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SBO Manila: A Philippine-made brand of excellence

By Frandy B. Martir and Jun Jay G. Jimenez

When Shell Business Operations (SBO) - Manila was established 11 years ago, who would ever thought that a mere 49 staff who worked their way in servicing a small number of onshore business partners and stakeholders would pave the way for a stronger and now globally recognised organisation?

Now standing proud and successful with around 3,500 employees, SBO-Manila has gone a long way after more than a decade of continued global excellence and commitment to first class service and partnership.

“It was not an easy trek, though the odds were pretty clear at the start. Definitely, it was not a moment that we can easily call the shot at one glance,” said Edralin Payongayong, Shell Business Service Centre General Manager for the Manila Centre. “The employees who started and worked their way in ensuring that business continuity and operations were not disrupted especially during the critical migration phase were significant and instrumental to the success of the Centre. There have been many critical and challenging times, but I can assure you that these challenging times played an important role for us to see which part of our operations we need to improve more and determine which ones our teams are stronger at. On the other hand, and more than anything else, I marvel on the many good times that we all share which energised us to make the Centre successful as it is today,” he added.

Manila made the cut

Manila was not the lone choice when the time for selecting the right location came for Shell to establish its first Shell Shared Service Centre. It was the company’s first venture into the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, and the stakes were high.

“When the team came to the Philippines, we knew that they have pretty much settled down with one location and that was not Manila,” said Edgar Chua, Shell companies in the Philippines Country Chairman. “We were told that since they were already in Asia, the team decided to make a side trip to the Philippines. We met with them, we showed them what the Filipinos are capable of achieving, and the rest is what we now see as a globally recognised Shell Business Operations Centre based in Manila,” Chua enthused with pride.

Like the usual foreign traveler who gets mesmerised with the sights and sounds after his first trip to the Philippines, the Shell Team in-charge of putting up the Shared Services business made a 180-degree turn, the moment they saw and realised the potentials of the country.

With its strategic geographical location, Shell’s strong business presence, and a vast supply of professionals who are capable to communicate in English, Manila made its mark as a business-viable location that would advance Shell’s partnership and services to its customers globally.

Breaking the barriers of silo operations

Championing the spirit of teamwork and collaboration, the Manila Centre started to roll swiftly with an inspired, pioneering team members who were guided by the ideals and values of the company. “Looking back, we established who we are, and looking ahead, we define our journey. At present, our focus shifted from a service-oriented mentality to a mindset driven by partnership and business value,” said Noel Paraso, who was once General Manager of SBO Manila and recently retired from service as Shell Country Finance Lead and Global Operations Manager for Finance Operations Data.

“Management made sure that the transition was smooth and had value by equipping our team with the right skills and the requisite continuous improvement mentality which empowered them not just to survive the day-to-day challenges, but also embrace full accountability for the business activities after the critical migration phase,” Paraso added.

The changes to how the system operates and the dynamics of the team continued to outperform itself even after a successful kick-off. It was during the early years of the Centre that the value of sustainability came into the picture. “We have added the flavour of a true Filipino workmanship and excellence, but what we then had to secure was to make these triumphs sustainable while keeping our people in good shape, safe, and living a balanced life,” said Payongayong.

Shell’s commitment to safety is its license to operate. But in the BPO context, it continues to be a challenge given the Centre’s diverse working hours and operational demands from customers based in time zones different from that of Manila.

Continuously making the Centre an ideal workplace, various resilience programmes were evident across all departments allowing people to shape up their growth according to what works for them, while maintaining their optimum operational delivery and at the same time enjoy the company of friends and extended family members.

Honing my career in a place I call “Home”

Growing in a company that takes care of its people is a familiar thought among Shell staff. As many of us now are able to connect to the world at a click of a finger, opportunities are endless and choices are vast. But what makes Shell a company to grow old with? We’ve asked some of our colleagues this question, and here’s what they have to say:

“Growth stability and better opportunities like exposure outside of the Philippines – Shell being a global company.” – Liz Fernandez

“I believe in the company’s commitment to Ethics and Compliance and its rich General Business Principles – it is aligned with my personal values. Shell takes care of its people in a similar way that you would do for your family. This is the reason why I stayed this long.” – Agnes Estopo

“A professional company who takes care of its employees…The Best.” – Vic Pascual

In the league of nation builders

SBO Manila’s unique quality of being able to house the most number of staff at a given time and performing and delivering value-adding partnership to both local and global stakeholders is what sets it apart. With around 3,500 staff working on diverse hours and work shifts have earned for the Centre to be recognised as the biggest in the Shell global community.

Shell is also known for its advocacies supporting sports, arts, education, environment preservation in tune with Shell’s commitment to sustainable development. Many of these social investment programmes and volunteerism projects are propelled due to the commitment of our colleagues in SBO-Manila that springs from their love for social service and community volunteerism. “Their simple acts of charity and volunteering their time for social and community service and projects are truly admirable,” said Jackie Ampil, Pilipinas Shell Social Investment Manager. 

What began as their way of instilling fun at work created a wave of support from all staff across all Functions and Departments to Shell’s sustainable development projects thru internal fund raising activities such as the Search for Mr. and Ms. SBO Manila. These served as additional platforms for staff to voluntarily give something for environmental cause, education, and the community especially during disaster relief operations. “I am touched with how our colleagues in SBO-Manila has put their 3,500 strong workforce to help propel their corporate social responsibility projects in their own way,” added Ampil.

To another decade of excellence

More than a decade of world-class performance has given SBO-Manila the platform to move ahead and look forward to another decade of excellence.

The humble beginnings of the Centre from 49 to 3,500 employees and growing is a testament to the trust and confidence of Shell management in its ability to consistently deliver quality service and in building world-class partnership.

In his message to SBO Manila staff, Jawwad Cheema, Vice President –Shell Business Service Centres said, “This milestone is brought by the hard work, efficient and effective collaboration, and resiliency of our team in Manila – a clear testament on how the Centre has grown in the past decade. Our people made the difference real.”

Armed with Shell’s core values and commitment to safety while embracing the Shell General Business Principles which are exemplified in its daily operations, SBO-Manila is set to soar higher to deliver valuable milestones in the coming years.

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