“A strategic priority of BT is value-added services over broadband. For consumers we must be a broadband telco offering selling services that leverage that broadband pipe. The broadband pipe is not the boundary of our services to you,” says CIO Clive Selley of the business model the once nationalised telecoms operator pursues.

Selley has been with BT for 25 years and became CIO in 2010 reporting to CEO Ian Livingstone. In an interview with CIO he described his role:

“My span is the IT and the networks, their design and evolution and it’s fantastic. My concerns are across a business that is fairly varied, covering consumer entertainment and broadband at one end and Global Services at the other, selling to customers that are enormous and have very demanding needs,” he says of the role he has done for over a year. Despite BT being a technology driven business, Selley doesn’t have a seat on the board.

The company has the world’s largest MPLS for the business community, but the challenge for Selley is that while the networks are the foundations of the BT operation, they are not the value offering.

Selley uses his position as CIO of one of Britain’s larger technology and telecoms firms to good effect and is a strong advocate for research and development (R&D) and the BT research centre in Suffolk comes under his remit. They invested £684 million in global research and development in order to support their ‘drive for innovation’. This investment comprised capitalised software development costs of £295 million and research and development costs of £389 million.

The core suppliers to BT are Cisco, HP, IBM and Microsoft. The CIO’s aim is to become the growth engine for BT for promoting innovation and driving out costs and complexity.

“Were focusing on developing cutting edge products and services for our customers and at the same time enabling the rest of the business to execute at pace, in the most cost effective and efficient way possible.

“Right now, we’re looking at ways to enable greater customer control and self-service, and we’re increasingly using predictive tools to fix faults on our network before they even happen. We’re also using IT to improve the communications with our customers on social networking sites and we’re trying to speed-up the provision of on-demand computing for our business customers and ourselves. We are always looking at ways to drive down operating costs through automating processes.

“How effective are they at linking that endless flow of technology that comes from the research centre at Adastral Park to an actual business model?” asked Richard Sykes. “I’m a critic of BT, I think it’s never had a clear vision. It’s role should be as a world beating telecoms infrastructure supplier, but it keeps wandering off into other areas rather than being bloody good, bloody low cost and bloody effective at what it is doing.”

“They are doing a lot of re-engineering of the service delivery platform that is very impressive, but it is outside of the CIO’s remit,” observed Neil Ward-Dutton.

Mike Altendorf agreed with Sykes, “I struggle to see BT as a top 10 contender. Impressive stuff happens at Adastral Park, but I have never seen it come through to their products.”

Overall the panel agreed that Selley’s belief in R&D was worthy and well placed, but at the time of judging all felt that the final delivery of services, customer relationships, costs and effectiveness of the BT business pulled the organisation down.

Read the CIO interview: 

BT's Clive Selley's future vision