The IBM way to developing the Philippines

IBM has been in the Philippines 25 years short of its 100 years of business existence so knowledge of the country is deep and extensive for it to continue to operate in the country. Still, the company continues to reinvent itself in a very competitive industry and has similarly taken the same approach to maintain its local market presence. And one approach of Big Blue is to use the future demands of big data to develop local capability in the country to meet this emerging need by taking a step further beyond its business role by helping DepED develop a suitable educational course for people seeking to have the needed skill.


The promise of a smarter planet 
DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) Updated October 05, 2012


Two weeks ago, Sam Palmisano, the IBM CEO who reinvented IBM by transforming the 100-year old company, graced the celebration of the company’s 75th year in the Philippines. In his speech, he talked about a new generation that is smarter, more clear-headed and more hopeful than any he has ever seen, now taking hold of a world “becoming pervasively instrumented and interconnected, with computation being infused into things nobody would think of as a computer.”The promise of a smarter planet
DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) Updated October 05, 2012

Most of us in this country already have a good idea of what Mr. Palmisano is talking about. With over 10 million of our 100 million people overseas, most Filipinos are familiar with state of the art telecommunications and the wonderful world of the Internet. It is that and much more.

Indeed, even right here at home, the phenomenal growth of the business process outsourcing industry – from call centers to knowledge processing – is providing jobs to our young people none of us could have imagined in our time. The Philippines has become an experienced business, IT and process global delivery center location for several large, global companies.

Technology has become an important driver of our economic growth in recent years. We are now ranked first in the world in voice, overtaking India. We could also be number one in higher value segments of non-voice (finance, accounting, health care, IT, creative, engineering) BPO if we do the right things now.

John Mangun, a columnist in a business daily recently wrote that “the largest single private employer in the Philippines is the US corporation Convergys. Its share price is up 70 percent in the last 12 months. Other publicly listed call-center companies doing business here, Accenture and Genpact, have seen their stock prices increase 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively.”

Mangun thinks “Outsourcing will expand as Western companies are forced to lower expenses in the face of a depreciating dollar. They will move early to the Philippines, whose currency will be stable…”

Finally, our country is in a position to benefit from what Palmisano describes as a remarkable world opening up before us. “Global integration and digital networked technology are changing the way we interact and engage – with customers, employees, citizens of the cities and countries where we do business.”

All this interconnectedness, according to Palmisano, “is generating vast stores of information. Last year, the amount of information created and replicated surpassed 1.8 zettabytes and is expected to grow to 75 zettabytes by 2015.”

It is easy to get lost with all that information. Analytics helps make sense of large quantities of data in real time. As a result, we can get deeper insight into situations and have sharper decision making.

A simple Wikipedia definition of analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. IBM defines Smarter Analytics as an approach that turns information into insight and insight into business outcomes.

Applied to business data, analytics can help describe, predict and improve business performance. Analytics help enterprise decision management in such areas as marketing, credit risk and fraud determination among many others.

Sometimes analytics is called data mining… or using data normally collected by all activities captured or recorded by computers to help make informed business decisions. Even advertising, a field that in my generation had creative people calling the shots has now been invaded by nerds who crunch numbers and tell the creative guys how to tweak their work to produce desired results with the intended audience or market. Those telenovela scripts that keep housewives glued to ABS-CBN are as much influenced by analytics as by the production and writing skills of the creative staff.

I came to appreciate the value of having skills in analytics when one of my daughters working in Silicon Valley described to me how she does her work as a strategist in the use of social media. Now she is thinking that perhaps, investing two years and more than $200,000 on an MBA is not as useful as honing up her skills in interpreting mountains of data that will make her marketing communications plans sharper in a vastly fragmented market.

So where do you get those skills? Traditional educational institutions even in the United States are just starting to gear up to meet this need. Here in the Philippines, things are still in the planning stage and only after the newly appointed IBM country manager started making the rounds of DepEd and CHED officials to sell them the idea of a curriculum for a certificate and a degree course on analytics.

Mariels Almeda Winhoffer, who was born and raised in Manila, studied in Fordham and a 26-year veteran of IBM that includes working directly under Palmisano, is passionate about helping develop local skills that will enable us to move up the value chain in the BPO industry. She wants to help shape and define the Next Generation BPO during her assignment here as president and country manager.

And because she believes Smarter Analytics will be a lever to accelerate the Philippines’ opportunity for growth and global competitiveness, she is spending a good deal of time talking to our movers and shakers in government and the private sector. She wants to get a strong consensus and commitment to develop our human capital so we can deliver these higher value services beyond the traditional call centers.

Mariels believes the Philippines can be the global center for Smarter Analytics. We have growing technical skills and proven success and experience in BPO. Our costs are also a fraction of what it is in the US. Being a global center means that the Philippines will be home to top consulting, technical and support skills for selling, developing the solutions and delivering advanced business analytics globally.

Perhaps her being a Filipina and the first female country manager here is driving Mariels to push as hard as she can to realize her vision. She has started to leverage the “key plays,” such as cloud, smarter analytics, smarter planet, and geo expansion to drive the innovation in the country which she sees as one of IBM’s top 20 growth markets.

When I first met Mariels some months ago at the Tuesday Club, I wondered why the local IBM president would even take time to have coffee with a group of media folks normally more interested in politics and business gossip than high technology. So I ended monopolizing her time with us. I was fascinated with this balikbayan who made good in a tough world-class environment and who seems to be sincerely committed to raising our country’s competitiveness through technology.

She talked to me about how technology, Smart Analytics if you will, can be used to provide smart governance in our local government units. She cited the case of Davao City where IBM is working with mayor Sara Duterte to use a system that would create a smarter city in terms of a vastly improved public safety: crime prevention and suppression; emergency response; threat prevention and response; and traffic management.

Using an IBM solution, city officials are now coordinating the city’s multiple communications channels including radios, phones, videos and instant messaging to ensure seamless collaboration with first responders and speed up incident response time. Video analytics is enhancing their ability to track traffic and monitor events at important public venues like city hall, the airport and malls.

Mariels got me so excited about how IBM and mayor Duterte are using technology to improve LGU service delivery that I am planning to visit Davao soon and see for myself. If it works there, Metro Manila mayors have no excuse not to adopt the same system in the National Capital Region.

Frankly, I haven’t seen an IBM country manager work so hard to build on what we already have in the country and move it several notches higher. She takes to heart what Palmisano said about the digital shift that will create winners and losers, based primarily on what individual leaders do and she wants to make sure we are on the winners’ side.

I guess Mariels is thinking that if she can help it, the country of her birth is going to be a winner and she has the opportunity, indeed the support of her management to use the might of Big Blue to make that happen. After all, that’s how not just to survive but to thrive in today’s smarter planet.

Computer bug warning

Wife 1.0 has an undocumented bug.

If you try to install Mistress 1.1 before uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before doing the uninstall itself.

Then Mistress 1.1 will refuse to install, claiming insufficient resources.


Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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