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BT Chief Architect is leaving the building

The most notable aspect of a reshuffle of UK operator group BT’s top technical team is the departure of Chief Architect Neil McRae.

There was no sign of this seismic shift among the BT boffinry when we hung out with McRae (pictured) and CTO Howard Watson just a month ago. At the root of the reshuffle is a desire by BT to make security a more prominent component of its overall technology strategy. Hence Watson has now become Chief Security and Networks Officer and his revamped Networks organisation will consist of: Network Services, Strategy & Research, Cyber & Information Security, Operational Resilience & Service Management, Security Transformation and Health, Safety and Environment.

At least half of those seem to involve security to some extent, so BT isn’t mucking around on the matter. The news comes as the UK government issued legal notices formally compelling UK operators to get Huawei kit out of their 5G networks. There’s nothing new in the timelines but it served as a reminder that operators face enhanced legal hazard when it comes to their role in national security.

None of this necessarily precludes McRae’s ongoing involvement, of course, with Network Services and/or Strategy and Research seeming to be good fits for him. But reshuffles can also present a natural inflection point for seasoned veterans to seek new challenges and our guess is that’s what happened in this case.

We reached out to McRae for comment and he replied with the following ““My passion is to build networks to enable customers and our communities to be all they can be, that’s why I build the best networks in the world, and in the future that’s what I’m going to be doing.” He’s hanging around at BT until the end of the year and we don’t yet know who the lucky recipient of those networks will be.

It doesn’t looks like there will be a direct replacement for McRae when he leaves because Watson has created a new role within his team of Chief Networks Officer, which we understand has incorporates the Chief Architect function. That will be filled by Greg McCall, who currently heads up ‘service platforms’. The only other person on McRae and McCall’s rung of the org chart is Andy Skingley, who is retiring, so McCall seems to be Watson’s uncontested right hand man now.

“I am delighted to welcome Greg McCall into the new position of Chief Networks Officer in my team, presiding over the new Network Services team,” said Watson, in a written statement. “Greg’s done a brilliant job leading Service Platforms during a period of immense change over the years, from delivering BT Sport to greatly improving our mobile network. He’s made a huge difference to Networks and is the right person to lead our new Network Services unit.

“After playing vital roles in our organisation, Andy Skingley and Neil McRae will leave BT as part of changes to the way BT Group’s Networks division is being organised. I want to thank Andy and Neil for their monumental efforts at BT over many years and the positive changes they made to our business and the UK. I wish them well with future plans.

“Tim Whitley is taking on an interim leadership role of a new Strategy and Research team for BT, before also leaving the business next summer. I am immensely grateful for his leadership of many projects within BT and safe stewardship of our world famous Adastral Park.  Once he leaves BT, Tim will be appointed to our Technology Advisory Board and I look forward to continuing to work with him in that new capacity.”

Apart from banging on about security a lot more, it’s not immediately obvious what effect these changes will have on BT’s technology strategy. The same opportunities and challenges remain and now Watson, who presumably approves of his new leadership team, needs to deliver. In McRae BT is losing a great strategist and communicator, and we look forward to seeing what he ends up doing next year.

 

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One comment

  1. Avatar Ruth 14/10/2022 @ 7:17 pm

    Great announcement thank you.

    Is the pure political ban on Huawei been driven by American strategic prroject to eliminate Russia, Cina and whichever country is highly technologically better than USA?

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