BT creates unit to boost cloud, AI and machine learning

BT wifiBT is seeking to challenge the US tech giants’ dominance of cloud services, artificial intelligence and machine learning with the launch of a new digital unit, designed to breathe new life into the business.

The move sees the appointment of the firm’s first ever chief digital and innovation officer, with Harmeen Mehta, who has spent the last seven years at Indian telecoms giant Bharti Airtel, joining next month.

The new role has been created as part of chief executive Philip Jansen’s plan to capitalise on the shift towards digital consumption and demand, which has been one of the main features of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mehta has 24 years’ experience leading digital, engineering, IT and innovation transformation and before Bharti Airtel, held CIO positions at BBVA, HSBC and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The new digital unit will include accountability for IT, digital innovation, BT-wide business transformation and data and product strategy. BT’s chief strategy and transformation officer Mike Sherman, who joined two years ago under former chief executive Gavin Patterson, is leaving.

The core technology business will be spearhead by Howard Watson, who as chief technology officer, will lead the team accountable for network strategy, networks transformation and service platforms, as well as retaining accountability for cyber and information security.

Jansen said: “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.

“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.”

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