, FEBRUARY 28, 2007
 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - For a while it seems that almost all the IT jobs that can be outsourced have been outsourced to India, the outsourcing capital of the world. Now, it can be said that the rest of the developing world, the Philippines included, is fast catching up.

In the last few years, the outsourcing train has brought to the country Fortune 500ís offshore call centers and the concept of business process outsourcing (BPO), creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in legal and medical transcription, customer care, back office, animation and other technology-related services.

Experts, however, agree that it is in the areas of software development and engineering design that the country should focus on as these can provide high-value jobs to the countryís highly skilled workforce.

These jobs are coming to the Philippines, in slow, steady spurts but hopes are high that someday the country will corner a bigger pie of the BPO space.

Only recently, a Tampa, Florida-based enterprise application development and systems integration company made the bold move of coming to the Philippines to set up an offshore facility for software and application development.

"We are very bullish about coming to the Philippines," says Jim Lynch, president and COO of ProV International. "We can find fantastic talents here."

Citing the Filipinosí English proficiency and the comparative cost of doing its backroom work here, Lynch says the bottom line is delivering high-quality work to their customers in the United States and Europe at substantially reduced cost.

Lynch explains that operating a 24 x 7 company is a very expensive proposition for most companies. But it is the way to go in todayís global marketplace and cost management will be more critical as technology moves forward.

"Almost every business is 24 x 7 and outsourcing is part of the big picture. The key is to onshore and offshore," says Lynch. "If we can create a solution that solves 80 percent of the problem, that would be great."

ProV International is a relatively young organization, founded only in 2003 in Tampa. It provides a broad spectrum of fully integrated IT consulting and networking services, including infrastructure control and resource management (ICRM).

The companyís core competencies are Siebel, SAP and other business suite implementations in CRM, ERP, data warehousing, and e-commerce. It currently focuses on healthcare but has worked for a range of Fortune 1000 clients in industries such as manufacturing, utilities, education, telecommunications, banking and finance, and insurance.

ProVís service package comes with a 24 x 7 technical support and an assurance of uninterrupted operation, faster turnarounds and cost-effectiveness.

The plan, according to Robert Berry Jr., ProV Internationalís Philippine country manager, is to hire the best talents locally, bring them to the US for training and back again to the Philippines to develop the applications here.

Currently, the newly set-up company has about 54 people on board, majority of whom are software engineers.

"By the end of the year, we expect to grow our workforce to about 500," says Lynch.

Both executives admit though that with the relatively small size of the software development industry in the Philippines, it is quite a big gamble on their part to move their software division to the Philippines from Mumbai, India where they also maintain a development center.

Lynch and Berry, however, are one in saying that the Philippines has an underutilized strength and there is a good amount of room to grow here.

"The business acumen of the engineering talent here is very high and we are pleasantly surprised with the quality of work," discloses Berry, who overseas the hiring of their Filipino workforce.

"The Philippines is also a major talent exporter. That got to change. We are one of the companies that can invite that change," he says, referring to the exodus of Filipino professionals abroad.

The vision of Lynch and co-founder Ajit Nair, according to the companyís website, is to employ a global workforce to provide end-to-end IT services for enterprise clients.

Lynch and Berry told IT reporters in a press luncheon that although they initially eyed the Philippines as their offshore base in the Asia-Pacific region, they were also looking at the Philippines as a market.

As a systems integration firm, they believe that their services would be valuable not only to Filipino companies but to those in other Asian countries as well.

"We learn a lot from the different markets that we serve," says Lynch.

Initially, PRoV is targeting call centers and universities that have a need for enterprise applications and networking services.

The ProV executives are unfazed by the relatively smaller size of the business in the region compared to the Fortune 100 companies they are currently servicing.

"What we hope to do is to get more undertakings here and grow our whole business in the process," says Lynch. "We donít have to take the Harvards and the Cambridges of the world when we can do work for 40 smaller universities and learn and grow in the process."

Whatever the economists and the politicians are saying in the US and major outsourcing countries, outsourcing is here to stay. Quoting Thomas Friedman in his book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, it is "about being able to operate in, mobilize, inspire and manage a multidimensional and multicultural workforce."

Friedman recounts that when he was growing up, his parents use to say, "Tom, finish your dinner ó people in China and India are starving." Now he says his advice to his kids is, "Girls, finish your homework, people in China are starving for your jobs." And in a flat world, he says, "They can have them because there is no such thing as an American job. There is just a job and in more cases it will go to the best, smartest, most productive, or cheapest worker ó wherever he or she resides."

Outsourcing or offshoring has become a political issue in the major outsourcing countries of the world, but the competitive spirit has always driven innovation and global trade since the beginning of time.

Following Friedmanís line of thinking, maybe we can tell our kids, "Baby, do your homework so that someday you will not have to leave home to work. The jobs are coming."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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