IT Makeover

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 02-11-2008 Print Email

IT Makeover

Ramji was CEO of BT's technology group, then known as BT Exact, when in late 2004 he outlined a vision: BT would remake its IT organization from the ground up to put internal and external customers first. The program Ramji announced was called One IT, and its scale was enormous.

The platform strategy--delivering services via 21CN--was fundamental from the beginning. "It started as a conversation among a very few people, about three of us," says Nazi, then vice president of global engineering. "We started by looking at our customer service network operations--the customer self-service network, we called it then--and thinking of how it could be improved."

Ramji, who had arrived at BT several months earlier, after serving as CIO of Qwest Communications International, was on board within a week, and BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen was quick to buy in when the plan was fleshed out and brought to the board.

But the primary selling points to investors and the media were cost and efficiency. "Everyone saw it first as a cost-cutting exercise, and that suited us fine," says JP Rangaswami, managing director of BT Design, who joined BT in 2006 as CIO of Global Services, after serving as CIO of investment bank Kleinwort Dresdner.

Certainly there was work to be done on those fronts: BT had 14,500 IT workers but lacked centralized management and strategy. Semi-independent IT fiefdoms abounded across the enterprise, and within them, some 4,300 projects churned along--many without relationships to each other or connections to a larger purpose, and none tracked by performance metrics.

One IT set out to reduce the number of systems to 100, all of them running on 14 core platforms known as "the matrix." These platforms are built around a service-oriented architecture, Java and Microsoft's .Net, allowing BT to build its own services on top. "The matrix is a way of future-proofing ourselves," says Rangaswami. "It allows us to add customers, data and services, and to integrate acquisitions, while avoiding the delays caused by handoffs from one system to another."

Ramji imposed tight standards on the process, setting specific delivery dates--published across the company--for projects and running them in 90-day cycles that ended in performance reviews that would yield bonuses if targets were met.

Change didn't happen overnight, and nobody got bonuses for the first few months, but the IT function has been remade and integrated into the business at large. IT is now a single global service, not embedded in individual units, where the term CIO is no longer used. "CIO suggests technology, and we want to suggest service and customer experience," Rangaswami says.

Return on investment is expected and measured, and reviews follow the deployment of new systems, which are delivered about three times faster than they used to be. Some 3,100 technology jobs were converted to customer-facing positions, with £15 million ($29.9 million) allocated for worker retraining. One IT yielded big cost savings--almost 20 percent in unit costs, according to BT--amounting to £240 million ($477.6 million) over the past two years.

Along the way, the company has adopted new methods of measuring performance to reflect its new business focus, including metrics like Right First Time and Reduced Cycle Time. Writes Cansfield: "Doing so will reveal how successful One IT has been and signal the pace of transformation in the business. These are likely to be as revealing of BT's health as financial and network measures. [BT is] "probably the industry leader in this respect."



 

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