Tech companies operating support services out of the Philippines have found themselves facing potential disruption to their businesses after more than 55 million people were quarantined on the island of Luzon, home to the country’s capital, Manila.
Manila has long been a favourite of local technology providers looking for cost-effective back office and support services, and the government’s move to lock down Luzon in its efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely to affect many of the teams servicing local organisations.
Australian cloud solutions distributor Rhipe is one of many local tech companies that maintains an office and tech support team in Manila. But that doesn’t mean that the publicly-listed company has had to wind down its operations in the country.
This is largely thanks to Rhipe’s intense focus on cloud-based solutions, which it not only distributes, but also uses internally.
“We are a born-in-the-cloud company,” Rhipe CEO Dominic O’Hanlon told ARN. “Everything that we have and everything that we do is cloud, even our own technology; it runs our business, everything.
“So as a result, everybody in every one of our locations can work from home, other than Manila. In every location, we have people working from home all the time. And so we are well rehearsed that we use Microsoft Teams, which is a common business practice for us.
“We don't have any warehouses or trucks or forklifts or any logistics requirements, so there is zero disruption in our core business,” he added.
According to O’Hanlon, Rhipe moved early to establish a work from home policy for its 400-plus direct staff members. Indeed, its employees have long enjoyed the facilities to work remotely, if needed.
But, as noted by O’Hanlon, Manila has conventionally been an exception to the rule. There are a few reasons for this, with much of the work that Rhipe undertakes in Manila revolving around tech support on behalf of software vendors.
Such activity has traditionally called for a central, secure location with reliable connectivity from where tech support staff can work from. But even in this environment, Rhipe is working on ways to keep its troops on deck, even if they can’t come into the office.
“We do support calls, managing support that's coming into the U.S. So we actually have a tech team [there],” O’Hanlon said. “They're taking calls from all around the world and taking tech support calls.
“Now in this particular case, the staff in the Manila office have been in a centralised and highly secure location, managing those tech support calls. [But] we are now implementing a work from home policy in Manila also,” he said.
Broadly, Rhipe is once again using the technology that it sells to help equip its Manila support workers to work from home amid the lockdown. This involves the use of Microsoft Teams again, along with a bit more work than usual to reroute calls and handle the business infrastructure in slightly different ways than usual.
“Perhaps one of the barriers will be the speed of the internet in some people's homes,” O’Hanlon said. “But we're in the middle of this right now, so our key project is figuring out, of all of our 180 staff in Manila, who's got fast enough networks at home who's got the technology that they need to be able to do their job.
“And at this stage, we don't have a firm answer. But the good news is, it's looking positive, that we'll be able to get a good percentage of our workforce working remotely and quickly,” he said.