BT's Watson shakes up Networks team, Greg McCall becomes chief networks officer

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Oct 14, 2022

Howard Watson, who is now chief security and networks officer at BT Group.

Howard Watson, who is now chief security and networks officer at BT Group.

  • BT’s Networks team has been revamped
  • Chief architect Neil McRae is leaving
  • Current managing director of service platforms, Greg McCall, becomes chief networks officer
  • Other senior executives, including research chief Tim Whitley, to retire

BT has initiated a broad shake-up at its Networks internal service unit that sees chief technology officer (CTO) Howard Watson extend his responsibilities into the security realm, current managing director of service platforms, Greg McCall, become chief networks officer, current chief architect Neil McRae leave the company (as reported on Thursday) and two other network executives take retirement. 

Watson (pictured above) is now chief security and networks officer, a change that was communicated within BT last month, “reflecting the importance of security to BT Group’s work,’ the operator notes in comments emailed to TelecomTV. “The role puts security at the centre of the business, pulling together cyber, physical and personnel security teams into one function within Networks. Howard will work directly with government agencies, the security services and wider industry in the UK to ensure BT Group’s networks and cyber security services continue to deliver world-leading protection.” Quantum networking appears to be a particular focus: Just a few days ago, Watson was discussing the importance of nascent industry consortium UKQuantum, of which BT is a founding member – see UK quantum group cofounded by BT opens its doors.

As part of the rejig, there’s also a slight revamp of the teams within the Networks unit. Those teams are now: Network Services; Strategy & Research; Cyber & Information Security; Operational Resilience & Service Management; Security Transformation; and Health, Safety and Environment. The goal is to simplify the organisation and ensure “security is at the top of our agenda,” according to BT.

And then there’s the creation of McCall’s chief networks officer role, which puts him at the head of the Network Services team and will “bring together the design, delivery, and operations teams across Networks.” This, in essence, subsumes the role that Neil McRae has held, so McCall is the closest thing to a replacement for the outspoken Scot.  

“Greg’s done a brilliant job leading Service Platforms during a period of immense change over the years, from delivering BT Sport to greatly improving our mobile network,” noted Watson in a prepared statement. “He’s made a huge difference to Networks and is the right person to lead our new Network Services unit.”

McRae isn’t the only one leaving the Networks top team. Andy Skingley, the current managing director of dynamic infrastructure is about to retire, while Tim Whitley, currently managing director for applied research, will “lead the new Strategy & Research function on an interim basis, before also leaving BT next summer,” notes the operator. “Upon leaving BT, Tim will be appointed to the Technology Advisory Board and will continue to work closely with BT in that capacity,” it added. 

Of McRae and Skingley, Watson commented: “After playing vital roles in our organisation, Andy Skingley and Neil McRae will leave BT as part of changes to the way BT Group’s Networks division is being organised. I want to thank Andy and Neil for their monumental efforts at BT over many years and the positive changes they made to our business and the UK. I wish them well with future plans.”

And of Whitley, Watson noted: “I am immensely grateful for his leadership of many projects within BT and safe stewardship of our world-famous Adastral Park.” 

Adastral Park is the long-standing and highly regarded R&D centre located near Ipswich, England, and will need a new research leader from the middle of next year. 

There are senior executives within BT’s Networks unit that aren’t leaving or changing roles, it seems, as the roles of Les Anderson, director of cyber and information security, and Jim Dempsey, managing director of service management, have not been cited as affected by the changes.  

TelecomTV will aim to get greater insight into what these changes mean to BT’s technology and infrastructure strategy in the near future.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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