by: Sidney Liquigan
According to commercial real estate service provider Santos Knight Frank (SKF), more and more BPO firms in the Philippines continue to expand by growing their non-voice services portfolio and by taking advantage of new growth opportunities in areas outside Metro Manila, as reported by BusinessMirror.
Chairman and CEO of SKF, Rick Santos, noted that the BPO industry in the Philippines continues to be one of the most competitive in the world and the main driver is the Filipino workforce who are highly educated and proficient in the English language.
Santos also stressed the advantage of lower labor costs in the Philippines. "The average cost per employee in alternative destinations such as China and Mexico is in fact twice as expensive as the Philippines," he said.
Santos believes that the BPO industry will continue to grow both in Metro Manila and other BPO hubs in the Philippines as evidenced by property developers building more offices and business hubs to cater to opportunities and the labor force in the provinces.
Another evidence that backs up this optimism by SKF is the recent deal made in September 2018 between JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Megaworld, which SKF brokered – a long-term lease of 70,000 sq.m. of office space in Bonifacio Global City, one of the prime central business districts in Manila. As of writing, this is the largest single office lease deal in the real estate history of the Philippines in terms of both value and size.
by: Sidney Liquigan
As people become more and more health conscious, health and fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, also become increasingly popular. And the rise of these devices drives growth in healthcare-related BPO in the Philippines, as reported by ABS-CBN News.
According to Jeff Williams, chairman of the Healthcare Information Management Association of the Philippines (HIMAP), the BPO segment, where Filipino nurses and doctors give over-the-phone medical and health advice to customers in North America, grew almost ten times in over six years.
"All these new toys are bringing in so much data but can a person really effectively manage it themselves?" Williams said.
Williams explained that more and more people call health experts to help them analyze data from their health monitoring devices. Consulting with health experts over the phone makes check-ups faster and more efficient as they can immediately explain to customers the status of their wellbeing through readily available data from the trackers.
As Williams put it, "With these monitoring devices, we can see immediately 'Oh, we have to turn some prescription down a little bit or turn it up a little bit because we could see the impact.'"
The healthcare BPO industry currently has about over 133,000 direct employees, which is a 787% increase over six years. In 2017, the industry achieved $2.8 billion in revenues, which is a six-fold growth from $450 million in 2012.
As of writing, over-the-phone health analyses and check-ups constitute 10% of the BPO industry in the Philippines. Williams noted that this does not mean the number of healthcare workers in actual hospitals will be reduced, as health and fitness trackers are only meant to serve as complementary gear to actual hospital visits, treatments, and surgeries. What these devices can do is to help in reducing hospital re-admissions.
"If you stay at home with a monitoring device and have clinical people monitoring you, we can stay on top of it, help adjust medications without clogging hospital space for more critical cases," Williams said.
by: Sidney Liquigan
According to studies made by the Oxford Business Group (OBG), creative industries in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines, could be the next economic growth area. These creative industries could be capitalized even more to expand into developing the creative process outsourcing industry.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) defines creative industries as those that deal with not only creativity, but also culture, economics, and technology—generally, activities involving creativity and intellectual property as the main assets. Meanwhile, creative process outsourcing is a form of BPO that focuses on services like graphic design, web development, animation, digital marketing, and game development.
As reported by the Philippine News Agency, OBG Asia Regional Editor Patrick Cooke noted that the youth culture in the Philippines is driven by heavy consumption of music, art, film, fashion, and online content. With this, he added, "The innate Filipino creativity and all-pervasive musicality is impossible for first-time visitors to the country to ignore; the challenge lies in harnessing this for wider economic benefits."
"However, if the country is to truly realize its vast potential as a global hub for creativity, a more cohesive master plan may be needed to establish a viable ecosystem that ensures Filipinos have access to the financing and tools required to develop their considerable talents, as well as an effective means to access local and international markets," Cooke continued.
Aside from local creative and advertising agencies, BPO firms in the Philippines have been offering creative process outsourcing. Creative process outsourcing services in the Philippines cater to businesses from different parts of the world looking to outsource their brand development, marketing collateral, content creation, and website design and development, and to agencies looking to expand their creative team to meet deadlines during peak seasons.
