Jampro president Diane Edwards is calling for a rethink of how Jamaica views the business process outsourcing, or BPO sector, starting with a name change.
It's time to start referring to the sector as business process management, or BPM, to complement Jamaica's ambitions of providing more value-added support services.
"When we talk about business process outsourcing, it has got a bit of a bad name because we have come in at the entry level, and nothing is wrong with that, as long as we climb the value chain. The point about business process management is that people need to understand the breadth of this industry," the Jampro president said on Tuesday in answer to questions after the announcement of an updated study about the sector, now under way.
The study, being done by Tholons, an international consulting firm specialising in information communication technology or ICT, began in 2012 and was updated in 2014. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is financing the latest update, which has fresh statistics and an examination of the needs of the BPO market.
The final results of the study should be available in another three months, according to Tholons.
"The study addresses all of the elements that go into the development towards the digital economy, so it looks at the human resources, it also looks at how we need to develop those human resources, the skill set that is needed, the infrastruc-ture, the marketing and the market positioning," Edwards said.
Tackle critical areas
CEO of Tholons, Avinash Vashistha, who presented a summary of some of the findings so far, said Jamaica needs to quickly address a number of critical areas in order to advance. Among them: a refined mission and vision and an alignment of industry investment policies, industry-academic alignment and the development and implementation of a skills-assessment platform to gauge industry standards.
Edwards also used the occasion to urge BPO companies to be alert and responsive to the sector's changing dynamics.
All stakeholders involved
"The whole question of the human talent base is critical to driving us into the digital age and to understanding that it is much more than what we call, in our pedestrian way, BPO, but it's really the evolution to business process management and to a digital economy," she said.
The research team, along with Jampro officials and representatives of the IDB, met with three top government officials - Education Minister Ruel Reid; Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for growth; and State Minister in the Ministry of Finance Fayval Williams - whom Edwards said were important to get on board.
"We wanted all the stakeholder ministers to understand the critical drivers of this industry going forward and the role that their ministry has to play in energising and catapulting this industry to the next level," she said.
One of the considerations discussed was the idea of "finishing schools" to refine Jamaican talent for the BPO sector. There were no concrete decisions on the proposal, but the importance of soft skills as well as the technical skills in BPM was acknowledged, Edwards said.
"What we have to be doing is to look at ways of up-skilling our workforce in a way that they can be ready for the digital economy, whether that means that they will be into business process management," Edwards said.
The push to reposition recognises, she said, that any process done in a large company can be outsourced, including financial management operations, such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, and collections.
Edwards said Jamaica can find a valuable niche in specialist areas such as accounting and finance, legal services and the health industry.