Client News

Philippine IT-BPO outlook positive, but improved visibility crucial

A survey commissioned by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) and Outsource2Philippines (O2P) revealed that while the IT-BPO industry outlook remains positive—even robust—greater brand visibility both within the Philippines and internationally is necessary to meet high-end growth targets. The IT-BPO Road Map 2011-2016 projects 20% or higher annual growth under the right conditions.

IT-BPO and shared services executives remain optimistic about the prospects for their businesses, but industry needs to do more to “sell” the industry’s attributes and opportunities to potential employees and the people that influence them, respondents indicated. Executives also believe the Philippine government should develop and implement an outbound strategic marketing communications program to increase visibility of the industry and its capabilities.

The survey, participated in by 179 executives across more than 20 IT-BPO and shared services sectors, also signaled a continued shift from low-value, voice-based process services to high-value, knowledge-based services. However, respondents are concerned that visibility of the industry is low internally among potential employees and their influencers, presenting a critical supply-side issue, and externally among potential clients and investors, potentially hampering growth, particularly in high-value, non-voice services.

In both cases, respondents seem to feel that comprehensive marketing communications initiatives can enhance the attractiveness of the industry among potential employees and investors alike. They believe that the industry itself must lead the effort to enhance the visibility and understanding of the IT-BPO sector, the kind of jobs it offers, and the career opportunities available among students, faculty, and teachers.

Respondents believe that potential clients, investors, and analysts have generally positive to very positive perceptions of the Philippines’ IT-BPO industry. Nevertheless, they overwhelmingly feel that increased brand visibility can have a meaningful or very substantial impact on the industry. More than half of the respondents feel that government should take the lead in promoting the industry internationally, but about a third also feel that the private sector should take the lead.

The results of the survey are closely aligned with recommendations contained in the IT-BPO Road Map, which recommended that the industry develop a distinctive IT-BPO brand and integrated marketing communications strategy to do two things. First, increase awareness of the positive attributes of the industry domestically among a range of potential employees and their influencers. They include students, parents, teachers, and professionals working in other industries.

Second, sustain positive perception of the Philippines as the world’s leading provider of voice-based services while increasing awareness of its capabilities for providing complex, knowledge-based services. This is particularly urgent because India is aggressive positioning itself as the leading global provider of such services. Having acknowledged that the Philippines is highly competitive in the voice segment, India-based services providers are moving to protect their leadership in non-voice services.

Among the 179 respondents to the survey, the largest aggregate number, 40%, represented contact centers. The second-largest group at 37% are engaged in delivery of a wide range of IT-BPO services. Respondents included representatives of very small, small, mid-size, and large and very large IT-BPOs and shared services organizations, with 19% of respondents employed by organizations with more than 1,000 employees.

It’s clear to respondents that enhanced brand visibility and brand marketing internally and externally will provide significant benefits for the industry. The first step to benefiting from enhanced brand visibility is to urgently undertake the comprehensive marketing and branding initiative recommended in the IT-BPO Road Map by developing a distinctive IT-BPO brand identity and integrated marketing communications plan targeting both internal and external markets.

In fact, the results provide additional support—and urgency—for key BPAP initiatives that have been in the works for some time. Over the past year BPAP executive director for talent development Penny Bongato has worked with the BPAP committee for talent development to conceptualize a strategic communications program meant to provide better perception of the industry and what it does within the Philippines.

Executive director for external affairs Martin Crisostomo is likewise in the process of developing a comprehensive, outward-looking initiative that convincingly communicates the capability of the Philippine industry, especially its fast-growing non-voice, complex services. These initiatives won’t come cheap, but will pay magnificent dividends because they are investments that will generate new, value-driven opportunities and jobs.

Incidentally—or not so incidentally—the complete BPAP-O2P survey, called Brand Visibility, will be available for purchase and download on the BPAP and O2P websites in the next week or so, at a very friendly rate meant to help cover costs of conducting the survey. But purchasing the survey is an investment as well, one that will increase understanding of the IT-BPO industry in the Philippines, and the sentiment of its executives.

(Disclosure: BPAP is a client of my firm, TeamAsia, which conducted the survey. I am president of O2P.)

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Copyright © 2011 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)