Monday, December 1, 2003

Prioritize Critical Skills

Monday, December 1, 2003
Business Times p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Prioritize critical skills

MICHEL Robert writes that one strategic decision that management must wrestle with, once the driving force has been identified, is to clearly identify those two or three skills that are critical and to give those areas preferential resources.

In good times, he says in his book Strategy Pure & Simple, these areas receive additional resources; in bad times they are the last areas you cut.

Robert gave as an example technology-driven company 3M. When Alan Jacobsen took over as chief executive, he set about to improve 3M's profitability and asked all his division heads to cut expenses by as much as 35 percent. But he spared R&D expenditures.

"In fact, he increased R&D from 4.5 percent of sales to 6.6 percent," Robert wrote. "The reason given was that research is a required area of excellence for a technology-driven company."

"Ever since then, 3M has been on a roll, spitting out 300 to 400 new products each year, and its stock has more than doubled in the last five years," Robert added.

My own example is a very young and robust organization at the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ): DevCo Philippines Inc. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Wallem Group, which is headquartered at Taikoo Place, Hong Kong. To all shipping companies in the world, Wallem is known for its agency network covering all major ports in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and, soon, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Wallem Group's information services department is one of maritime industry's leading technology groups. In 1999, Wallem's executive board decided to relocate this ISD's development effort to a local that was more cost effective and more scalable in terms of development throughput. DevCo was incorporated in the Philippines in October 2000.

DevCo is a technology-driven organization toward application development and support, presently as they relate to the maritime industry. As such two of their areas of excellence are technical skills and project management skills.

DevCo's technical skills on software development are predominantly Microsoft-based with specialization on Internet and PKI technologies. They chose to locate in the Philippines, particularly in CSEZ, because of its proximity to four of the Philippines major universities, vast pool of skilled technology professionals and the English proficiency of Filipinos. They consider the Philippines as having an extremely deep pool of skilled technical resources. With the correct leadtime, almost any technical requirement could be satisfied.

DevCo's team is made up of young, enthusiastic and dynamic professions who are amongst the best available in the Philippines. A seasoned management team complements this young team. All 46 technical and support staff are trained formally and on-the-job on leadership and project management skills with coaching from the senior managers.

To ensure that projects are managed efficiently and effectively, DevCo is in the process of formulating SEI-CMM compliant software Policy centered key process areas of project management: requirements management, software project planning, software project tracking and oversight, software quality assurance, software subcontract management and software configuration management.

They are focused on their two areas of excellence in order to push themselves to higher levels of proficiency. They intend to double their operations in their current facility soon while maximizing their resources and taking their technology into new applications and new clients.

One other technology-driven company which is fueled by research, one of its core competences, is the current number one search engine in the Internet today. To quote Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president of Google "Everyone spends a fraction of their day on R&D."

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and assists organizations in their Strategic Thinking and Planning Initiatives. Her email address is

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