Sunday, March 15, 2009

The BPO Dream

Green pastures a couple of decades ago translate to Western countries, migration, dollars and Caucasians. We all love to explore and to take advantage of the luck and opportunities overflowing in the West. We strive hard to get out of our own country to find work that could uplift our lifestyle as well as our families. In those days, one only needed a certain amount of bravery, an ability to read, write and be resourceful to make it big there. Now it demands more than that. A highly specialized degree and a stronger stomach. More ore less these are basic requirements to cross and survive there. Ten decades later with the emergence of outsourcing, intense competition and the global economic crisis we all love to talk about, the green pastures may prove to gone local this time.

Efficient cost cutting seems to be the best option for corporations right now to avoid closing shop. And let's face it, Philippines has a highly competitive and hungry pool of educated professionals that could be considered efficient and 'cheap.' In Westerners' eyes, we have one of the lowest operational costs which include labor, office rent and cost of living. With having the western culture strongly embedded with ours, it's not much of a big adjustment if not for the tropical weather. But they don't necessarily have to cross to the east physically, Filipinos are known to be hardworking and honorable in work on-site or off site. A quick conference call overseas would be enough to handle a global project. Filipinos on site or off site are known to be god fearing, resourceful, dedicated and flexible to their clients needs. What more could Westerners ask for? Throw in a big bonus that we're good with English.

I worked in an outsourcing industry, a couple of years back when I was still trying hard to be an effective slave for a local banking corporation. The thought of outsourcing then was still vague to me. All I knew it was a call center and didn't demand much of what I've learned in college. After a couple of interviews, preening and questions, I was recruited by a top consulting firm and was assigned to be a pilot member of an outsourced team that was tasked to do database research and claims processing for a big health insurance company in the States. Already sounds good compared to my previous job.

My team mates, all of us who have different backgrounds from Architecture, Liberal Arts, Engineering to Business, were trained to work on systems, database and processes for the entire month. Our work required us to have meetings with our onshore counterparts as if merely attending your normal office meeting on site. It also meant that I had to endure a graveyard shift and sacrifice the already "lack of social" exposures even when I was still having a normal 8 am to 5 pm scheme.

The processes were dynamic and it was a huge leap from a traditional working environment to a linear and western one. From an intense paper-environment, I moved on to a paperless one. From a cluttered and cramped up working space, I went to working for a top outsourcing company that made me taste an ergonomic office lifestyle with free drinks, supplies and flat screen monitors. From a local organization that gives a stringent list of benefits and compensation, I moved on to a highly competitive one. From a traditional organization, I moved on to something modern. The work flow, the culture and the environment I really like except for the schedule. But for I liked the pace and the culture so much that I lasted two years full of relocating and erratic schedules. I survived and excelled until I got myself burned out.

Outsourcing seems to be the answer to companies and the nightmare to westerners especially if you're an onshore employee. I've been a sole witness and a mover on how we were efficient with what we were tasked to do. Not only did we meet it, we constantly excelled in it, which is a true Pinoy hardworking trait. I was a witness to our outsourced team expanding and our onshore counterparts slowly diminishing. At some points I felt bad, but doing the tasks faster and more efficient is something I've learned I shouldn't apologize for.

I was proud of what I did and my mind became open on outsourced functions that go beyond merely call centers and telephone sales. I got used to people asking questions on why I worked for a call center, well I just briefly tell them that I am not. Outsourcing, contrary to what most people think, is not just doing call center work. We're making the office global I would say doing different things. From analyzing, designing and back office processing, we offer and if others do not catch the point, I suggest they swim into the idea. They might not know what they're missing.

With the global recession going on, it's harder and harder to find jobs in a country where recession originated in the first place. The green pastures we once thought is slowly drying up. Unless you would want to throw your degree out the window and start taking very odd jobs there, it's more lucrative to stay in the Philippines now for a better pay and closer family ties. Thanks to outsourcing, companies bring the "honorable" jobs to us and not the other way around. Global corporations saw us, not only as their greener pasture, but a mirage of hope that could help them cut costs, be more efficient and be more global. Proud to say that the numbers are continuously rising as I type.

Aside from the typical voice calls, there are lots of jobs that are making itself known to us like research and analysis, financial reporting, transcription, web designs, IT infrastructure and management, human resources, legal matters, even graphics and publishing. Business Process Outsourcing, Shared Services and Knowledge Process outsourcing share a similar concept of cost efficient, highly professional and dynamic work environment. It is the new green pasture for some of us.

If some clients close down in the western countries, more and more organizations jump ship to ours to give us locals something to think about. Maybe our greener pastures have changed. Maybe it's time to view our country as one big hub of professionals eager to succeed in our own shores.

“Companies abroad have only two choices these days—outsource or surrender and close shop,” he says, pointing out the financial meltdown has made the Philippines even more attractive because it allows foreign companies to tighten their belts without sacrificing their service. (


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