Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Matt Bross to leave BT - Big Bear heads home

BT's CTO and CEO of Ignite is to leave BT at the end of July to return to the US and follow other interests. Bross is a popular figure around the industry and is one of those rare things these days - a tech' enthusiast, a champion of the 21CN and more importantantly someone at the heart of BT who is known to have wanted to build bridges, both with BTs peers and other 'new technology' companies. Rumour is that Bross has been increasingly unhappy with the lack of investment in innovation since Verwaayen departed, and the accountants have taken over.

That whole scenario reminds me of the last time BT lost a great CTO, Peter Cochrane; an engineer to his soul and evangelical about the coming explosion in communications, left in 2000. Many felt Peter was sidelined by the Valance/King/Bonfield team as they crashed a previously majestic BT into a pile of debt and confusion. The £30bn($50bn) debt mountain resulted in BT having to sell off assets including BT Cellnet (now O2) and the resulting restructures set the scene for the collapse of Global Services in 2008.

Bross' departure is loss to BT not because he was a great business driver, but because of what he represents; BT has a big old hill to climb as it tries to reposition itself from a traditional telecoms company to a provider of converged networked services, it needs people like Bross to stand up the front and shout "We believe!!!" If BT truly believe, their customers will believe as well.

Industries need their cheer leaders and I'm sure Bross, like Cochrane, will continue to entertain and inform us for years to come it's just a shame BT lets these guys go just when they needed them the most.

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