Archive for the 'Telecoms' Category

BCS Transformation – just what is going on?

Last week I received my calling notice for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the British Computer Society (BCS). It seems that there is a bit of a fracas going on over the future vision, strategy and direction of the BCS and it’s “Transformation” programme. The motions on the agenda at the EGM include no-confidence resolutions in the Trustee Board and the Chief Executive – pretty serious stuff!

The petitioners, which include a past President, have set-up a blog to argue their case, whilst the BCS Trustees and management have a slicker site for their official response. There’s also a health debate in the blogosphere and on Twitter via #bcstransform and #bcsegm.

It’s clear to me that the petitioners feel the Trustees have not adequately consulted. An argument I have some sympathy with since I didn’t realise there was any major transformation programme going on. However they also express concerns about the direction of the society and this is where I’m less clear as to what’s going on.

The petitioners make vague complaints about ‘the membership’ being marginalised in favour of ‘the business’. I can’t really make a judgement on this. Unfortunately the official, glossy BCS response is full of nebulous waffle and impregnable ‘business speak’ which leaves me none-the-wiser as to what the vision, strategy and direction is that the society is going down (and which the petitioners are apparently opposed to).

I joined the BCS two years ago, as an engineer, because of it’s learned society activity. I joined the IEE (now the IET) over 10 years ago and still see it as my primary professional body. I didn’t join the BCS at the time because everyone advised me it was a bit of a joke. However, of late I had discovered the Special Interest Groups and found some really useful events which I now see as a valuable complement to my IET membership – even though I’d rather the two would just merge.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with the BCS, in terms of it’s future direction. Hopefully someone reading this blog could throw some light. I guess things like the Chartered IT Professional (CITP) qualification indicate that it wants to be more of a body for business-folk involved in corporate IT than computing practitioners such as engineers and scientists. I can see a need for the former, but fail to see how it would not undermine the latter. Perhaps the learned society aspects of the BCS ought to transfer to the IET allowing the rump BCS to complete it’s transformation into a “Chartered Institution for IT” – if that’s what they want to be.

The only thing I’m fairly sure about is that the Special Resolution put forward by the Trustees to raise the threshold for calling an EGM must be resisted. There may be a case for raising the threshold, and I’m very sympathetic to that, but that could be done at the next scheduled AGM. Doing it at this meeting smacks of shutting down opposition and re-inforces a sense of a dismissive attitude to members expressing their right to use the society’s properly constituted governance process to challenge it’s leadership and management.

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Logica disposes of Aldiscon

LogicaCMG this week disposed its Telecoms Products division [Mobile Today]. It comprises more-or-less the business of the former Irish company, Aldiscon, which was acquired by Logica in 1997. Aldiscon was (and its products remain) the runaway market leader in the global market for mobile network SMS software.

I worked in Logica’s telecoms division (the core consulting one) at the time of the Aldiscon acquisition. I remember there was some genuine excitement at the time. Logica had recently broken into the FTSE 100, and many of my colleagues accepted management’s assertions that Aldiscon would enable Logica to sell a package of product, integration and consultancy to customers who were mobile operators. I’m sure there was some logic in this argument but I never really bought it. In my view a product portfolio compromised the firm’s impartiality as a independent systems integrator and consultancy. Even if impartiality is retained organisational focus is much harder to retain. This appears to have been borne about by the quote from the CEO (who was also CEO at the time of purchase):

LogicaCMG CEO Martin Read said: ‘… We have now secured an attractive sale price for the strengthened business. This divestment allows LogicaCMG to focus on its core strengths in IT and business services, using its industry and domain expertise and its strong business and technology insight to enable its customers to become more productive.’

Such a divestment would be considered ‘good practice’ for an organically grown non-core business. For an acquired non-core business it’s better to see it as a corrective U-turn.

In my view the company has lost some of its edge in recent years (although growth has continued by virtue of the buoyant IT market). I’m glad to see they’ve decided to sell the products business.

Arguably Logica still made a healthy profit on the Aldiscon sale: £265m against a purchase price of £51m. Nevertheless keener strategists ought to consider the opportunity cost of what Logica would have done with that money given the massive expansion that has happened since in it’s core IT services market.

Three’s X-Series: at last a price!

Two weeks ago Three caused a bit of a stir when it announced it would soon be offering “unlimited” data plans on its 3G mobile networks [3 calls in internet big guns for mobile credibility, The Register]. The UK launch is supposed to be today, however Three’s X-series web site still has an email sign-up form promising to let you know more when it is launched.

Having said that, Three’s December price guide is already online. So all the details are handily available on page 12. In short there are two tarrifs “X-Series Silver” offers “unlimited” MSN Messenger, Skype, web, email and podcasts for just £5 a month. For £10 a month “X-Series Gold” offers access to Slingbox and Orb for access to your home TV and PC.

As yet there is no indication whether you have to buy one of Three’s handsets to get hold of the requisite software or whether you can bring your own. Initially Three are only offering two Symbian handsets: Nokia’s N73 (Series 60 r3) and SonyEricsson’s W950i (UIQ 3).

In any case, following T-Mobile’s Web’n'Walk offers [T-Mobile to make mobile net service 'unlimited', The Register] this should hopefully spice up the competition for cellular mobile data in the UK. My contract is up for renewal but I might wait a bit to see how it all shakes out.

UPDATE 6.42pm: Indeed it seems they have launched their X-series site, although the questions remain unanswered.