MicroSourcing's creative services unit, MicroCreatives, is composed of graphic designers, web developers, animators, and copywriters that can take on different types of creative projects to meet your requirements. Whether for on-demand tasks, project-based arrangement, or a dedicated staff for a required duration, MicroCreatives offers various models with a highly customizable workflow that can adapt to any business’ existing processes.
by: Sidney Liquigan
In the age of automation, many companies in the IT-BPO industry are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to cut operational costs. The emergence of AI and the increase in the kinds of work processes that automated systems can handle is a clear threat to the Philippine BPO industry, which is currently largely reliant on relatively simple tasks. However, the Philippine government has found a solution to help BPO workers keep their jobs while also taking advantage of technological innovations.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), with the help of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and tech company AI Pros, plan to train BPO workers on the use of Augmented Intelligence (AI2). AI2 refers to the use of IT in enhancing human intelligence.
"Instead of AI replacing jobs in the IT-BPO industry, which is estimated to affect half of the 1.3 million jobs in the sector, the workers will be trained to make use of AI2-enabled systems," said DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez. According to Lopez, this training is a way to take advantage of the AI system as a solution to the so-called threats that it may bring.
"We are the first country to launch this kind of initiative. Instead of looking at AI as a threat to the BPO industry, the Duterte administration is using AI2 to provide more opportunities for inclusive growth," Lopez added.
DTI anticipates AI2 to improve the competencies of BPO workers and targets 482,000 unskilled workers to learn to do low-skilled work, 525,000 low-skilled workers to learn mid-skilled work, and 309,000 mid-skilled workers to become eligible for high-level jobs.
To elaborate, AI2-enabled systems still need humans to operate them. Data-driven technologies can process data and suggest predictions and patterns faster, but these are based off of algorithms that were programmed into the system by a person. As the term "augmented intelligence" suggests, these systems are not meant to replace humans, but rather to augment their intelligence so they can be more efficient in their jobs.
In the BPO industry, data processing and analytics will be one of the fields that will be affected by the AI threat. There are technologies now that can perform in-depth data mining, eliminating the need for data entry professionals. To help them stay in the workforce, the AI2 training program will upskill data entry professionals to handle more complex tasks such as creating strategies and drawing conclusions from the trends and patterns identified by the systems from the data.
Customer service agents can also benefit from the AI2 training program. Augmented intelligence platforms have the ability to provide insights into customer behavior and can predict their needs. The workers will be trained to understand these insights and determine the appropriate actions to deliver according to customer expectations.
In digital marketing, we've been encountering AI2-enabled algorithms every day. Researchers and marketers make use of internet algorithms to study each individual's online activity. The information will then be used to improve products and services and come up with creative advertisements that will reach the right audience at the right time.
Acting DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio said that the training program is part of the "Philippine AI Workforce" brand campaign, which aims to open more job opportunities to Filipinos as well as to extend the development outside the metro.
"We will train and enable our workforce, regardless of their background and experience, to use AI2 to perform smarter and complete difficult tasks, and help them move up the value chain," Lopez said. He also confirmed that this initiative is also open to non-BPO workers, so every Filipino can learn to work with AI and advance in their respective fields.
by: Sidney Liquigan
On March 21, 2018, the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) facilitated the GenNext Leadership Forum with the theme "Leadership in the Age of Disruption". The GenNext Leadership Forum was attended by middle managers from different call center firms in the Philippines. The forum served as a venue for next-generation leaders to hear insights and learn from industry thought leaders and prominent executives who were invited to speak at the event.
Simultaneous with the GenNext Leadership Forum is the Team Leader Summit, which was attended by contact center team leaders with senior managers invited as speakers.
Throughout the events, the recurring message implied was the need of Philippine contact centers for more competent leaders as the sector continuously grows. The speakers shared how future leaders in the contact centers can prepare for the challenges that come with being a leader in the age of disruption.
