BT`s Next Challenge

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 02-11-2008

One of BT's biggest wins in the marketplace is its lead role in the massive, multi-billion dollar IT modernization program at Britain's National Health Service (NHS), for which it has contracts totaling more than £2.34 billion ($4.6 billion) over the next decade.

Among the big-ticket items on its to-do list, BT will provide a secure VPN connecting NHS sites in England and Scotland, and manage both a hospital records service for 74 hospital groups and 7 million patients, and an image storage and access system for health care professionals.

Then there's the project known as "the Spine"--an enormous database that will provide access to 70 million patient health care records and 350,000 records of doctors and other health care providers. BT is involved in nearly every phase of these projects, from telephony to software--a depth and breadth of offerings enabled by its transformation and unmatchable by almost any other single vendor.

The transformation figures large in BT's ability to deliver on the NHS's enormous needs. Previous efforts to modernize the NHS have not gone well, much like many big government projects in the U.S., and BT's effort is a high-profile job, and a test of its new strategy and philosophy. Analyst Mike Cansfield, who studied BT's effort for the research company Ovum, says he's "struck by the transformational nature of this project" as the company seeks to morph into a networked services provider.

At first, Cansfield doubted BT's ability to manage the project, but he's been impressed by BT's man in charge, Patrick O'Connell--an outside hire, like many of the company's leaders--and by BT's private-sector approach to the public-sector job. Delivering on this huge commitment would be a healthy step toward recognizing BT's own ambitious goals. --E.C.