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BT sets up digital unit to accelerate new product development


BT Group PLC (LON:BT.A) said it will establish a new digital unit on April 1 which it said will focus on “the development and rapid delivery of innovative products, platforms and services” in areas such as healthcare and data.

The FTSE 100 telecoms giant said the new unit will be headed by Harmeen Mehta, the former chief information officer of Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, who has been appointed as BT’s chief digital and innovation officer and will report directly to the company’s chief executive Philip Jansen.

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BT added that Mehta, who will join the company on March 1, will also work to drive its digital transformation, with the new unit to include accountability for IT, digital innovation, BT-wide business transformation and data as well as product strategy.

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

“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”, she added.

The company also said that Howard Watson will become chief technology officer and lead a team accountable for network strategy, networks transformation and service platforms, as well as retaining accountability for cyber and information security.

“The continued focus on network leadership and partnership with customer facing units on converged services and experiences will leverage the strength of BT’s superior networks to differentiate its services for its customers”, the company said.

Meanwhile, BT said it has also set up a non-executive Technology Advisory Board (TAB) to provide “provide insight, provocation and external perspective to the 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, BT said, with members including MIT robotics and computing Daniela Rus , computer scientist Dame Wendy Hall, Steve King, CEO of data science firm Black Swan, business strategist Shweta Sharma, Centrica PLC (LON:CAN) CIO Mike Young and Blackstone CTO John Stecher.

As part of the new strategy and transformation programme, BT also said its chief strategy and transformation officer Mike Sharman has decided to leave the company.

“This is more than a leadership announcement, it’s an important statement of intent. 2020 saw a number of major BT innovations enter the marketplace but there’s opportunity to go much further. The creation of BT Digital will enable us to focus on the areas where we can have the greatest impact, delivering digital platforms that bring together best-in-class services for our customers, and fully embracing new technologies such as AI and machine learning”, BT CEO Philip Jansen said in a statement.

“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. These changes will help us take these ideas to market fast and at scale, accelerating our digital and business transformation programmes already underway, and I’m delighted to welcome Harmeen to BT at this exciting time. I’d also like to thank Mike for his leadership and contribution to BT, we wish him well for the future”, he added.

BT shares were down 0.1% at 142.8p in late-afternoon trading on Monday.

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