The last 12 months have been busy for BT Group's technology department. As part of an ongoing IT transformation project, the team has 'up-skilled' more than 5,000 IT professionals, so that more than half - 3,100 – were engaged in customer-facing and revenue generating roles. This frees them from lower-value internal IT projects. On top of this, the company has consolidated more than 4,300 disparate projects into 29 business aligned programmes.
Steve Rayner, global head of end user technology at BT, speaks to Computerworld UK about what it's like to be at the sharp end of company undergoing radical change.
What’s the day job?
In a nutshell, it consists of three parts: operating the technology infrastructure for the corporation, delivering the desktop services programme, and looking after executive services. The longer version is that I handle anything and everything from messaging and email Exchange platforms for internal and external customers, deploying and maintaining thin client technologies like Citrix, handling all personal and shared data including Sharepoint to LiveLink data collaboration and sharing products. Additionally, I am responsible for supporting the top 200 personnel within BT.
How did you start out in IT?
Name: Steve Rayner
Job title: Global head of end user technology, BT Design
IT budget: not disclosed
Size of IT department: 165 in Design division. BT has six other business units, serviced by their own IT departments.
In 1988 I was hired as a junior computer operator for a logistics and distribution company, nowadays known as Excel Logistics. The platform was mid range DEC Vax and did menial tasks such as loading tapes and running batch jobs. I’ve always been on the operations side of computing, rather than development, and have moved up the grade through shift leader to manager.
What’s the best thing about your job? The best thing is delivering a technology ‘first’ or a world class example of a technology: BT operates the third biggest platform in the world of Microsoft Exchange and knowing that I manage the resilience and reliability that demands gives me a real buzz.
What’s the worst?
Having to give negative feedback. Whether it’s your own member of staff or a supplier, putting people right is never nice. I’ve learned from experience that if you don’t give feedback the problem only gets worse. It’s also unfair on the underperforming individual because they don’t get the chance to put it right. Ultimately, the accountability for any failure or underperformance is me and if you don’t intervene, mistakes – and accountability – can snowball fast. I don’t think giving criticism is something that comes easy to a British person but you have to bite the bullet and learn to do it.
What’s your biggest career mistake?
Turning down the opportunity to work in investment banking in Hong Kong - I was in love at the lime. If I’d accepted the offer I’d be earning six times as much now and could have travelled the world. And the relationship I turned it down for ended three months later anyway!
What’s been your techie high point?
Rolling out BT ‘WebTop’ over the past three months. It’s a clever piece of technology that enables internal users to access their desktop from an internet point anywhere in the world. It works by replicating personal data and desktop applications from a back-end database to a cached, front end portal that users can log onto from the Internet.
The response time is just as good and in the event of your desktop being lost or destroyed, you can deploy a new bit of tin and have an identical desktop up and running in a couple of hours
What career advice do you have for others starting out? Just do it – don’t ask for permission. I used to spend hours plucking up courage to ask my boss something and would fume if it was turned down. I really think it’s better to just get on with it. Even if two of your ideas didn’t work out, the other eight were good. Either you allow someone to define your work in your patch or you can carve out a niche for yourself.