As innovations in technology continue to evolve, the speakers emphasized the need to update skills in order to maintain growth and create new opportunities. The future leaders were advised to continue learning on their own instead of waiting for formal training opportunities to arrive. Call centers were also advised to address the challenges of complex digitized transactions by encouraging the further understanding of digital operations and analytics.
"We need to continue the education, the partnership, the collaboration so everybody will understand exactly what we need to do as an industry, as a country to be able to capture the growth and to be able to capture new potential business opportunities," said CCAP President Jojo Uligan.
The GenNext Leadership Forum and Team Leader Summit comprise a series of sessions. The second session was held last April 23 in Alabang, and the next two will be on May 28 in Cebu City and August 13 in BGC.
by: Sidney Liquigan
According to Colliers Philippines, the total office supply in Cebu would reach about one million square meters in 2018, as reported by SunStar Cebu.
Office leasing in Cebu is mainly driven by BPO companies, with call centers representing more than 50% of total office leases and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) firms representing 20% in 2017.
Colliers Philippines predicts that for this year, offshore gambling will also become a main player in Cebu's office leasing activity. In 2017, offshore gambling represented 25% of total office leases. Total office transactions in 2017 were at about 107,000 square meters.
"In Manila, offshore gambling is driving the leasing activity of properties, which also have condominium components. And with the continued rise, we expect the same trend to replicate here," said Colliers Philippines Research Manager Joey Roi Bondoc.
Property developers who offer their office spaces to offshore gambling firms were advised by Bondoc to consider building condominiums to complement the offices. As the new office spaces open job opportunities, more workers may need to look for living spaces that are near the business districts.
Furthermore, if Cebu’s local government units would extend local regulations that are more beneficial for businesses like offshore gambling, Colliers Philippines could see an increased growth from the offshore gambling industry in the next two to three years.
As for KPO and business process management (BPM) firms, their annual growth in terms of office transactions is expected to be consistently at around 10% until 2020.
Colliers Philippines also sees the government's 'Build, Build, Build' and decentralization initiatives to be favorable to the office leasing growth in Cebu. The government's programs are said to encourage more offshore gambling and BPO companies, as well as other businesses, to consider the province as a viable location.
"We encourage both landlords and tenants to explore business opportunities within the Call Center City that the local government proposes to develop with the private sector; build office space that could accommodate non-outsourcing and traditional businesses that require smaller cuts; assess the needs of offshore gambling; and open more flexible workspace," Colliers Philippines stated.
by: Sidney Liquigan
At the second Senate hearing on AI's threat on BPO, Senator and Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV urged the government to protect over 1.4 million BPO jobs in the Philippines from impending threats brought upon by AI, the shifting economic policies of other countries, and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.
"We must prepare for these threats and not be caught flat-footed," said Sen. Aquino. "Our fellow Filipinos cannot afford to lose their livelihood, especially in these times," he added.
During the first hearing, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) mentioned that by 2022, there will be a decline in demand for low-skilled jobs in the IT-BPO industry of about 43,000 jobs. However, there is also a potential that AI will open up 388,000 mid-skilled jobs and 309,000 high-skilled jobs, which Sen. Aquino hopes the Filipino BPO workers can be ready for.
"The clear solution is to retrain our workers and upgrade their skills to be viable for higher job levels. Our training centers and academic institutions must start offering courses for these higher-skilled BPO jobs," Sen. Aquino said. He also added that these courses could also be offered through scholarships and TESDA vouchers.
Sen. Aquino also emphasized the urgency of the matter, suggesting that government agencies should take action immediately before the threats start to leave the low-skilled BPO workers jobless.
"I want to see urgency in our agencies to move this forward quickly and with purpose. This is the first time in years that the BPO industry will be at risk. We need to protect our countrymen's jobs," he said.
Aside from discussing the threat of AI to the BPO sector in the Philippines, the Senate hearings headed by Sen. Aquino and the Committee on Science and Technology also aim to determine how the TRAIN Law affects the sector and how the effects can be corrected in the next tax reform package.
Sen. Aquino also announced a third hearing that will occur this month.