MEETING THE CHALLENGES: A Message from the President

In December of 2005, after a very long absence, I decided to rejoin COFIC and renew my relationship with our colleagues in the consulting industry. I met new people whom I have never met before. That was when I realized that I have been detached from the industry and I felt I had isolated myself, oblivious of what was happening in the industry.

During that December meeting, I found myself "pushed" to the post of Treasurer of COFIC for 2006 and later President for this year, succeeding the late Bert Tato, one of moving forces of COFIC. Notwithstanding how busy we all are, I acceded to the challenge and these 2 years have taught me a lot and have opened my eyes more about realities, particularly in our industry.

What are some of these realities that are sending chills to our membership?

1. Globalization is here – Foreign firms have not only dipped into our human resources. They have also set up their shops here and recruited our people to man their shops. It is actually good for the economy as Filipinos are getting employed but there is definitely an impact to our business.

2. We're losing our good guys for higher pay – Foreign companies, especially multinational companies can definitely afford to offer higher compensation packages with attractive benefits and these have lured our able and dependable people to the their side. There is only one way for us to keep them and this is by matching the offer. The problem is that we do not have the level of business and the business stability to do that unlike the multinationals.

3. Our local consulting rates are generally getting lower – While the rates of expatriate consultants have been "respected", the rates of local consultants are not improving and in fact deteriorating with the practice of "quality cost based" selection process. In order to get the business, we are most often forced to "drop" our prices and field less qualified technical people or even resort to "dangerous business practices" that can adversely affect our quality of work, our business profits or our reputation and dignity.

Confronted with these realities, we ask ourselves questions that deserve some answers: But we will not attempt to have answers today. This will be the tasks for the coming year.

1. How do we keep our rates attractive to be able to keep our good people? Maybe by convincing our biggest customer, our government, to recognize the worth of our specialists and consultants? But will it be worth the work to our clients? Or maybe we can look outside and compete in the international market?

2. If we decide to compete against foreign firms in the international market, what is our unique value proposition? How do we make use of our competitive or comparative advantages? How do we transform the playing field to minimize the disadvantage of our own weaknesses (looking for that Blue Ocean)?

3. What role can COFIC, our organization, play? Members definitely look forward to some benefit from its membership in any organization. COFIC, too, must have a unique value proposition.

Action Plan for 2008

Let's give honor and pride to COFIC. Let us approach it from 2 fronts.

1. Improve on what we have (knowledge & skills)
2. Improve on the way we do our business

Part 1 can probably be addressed by continuous education and training of key people of our respective firms, exposures to technical conferences and conventions both here and outside the Philippines, participation in researches, scientific fora, etc.

Part 2 can probably subdivided into 2 sub-parts. Part2A can be referred to as the technical and procedural aspect of doing our business, professionalizing our business processes. Here, we can talk about ISO, FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Firms), PMI, 6 Sigma, soft skills improvement, etc. I consider these as value addition and definitely have contribution to the financial bottom line and image that it gives to clients. I myself would like to see all COFIC member companies having that stamp of ISO accreditation. Some of us have this already. We, at CEST, are in the final stages of having one.

In a meeting last week, our umbrella organization, COFILCO, will, in principle, be recognized by the Government Policy Procurement Board (GPBB) starting 2008 but subject to certain conditions. One is the accreditation of the capability of each member firm and GPPB will expect COFILCO to have a system of accreditation. COFILCO will pass on this responsibility to the all member organizations. And that includes us.

We will aim to be a FIDIC member within the next 2 years. It is very doable. CECOPHIL is a FIDIC member. We should also require our key people to take the test and be certified Project Managers. This will separate the men from the boys. Things like these will definitely contribute in giving us recognition, not only here but internationally, as well.

Part 2B is more of the moral aspect of carrying out our business. Corruption is definitely pervasive. In the UN conference on Anti-Corruption yesterday, Senator Peter Cayetano aptly said that one of the most effective ways to curb this practice is by having transparency in our business. There is really no debate on this. This age of information has transformed the work place inside a glass cage where everyone will almost know what everyone else is doing. It’s not only through the net. We have in our country a very dynamic SMS network, too. Both, the good and the bad things that we do are easily broadcasted to people within the industry.

COFIC has done a first in the Philippine consulting industry. We agreed, in our 4th quarter meetings, to become a member of Transparency International, Philippine Chapter. By being a member, we are saying that we dislike the branding that the international community is giving us Filipinos. We are saying that we want to start a change process. It will not be easy. It will not be short and immediate. But at least, we have joined the many organizations both in the private and government sectors in the drive for moral transformation and recovery for a better Philippines.

The other bigger challenge here is the fuel to support these plans. We will need resources to get these going. We cannot rely simply on membership dues and very stressful fund raising activities. We have to come up with more creative ways of raising funds. At least before the end of this year, we will be able to raise P100,000 from 3 member firms who pledge donations as a result of a collaboration of strengths and that led to the successful closing of 2 contracts. Small as the amount, it is still very meaningful. I once again thank these firms. Voluntary donations are always welcome.

I would encourage our member firms to look within COFIC if ever they need complementation. Remember, we have a wide range of expertise within our organization that can be harnessed. If we improve the way we do our business, technical, procedural and moral, and if we help one another, we will have a bigger chance of creating wealth. And I am hopeful. If we have more wealth, it will be easier for us to share just part of it.

The more we share, the more we receive.

Thank You.

Antonio U. Navarro
COFIC President