BT attacked over UK IT skills claims

BT claims its decision to outsource IT development to India was driven by lack of skills in the UK but analysts claim the real motive was probably financial

Industry experts have hit back at BT after the telecoms giant said lack of UK IT skills was forcing it into offshoring.

The company is outsourcing its IT development work to India claiming it has been unable to find sufficient numbers of qualified staff in the UK, according to Meryl Bushell, chief procurement officer at BT.

Offshoring was the only option for accessing the number of expert staff the vendor needs Bushell said. "India gives us access to quality in terms of skills, experience and expertise. But it is all about the volume. All the skills we need over there we can get over here, but it is whether we can get them at the right scale," she said

BT has come under fire from analysts and industry figures who say it risks cutting back on quality to save on costs.

Peter Ryan, offshoring analyst from Datamonitor, said the move was cost driven not skills driven. "I would be very surprised if BT can get a higher quality in terms of skills abroad. Any company going offshore is looking to save costs as an initial premise. For BT the driver would certainly be cost."

According to Ryan the UK is currently one of the most expensive countries to set up call centres in, which indicates offshoring would save costs rather than improve quality of service.

Jon Collins, principle analyst at Quocirca, agreed that the telecoms provider was cost driven rather than skills driven. "I would be very surprised if it was a skills move, just because labour is cheaper doesn't guarantee quality. It sounds a bit glib to me to say there's a skills issue," he said.

BT began offshoring in 1995 and has about 5,000 qualified IT professionals working on its behalf in India.