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BT signs £30m deal with Distributed, takes equity in tech workforce startup

BT also joins tech contractor provider's board.

BT has signed a £30 million deal with flexible technology workforce provider Distributed and taken equity in the startup -- with BT Digital's Chief Digital and Innovation Officer (CDIO) Harmeen Mehta describing the move as helping BT "extend our internal pool of talent [and] accelerate the digital revolution within BT."

The three-year deal will see BT's Mark Murphy, Director of HR, Technology Units, take a seat on Distributed's board, the two said February 15, describing the deal as helping BT "rapidly bringing together multi-skilled digital teams, enabling the business to build high-quality digital products and platforms faster and more efficiently."

Distributed will provide AI, cloud, product, design and other teams to BT Digital (the telecommunications company's platform delivery and product development digital arm, which is led by CDIO Mehta.) Meg Blight, BT's "Startup Growth Director", has also been involved in the partnership -- BT recently launched a startup "amplifier" to identify and incubate startups that could help BT innovate in a rapidly evolving telco environment.

The deal comes as BT continues a sweeping overhaul of an entrenched set of legacy technologies, with a mission of what it described in its 2021 strategic report as as a process of "radically simplifying our IT estate, embracing  cloud solutions and common components" adding in that report that "over the last year we’ve been building the foundations of our new IT architecture, based on modern, modularised software components deployed on industry standard platforms. We’ve  now deployed a number of major software platforms such as ServiceNow, Salesforce and Vlocity. And we’ve started building new, highly automated customer journeys on these platforms."

See: 5G adoption hits 1m new users daily, as telcos test network slicing

BT distributed deal £30m
Harmeen Mehta, BT's CDIO.

"Crucially, the deal allows BT to be able to access a new pool of talented and highly skilled tech professionals, giving the opportunity to work on transformational projects remotely and for varied durations" BT said of the Distributed deal in press release -- which comes seven months after BT reached an agreement with the Communication Workers Union that eased a dispute over redundancies that had led threat of strike action.

BT like, almost every company out there embarking on major digital change, faces a fight for technology talent -- whilst also under pressure to deliver more full fibre broadband across the UK and lead the switch of UK phone services from its legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) to IP-based services by the end of 2025.

It has continued to publicly clash with the government over who takes ownership of paying for the capital-intensive business of reploying more fibre across the UK, noting in its 2021 strategic report that "we continue to believe there is more the Government could do to reduce the cost of building full fibre networks, for us and other providers" but remains keen as a company to deploy more digitally-underpinned offerings across broadcast, gaming, 5G

BT's customer base spans over 14 million households, 1.2 million UK&I business and public sector organisations and almost 4,000 global customers. Distributed meanwhile, founded in 2017, says it is already supporting Capita, Suzuki, Tesco and WPP among other enterprise customers. It is also recruiting heavily.

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