Role of Quality in IT-BPO

Manila Bulletin Online. Article by: Michael Hamlin

December 6, 2011, 11:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — An article in The New York Times November 25 reporting that the Philippines was, “A New Capital of Call Centers,” caused quite a stir. Not because of its timeliness. The first reports by Everest Group and IBM that the Philippines had surpassed India as the world’s largest provider of call center services appeared a full year earlier. But the Times report — because it is the paper of record in the United States — resonated far more profoundly with legitimacy.

Regrettably, that resonance also helps to perpetuate a great myth about IT-BPO in the Philippines. That’s the myth that the Philippines is primarily — and always will be — a low-cost voice services provider. Just two sentences of the lengthy report provided information on the high-value, non-voice services being performed in Manila, and that brief mention was used to preface a shift in focus to India’s dominate position and threats the Philippine industry faces.

That mattered little compared to the fact that the Times had proclaimed the Philippines a global leader, and industry executives — including me — wasted no time sharing the link to the article with other executives, government officials, and their families. One industry executive told me he had received 19 emails with the link. A tier-one broadsheet thought so highly of the report that it reprinted the piece on its own front page.

No doubt the industry appreciates the visibility the Times report provided. Perpetuating the myth that the Philippines can’t and doesn’t provide the high-value, non-voice services its competitors do perhaps is a reasonable tradeoff for the opportunities the visibility the Times report provides. The tradeoff is that companies that want to outsource high-value, non-voice services won’t consider the Philippines, and Filipinos therefore won’t get to do that work.

There are other serious challenges to the Philippines’ IT-BPO industry than visibility — or lack thereof for its fastest-growing segment — however. One was tackled in the third of a series of CEO Briefings organized by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) and Outsource2Philippines several times every year. “Best in Class: Towards Operational Excellence” took place yesterday, and was attended by about 100 IT-BPO executives.

(Disclosure: BPAP is a client of my firm TeamAsia, which has been engaged to organize the briefings, and I am a founder and the president of Outsource2Philippines.)

Anyone familiar with the accolades heaped on the Philippine IT-BPO industry over the past year may be surprised that it trails every mature and most emerging competing services centers in the area of implementing quality frameworks and standards — by significant margins. A Quality Road Map commissioned by BPAP and developed by ECC International shows that the Philippines trails Brunei, China, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam in quality certifications.

Read the full article here.

(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.).

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