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BT wants to run your IT

Telco is addressing small firms with a completely outsourced offering that could replace IT managers, but critics urge caution
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

BT is pushing further into the IT services market, as it attempts to shed its image of being just a telco.

It unveiled a package of fully-managed IT products on Wednesday that are designed to replace the need for IT managers. BT is offering to supply PCs, servers and the network, install the equipment and monitor and maintain it.

The company says its "Business IT Manager" services will be aimed at small and medium-sized firms and will cost a fraction of the amount firms would pay to employ an IT professional.

"It is critical for SMEs to invest in the right technology for their business, but many have their time stolen as they get drawn into IT management and maintenance," said Bill Murphy, managing director of BT Business.

"Now they can concentrate on managing their business, while we manage the IT."

But experts questioned the sense of SMEs outsourcing all their IT to one provider. Ben Booth, chairman of the British Computer Society user group BCS Elite, warned that although IT can be fully outsourced, firms still need the resource in-house to handle the relationship with the outsourcing supplier.

"It could be highly dangerous to outsource without the proper mechanism to manage the outsourced contract," he said. "Does BT offer guidance on strategy? If not, that guidance has to come from somewhere."

And Booth added, "BT is trying to move into a new market. IT services was not previously their core business. You should ask the questions you would about any supplier: ask if this is what they do best."

BT will offer several IT outsourcing packages, with a price of £37 per user per month for the top package.

BT has recently won IT contracts with several large organisations, including Unilever, Bank of New York, Grupo Santander and Lehman Brothers. It also has a key role in the NHS's Connecting for Health programme.

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