The sad news that outsourcing pioneer Robert Morgan recently died is a great loss to a great many people.
I was with Robert a couple of weeks ago so it was a huge shock to hear of his sudden death.
Robert is best known as co-founder of sourcing advisory Morgan Chambers, which cornered its market. It was eventually sold in 2007 to Equaterra, and eventually became part of KPMG. He later carried on where he left off by forming Burnt-Oak Partners.
Robert has been a great contact of mine for about 15 years. If I had a question about outsourcing for my IT outsourcing beat Robert was always prepared to answer questions and explain things with nothing in return. He was the first person I would call when I thought I had a big story in the IT outsourcing sector. More often than not he already knew what I was onto, but on the rare occasions I had something genuinely new to him, his enthusiasm for getting to the bottom of it shone through.
For a journalist Robert was the perfect contact because not only was he exceptionally well connected, intelligent and a genuinely nice man, he also had a nose for a story and wasn’t afraid to say what he believed. I would receive phone calls from Robert, whenever he had the scent of a story. My thoughts are with his family.
He was hugely respected in the outsourcing industry. I spoke to people in the industry that have known him for many years and here are the tributes I quickly received:
Mark Lewis, head of outsourcing at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner: “Robert remains a towering figure in the IT, sourcing and outsourcing industries. He had the vision, drive, courage and personality to start and grow Morgan Chambers from nothing into an international sourcing consultancy that held its own with the biggest names in the market. Long after Morgan Chambers has merged into other organisations, it is still spoken of with respect as a leader in its field. As a mark of his personal and business standing, Robert’s clients were still seeking his advice long after Morgan Chambers was sold – up until his tragic and untimely passing. And as a mark of the man, Robert continues to inspire the respect, affection and loyalty of his former colleagues from Morgan Chambers and elsewhere. He was a man of many ideas. Robert was not afraid to hold and voice strong opinions, even when others didn’t necessarily want to hear them. I knew that, when Robert was billed as the keynote speaker at one of BLP’s Outsourcing Breakfasts, we could guarantee a packed auditorium. Like most visionaries, he was sometimes wrong. But he was not afraid to listen and to change his mind. In business and in his personal life, Robert was generous, loyal, thoughtful and considerate. He was also fun to be with. An exceptional man. A family man, above all. I will always think it a privilege to have served with Robert on the board of Morgan Chambers and to have worked with him before and after that. I will miss him.”
Jean-Louis Bravard, former senior EDS executive and later business partner of Robert: “Robert was bigger than life and was passionate and unafraid of speaking his mind about any subject, any large firm or person. In a world of political correctness he stood out and right or wrong he energised all of us. His voice and passion will be sorely missed.”
Lee Ayling, KPMG partner and former Equaterra UK head: “I had the pleasure of meeting Robert several times and attending conferences where he held the room captive with his insights and experience. In business he was a gentleman. Thought of by the industry as a legend he was great with clients whilst balancing that with a focus on his teams and driving innovation. Socially he lit up the room with his personality, charm and love of life. He shall be greatly missed by the industry – a big pair of shoes that will never be filled. “
John Mackie, programme director Royal Mail Group and former Morgan Chambers employee. “Having joined Morgan Chambers in 1998 I remember those early years working for Robert as some of the happiest of my working life. Robert was a giant in the outsourcing industry, someone we could all look up to and respect. After the sale of Morgan Chambers to Equaterra in 2007, Robert and I stayed in touch – his enthusiasm for the sourcing industry was infectious, and he was a great source of insight and advice for me over the years. I also fondly remember our shared love of football, rock music and his restaurant that brought us together socially too from time to time. He is a great loss to the industry, and also a great loss as a friend.”
