global leader in this competitive industry.

It is, of course, not an easy task. But in view of the challenges and opportunities the industry faces, I advocate translating these qualities into four features that describe the Philippine IT-BPM industry: collaborative, agile, resilient, and innovative.

Collaboration emphasizes the industry’s relationship with the various stakeholders, within and outside the Philippines, which leads to the generation of policies and regulations that move the industry forward.

Agility captures the industry’s readiness to adapt to the needs of global clients by adopting new industries and forms of service delivery, which strengthen the industry and the country itself.

Resilience refers to the ability to grow despite numerous challenges and limitations, reflecting the industry’s readiness to endure, serve and grow.

Innovation showcases the continuing flexibility, responsiveness, and openness of the industry to adapt and embrace new technologies and practices to ensure that it can consistently provide the best service to the world.

To express all these traits that are embedded in our brand DNA, it is necessary to focus on various operational areas and bring the 4Cs alive. These areas include marketing and communications, policy and regulations, and operations (expertise, services and products).

Let me cite specific ways to do so.

In communications, we must aggressively communicate the expanded and diverse IT-BPM subsectors that we have, backstopped by an agile workforce. We should also communicate the inclusive culture of the industry, a culture that has empowered women, the LGBT, and People with Disabilities, and allow them to develop their careers and become leaders in their areas.

In operations, it is imperative that the industry create a strong foundation of systems, expertise, and continuous innovation amid rapid changes in economy and technology. Doing so will help the industry to strengthen its global presence, incite interest in new investors, and maintain the favor of those who have relied on us to deliver their business needs.

In the area of policy and regulations, we must engage meaningfully and continuously with groups that play a critical role in the industry’s development, develop the skills of the workforce (DepEd, CHEd and Tesda), represent the country in trade (DTI, DOT and DFA), as well as local and global analysts.

In fact, it is imperative to have one body that harmonizes and integrates all private and public sector initiatives to create one unified Philippine country brand. We have long suggested that the Presidential Communications Group consider creating a National Branding Council to take on this function.

In doing all these, the IT-BPM industry must recognize that it is in a constant state of evolution, which behooves its leaders to take a proactive approach at all times. By taking part and even organizing roadshows within and outside the country, the industry can stay one step ahead in the field of technology and service delivery which shapes IT-BPM across the globe.

Additionally, the Philippine IT-BPM industry can lead an effort to increase awareness of the industry’s ins and outs through the development of educational materials. This will generate interest in IT-BPM careers by highlighting subsectors, debunking myths and showcasing the ways in which IT-BPM has played a critical role in empowering lives, businesses and the country.

Most importantly, it falls on us to develop the skills and qualities needed to withstand any disruptor. While there are things that we cannot change overnight, we can celebrate our successes, upsell our strengths and present ourselves as ready to take on any challenge—riding on the 4Cs that define us as a nation.

In this endeavor, we must once again celebrate the Filipino spirit and how it differentiates us from our competitors. By working together, we can grow the Philippine IT-BPM industry brand while shining the spotlight on our greatest yet untapped strength: the Philippine country brand.

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TAGS: Business, business process management (BPM), IT
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