Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A certain sense of deja vu

Back in 1996 I joined Barclays Bank as a communications manager within Group Operations and Technology. Between accepting the role and actually starting, the board director heading the division had left, and within weeks of me arriving, my divisional head of comms had joined him. A few weeks later, my fellow comms manager had been sidelined into a project, leaving me running a team of six people, semi-independent from the main Barclays communications complex.
I spent most of the next two years on a change project as GOT became GPOT (my new boss inherited Group Planning as part of his remit) and then split from an agglomeration of nine disparate departments into three separate Group service - corporate planning and strategy; an internal management consultancy and technology services.
Over that two year period we lost about 700 IT staffers - many contractors but a fair few permanent staff too. Many left from Radbroke Hall, the company's IT nerve centre grouped around a massive IT barn in Cheshire, which I visited on average about twice a week.
So there was a certain degree of familiarity in hearing the announcement Barclays made today that 400 IT posts are to go in a credit crunch-prompted review.
It seems that over the past decade, many of the cuts we made in 'Project Pride' have been reversed, and as technology has become ever more important to the bank, the little empires and cul de sac projects adding little value to the bank have crept back in.
IT is an area where it's hard for those on the outside to argue with those on the inside about the value of big ticket projects and so-called 'essential services'. Back from 96-98 we only got to the heart of what GPOT actually did by going to the division's internal customers and mapping what we did for them - and what benefits our work delivered.
That picture threw up many examples of duplication, work for work's sake and activities that could be delivered by other parts of Barclays (or external suppliers) at a fraction of the cost. We had a simple stop/change/continue methodology - and I was amazed how many activities ended up in the 'stop' column.
Perhaps Barclays has been through a similar exercise again....or perhaps it has looked at the issues in a totally different way. Large corporates don't seem to be terribly good at learning from the lessons of the past. Anyway, plus ca change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I worked for Barclays at Wythenshawe and Radbroke Hall in the 1990s and am pleased I left when I did with the skills I had aquired, to work for a better organisation.