IT-BPM’s strong finish shaken by typhoon Odette

·5 min read

CEBU’S information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) firms were poised for a strong finish in 2021 until Typhoon Odette (Rai) battered the industry, majority of whose workers have been working from home since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in early 2020.

Typhoon Odette which devastated some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao cut power, telco and water lines. Its wrath also resulted in limited transportation and long queues in ATMs, gasoline stations and supermarkets.

In a recent press release, Cebu IT-BPM. Organization (Cib.O) disclosed that the industry had already lost an estimated P5 billion in revenues in the first five days since Typhoon Odette disrupted business operations.

Because of this and the still ongoing global battle against the Covid-19 pandemic and the upcoming May 2022 national elections, Pert Cabataña, Cib.O president, forecasted 2022 to still be “a very challenging year.”

“The world economy for one will continue to be hobbled by the tailwinds of Covid-19. And in the specific case of the Philippines that is holding its presidential election in May, some headwinds are to be expected,” said Cabataña.

He noted that in the last three months of the year, the organization had already started coordinating with the National Economic and Development Authority and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority to take definite steps to go back to the office (for onsite work) but this was stalled when Typhoon Odette hit Cebu last Dec. 16.

“We said that we expect some 80 percent of our employees would need to go back to office for better security and privacy control and management, as well as for better project coordinations. The other 20 percent are good to work from anywhere that has electricity and internet connectivity,” said Cabataña.

“Then, like a thief in the night, Odette came and changed the entire landscape not only for Cib.O but for the entire province and region as a matter of fact. Combined with the still ongoing Covid-19 problem, the Odette devastation certainly are major setbacks for us that will take years for us to climb out of,” he added.

Economic lifesaver

The IT-BPM sector was the country’s economic lifesaver at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It saved the national and local economies when almost all industries were pounded by the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) chairman Benedict Hernandez underscored that the sector remains one of the Philippines’ economic pillars.

Agile and resilient, the industry navigated through major headwinds to drive recovery in 2020 with 1.32 million full-time employees (FTEs) and US$26.7 billion in revenue.

Citing a study by the Everest Group, Hernandez said amid the lingering impact of the pandemic, 2021 marks a resurgence for the country’s IT-BPM sector—preserving jobs, generating new opportunities, stimulating countryside development and creating demand for real estate.

According to the report, Philippine IT-BPM is expected to increase between seven to eight percent in terms of FTEs and eight to 12 percent in terms of revenue.

This is similarly reflected in a survey conducted by IBPAP showing that 56 percent of companies are seeing a double-digit growth by yearend while 38 percent are predicting single-digit growth. Another six percent remarked that they are forecasting flat growth in 2021.

Three percent growth

“We entered the year 2021 already prepared for more of the lockdowns and restrictions and all their consequent economic repercussions. Despite these, however, we, in the IT-BPM industry confidently, valiantly soldiered on knowing that we have tools (such as work-from-home setups) to enable us to continue operating. We still expected some three percent growth,” said Cabataña.

Banking on the lessons learned since the pandemic, the IBPAP has already started preparing for the industry’s six-year roadmap.

The much-anticipated IT-BPM Roadmap 2028 will be the blueprint that will define the sector’s key priorities in digitization, talent, policy shaping, infrastructure and country branding in the next six years.

The organization aims to launch it in the middle of 2022.

Amid the headwinds due to the ongoing pandemic, the IT-BPM industry continues to be a sunrise industry that is providing impetus for revenue and job opportunities.

“Contrary to what some people believe, the IT-BPM industry is not at its sunset. Far from it. This is evidenced by our extraordinary performance and growth despite the past 20 months of unprecedented change—a shared triumph that we can all be proud of,” said Jack Madrid, president and chief executive officer of IBPAP.

AI, automation

Moving forward, Cabataña said the push towards artificial intelligence, automation and so on will continue.

“The world of technology does not stop regardless of the coronavirus or Odette. It will be up to us to redouble our efforts to make ourselves stronger participants in the world of technology,” he added.

“Moreover, the creation of unicorns will be a benchmark that we as a country, as an economy will have to watch very closely,” the Cib.O official added.

In business, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over US$1 billion.

“We are way behind China (more than 200 unicorns) and India (more than 60 unicorns), behind Singapore (more than 10 unicorns) and Indonesia (more than five unicorns) and just at par with Vietnam (one unicorn each),” he said.

Cib.O vows to push for innovation and talent development moving forward.

“Our push to execute our innovation and ecosystem development initiatives and talent development initiatives, with a strong participation of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and private partner companies, will need to be pushed more. The need for additional people, specifically right-skilled people will continue, and we have to make sure we continue producing them,” he added.

Cabataña also added that the upcoming May 2022 elections will also play a critical role in the overall recovery of the country.

“I do hope and pray that our people will do a better job of choosing its leaders this time. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the choices that we make in our leadership structure,” said Cabataña.

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