Roger Dillon, formerly board member of Morgan Chambers: “Quintessentially a man from Africa and proud of it. He was at heart an entrepreneur and had all the hall marks of a risk taking, courageous man of genuinely original thought. He was without doubt one of the motive forces of the outsourcing world in the past couple of decades – ie since it’s real inception and in a sense made the weather where ever he turned. In the early days it was always an intellectual contest for him as he persuaded huge corporations to take the punt of outsourcing their crown jewels to someone else – latterly in another continent. The key was of course that you not only saved money but actually provided your customers and other stakeholders with a better result. Flipping alchemy it might have seemed in perception but now normal practice across so many commercial domains. My experience with him started when he was persuaded by Mark Lewis and Bob Fawthrop to take me on as a non executive director. It was a truly international enterprise running down from Finland, Sweden the Low Countries and Germany and of course UK and Ireland. The essence was like something out of the Wild Geese – ie a bunch of very experienced former CIOs etc who could be put into the likes a FTSE 100 company to lead them through that stomach churning and decades apart evolution of contemplating strategic change in their systems. Robert’s leadership of this challeningly disparate gang of barely herdable (sic) cats was unique and it is little wonder that to say ‘I worked for Morgan Chambers’ is still a badge of honour and that comes from someone who proudly spent 30 years in the Royal Marines. The Chambers bit was pastiche – just sounded good when he was created the company – there was never a Chambers only a Morgan.”
Sam Kingston, COO at Ciklum and former EDS UK head: “Robert Morgan was his own man, whether giving a provocative press comment, or calmly expressing his views he can rightly claim to have lived life his Way”.
Tony Collins, investigative journalist and former executive editor of Computer weekly: “Robert was always vibrant, bursting with humour and a wonderful contact because he made it his business to be well informed. In an industry that has an abundance of vanilla characters he always stood out for the best of reasons. He never kowtowed to the conventional view. He will be much missed.”
Jamie Liddell, editor of Outsource Magazine: “I only had the pleasure of meeting Robert on a very few occasions, but was struck – as were a huge number who encountered him – by his remarkable perspicacity, his overwhelming enthusiasm for the industry and for best practice, and above all by his infectious bonhomie: the twinkle in his eye lit up the room, and the sourcing space, alike, and he will be sorely missed. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”
Daniela Zuin, director marketing IPSoft: “I met Robert through Jean-Louis Bravard at EDS when we put together the book: Smarter Outsourcing. Robert threw himself into the project and worked energetically alongside Jean-Louis to structure and enrich the content. He knew who the readers would be and he wanted to make sure they would keep referring to book’s content and not leave this gathering dust on the shelf. For him this had to be much more than a vanity project to check the box that said published author. No matter the long hours spent on edits and revisions, Robert always came up with a good angle. Many people will remember his willingness to challenge the status quo and be outspoken about how the outsourcing market was evolving, but I have to say that he also listened to other people’s input. When it came to how we would finalise key elements of the book he was comfortable taking advice too. In the years following Robert often took a little time out to give me advice and act as a soundboard for my ideas. His knowledge of the industry was consummate and I will miss his counsel. His knowledge and expertise will be missed by all those who worked with him.”
Bob Fawthrop, formerly CEO of Morgan Chambers, and a leading IT industry consultant:”Robert was a giant of the outsourcing industry in many ways, both in stature and personality. I believe he was a key creator of the sourcing advisory industry, not just outsourcing but also insourcing. He was well liked by all the consultants at Morgan Chambers and built a great organisation, of which I was proud to be asked, by him, to be CEO. As a man he was kind, good company and could always be counted upon to give you his honest, and personal, view regarding sourcing and IT Service matters. He will be badly missed and I am sure I speak for all of his former colleagues in giving our sincere condolences to his wife and children”
Peter Skarendal, director, EMEA strategic sales & demands, HP: “Robert was a true industry pioneer with a true visionary force. He lived life at a pace and had time and energy for all around him, always being generous to get the best outcome for all he worked with and one of those rare individuals you would see out when you needed real advice guidance and objectivity. He was an incredibly successful man, which was no surprise based on his intelligence, skill and intellect. The industry has lost a great professional, but anyone who knew him has lost a great friend.”