BT Group CIO Al-Noor Ramji is helping the telco bounce back

After seeming to be winning the battle to reinvent itself as a modern communications and IT services provider, 2009 turned out to be an annus horribilis for BT with the telecoms giant scrapping about 30,000 jobs as its Global Services unit ran up huge losses.

However, CIO Al-Noor Ramji, a former information leader at Dresdner Kleinwort and Qwest Communications, remains characteristically sparky, quirky and loquacious. I first met Ramji early in 2009 in his shared open-plan office that resembles Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour with a constant coming and going of visitors. Back then, with hardly a break for questions, he explained his plan to break down complexity by introducing standardised platforms, agility and "right first time" solutions.

He also discussed his role as a combination of internal and external-facing management roles, combining responsibility for network and platform development with more blue-sky planning.

Of course, the going was somewhat better on that first meeting but, on a recent catch-up phone call, he was still buoyant.
"We've come out of a difficult time," he says. "With Global Services we went through a bad patch and the margins were not acceptable."

One-time Dixons Stores Group FD Ian Livingston replaced Ben Verwaayen as chief executive last June, so how does the new boss compare with the old one?

"[Livingston is] a lot faster," Ramji says. "He wants to see data and he's less tolerant of lack of speed. He wasn't a great surprise [as choice of CEO] and he was ready. We've become more customer-centric and interested in results. Ian wants to see the numbers on customer experience as well as financials before he does anything."

Far from being a trial, he calls 2009 "my best year ever [although] more by luck than judgement ... but we hit the nail on the head. Never waste a good disaster."

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