BT eyes up next-gen services with digital unit

In what it says is an important statement of intent following a 2020 with a number of innovations, incumbent telco announces new division designed to deliver next-gen digital platforms and services

Aiming to lead its digital innovation agenda into 2021, and with an early focus on the development and rapid delivery of innovative products, platforms and services in key areas such as healthcare and data, UK telecoms products and services provider BT has announced the creation of a new digital technology unit.

Effective from 1 April 2021, the new digital unit, BT Digital, will include accountability for IT, digital innovation, BT-wide business transformation, and data and product strategy.

There will be a continued focus on network leadership and partnership with customer-facing units on converged services and experiences, and BT has said the unit will use the strength of its networks to differentiate its services for its customers. Product strategy, business transformation, data and artificial intelligence (AI), will form part of the new digital unit.

BT regards the move as an important statement of intent, designed to enable it to go further with opportunities in digital services that presented themselves in 2020.

The company added that the creation of BT Digital will enable it to focus on the areas where it believes it can have the greatest impact, delivering digital platforms it claims will bring together “best-in-class” services for customers.

“This is bigger than just BT; it’s about building partnerships with other leading innovators to expand into new areas and bring the benefits of top-notch digital services to customers, including enhanced converged fixed and mobile services, tools that guard against cyber-attacks, and connected care applications to help families look after elderly or vulnerable loved ones even if they’re geographically remote,” said BT chief executive Philip Jansen.

“These changes will help us take these ideas to market fast and at scale, accelerating our digital and business transformation programmes already underway.”

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To lead the new unit, BT has appointed Harmeen Mehta as chief digital and innovation officer, reporting directly to Jansen, and charged with working with executives and BT’s customer-facing units to drive the company’s digital transformation.

Mehta joins from global telecommunications provider Bharti Airtel, where she spent the last seven years as Group CIO, as well as leading its cloud and security businesses. She has 24 years’ experience leading digital, engineering, IT and innovation transformation.

“BT is an institution with deep roots and a rich and fabulous past of serving customers and multinationals in the UK and globally,” said Mehta.

“I am really excited to be part of the future of BT as we build a customer centric digital organisation bringing new products and services to delight our customers and create new opportunities of digital growth in the business. There never has been a more interesting time to play such a meaningful role in the lives of our customers and I’m excited to play such a key role in delivering the exciting ambition that Philip and his team have set out.”

Supporting the acceleration of BT’s technology transformation, and the digital unit, BT also announced a non-executive Technology Advisory Board (TAB) to provide insight, provocation and external perspective to its executive committee on emerging technologies, market and societal trends.

The TAB will consist of recognised industry experts, meeting three times a year, to provide thought leadership on the development of propositions and identify opportunities in the portfolio for future consideration. Members’ expertise will encompass artificial intelligence, technology and digital transformation, product strategy, disruptive technologies, and innovation. 

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