back to article BT boss warns 16-min walk from current HQ to new London base 'just the tip of the iceberg'

Sixteen minutes: the amount of time it takes for the world to generate 60.8 million Google searches or a BT worker shimmying along to a new shiny HQ in central London. The new base for the former state monopoly was confirmed today as an 18-floor development being built at 1 Braham Street, Aldgate – a short distance from the St …

  1. Benson's Cycle

    "Just the tip of the iceberg"

    That's why Openreach takes so long to arrive - their "sixteen minutes" involves clambering over the tip of an iceberg.

    1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: "Just the tip of the iceberg"

      They already sold off all their real estate during the dot com crash. So they're really only selling off stuff they've bought/built since then.

      Such a stupid, stupid fucking move, but it looks good for the shareholders in the short term, and that's all that matters.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

        Re: "Just the tip of the iceberg"

        Nonsense. BT still has loads of legacy property they have no business owning. A friend of mine tried to set up a deal to buy it all off them a few years ago, but they weren't selling then.

        That's quite aside from the property that has appreciated significantly over the last few years and is now being sold off because it's too valuable or unfit for BT's purposes.

  2. fnusnu

    The Better Workplace Programme is going to take a lot of hard work but it will have a huge and positive impact on BT's working culture, our productivity and, ultimately, our ability to serve our customers."

    And what of the share price? https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&channel=crow&q=bt+share+price

    1. macjules Silver badge

      When people start using "Better Workplace Programme" terms you:

      1) Look out for "agile working" ("of course there will be enough desks for everyone")

      2) "Motivational" on-brand messages and logos being splashed everywhere (think W1A)

      3) "But wouldn't you much rather retire? After all, 50 is such a good age to go at"

      All of the above have been used by BT before.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    If only

    There was some way of communicating with workers at a distance, then you wouldn't all need to come together within shouting distance of each other in an expensive building in central London.

    What's Greek/Latin for distant communication ?

    1. Vometia Munro

      Re: If only

      > What's Greek/Latin for distant communication ?

      "Impossibru!" Well, y'know, but that's been the attitude of way too many of my PHBs. Usually the ones who are not very adept at communication or motivation or, well, anything much. But they seem to be a persistent infestation in the world of IT.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If only

      Let me tell you a story...

      Way back when, Al Noor Ramji took the reigns at what used to be BT research. BT loves cost centres, so he came in with a view to cut costs.

      Okay, so let's start with travel. Can't travel any more unless director sign off. This included travel from Martlesham to London, essential for many people's roles. Directors got flooded with requests.

      "Use BT Conferencing!" Was the cry.... So, people did. Remember that bit about cost centres? All of a sudden, BTEXact's bill for conferencing shot through the roof, quite the opposite of what was intended.

      "Here, there's this free conferencing app we can all use!" was the cry.... BT security took umbrage at this very quickly, not knowing who, or what, was listening.

      Not the brightest spark, Not even the dullest ember, was Al Noor Ramji.

      Anon, for Obvs reasons

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: If only

        Yep worked somewhere once where we had "cost centers"

        Using our own IT dept became so expensive that engineers were running their own network cables and managing their own unofficial Linux servers

        Then came down a proclamation from on-high "thou shalt not use unapproved system"

        So now we had expensive engineers managing a parallel IT system in secret to get any work done,

        While the official IT no doubt increased their costs by adding cyber security people to track down their own employees that couldn't afford to use their official services.

        1. Jove Bronze badge

          Re: If only

          ... indeed - it was so bad the "IT Dept" could not stop it's own Engineers from setting up their own solutions in order to get the job done.

        2. Julz Bronze badge
          FAIL

          Re: If only

          As I pointed out before:

          link

        3. boltar Silver badge

          Re: If only

          A couple of decades ago I worked in an IT dept that needed a linux box to port our Irix software to as linux was up and coming then. IT admin gave us the go ahead but we were "on our own" support wise. A few weeks later we kept getting increasingly annoyed emails saying one of our PCs couldn't be managed remotely using whatever god awful tool MS had dished up for the job. Bloke eventually comes up, finds PC which was our linux box and proceeds to ctrl-alt-del it. Which did nothing because we'd disabled it. Next he tried to do lots of windowsy things with the Afterstep window manager while I watched. None of course worked.Eventually I told him it was running linux but he didn't believe me and asked for it to be rebooted which I did and once the command prompt login appeared (X win was started manually using startx back then) I buggered off for coffee. No idea how long the clown was messing around with it for but we never heard from him again.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If only

          Some of us still do... And others have ermmm.... Circumvented some of the security settings so that I can use email on a company issued but non-corporate mac..

          Even had to actively get involved in managing the hardware for our dev network... Not like It needs trained engineers to patch, update and maintain it nor is it doing much... Other than supporting the codebase for various environments bringing in billions in revenue... No of course not....

          Anon natch...

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: If only

      When it takes badging out, taking the lift, signing in, badging in and waiting around to have a quick chat with somebody in HR about your holiday leave, it's faster to just use inter-company chat or mail so it doesn't matter if HR is in the building or the Peak District (or New Delhi). I'd much rather work with my immediate team in a small office in Wales rather than dealing with London traffic and prices.

      1. Caver_Dave
        Unhappy

        Re: If only ...

        ... BT could find a phone/broadband supplier that could allow them to work from home.

        Oh no, this is BT we are talking about! I had to get a commercial supplier in to supply our 4 parishes with broadband before we could even do online shopping, or the children's homework, let alone work from home.

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: If only

      The Cursus Publicus. BT doesn't appear to have advanced much since those days.

    5. macjules Silver badge

      Re: If only

      What's Greek/Latin for distant communication

      "PVD in manibus tabellariorium"

      "The P45 is in the post"

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: If only

        "What's Greek/Latin for distant communication"

        BT: telegram... telex... post coach?

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: If only

        The Greek would be hemerodrome,

    6. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: If only

      Really?

      Have you you seen the state of the UK's telecoms infrastructure?

      If only there was company that was proficient at maintaining it.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The Better Workplace Programme"

    Knowing BT that'll be a case of getting rid of the difficult bit in the title.

  5. vtcodger Silver badge

    Prehaps I've become overly cynical

    I read this as "We (the management) are going to fire a bunch of people, sell off the tangible assets, get the stock price up and get the hell out before this sucker crashes.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

      It's obviously cheaper to sell your building to a profit making property company and then rent it back from another profit making property company after hiring a bunch of profit making consultants to manage it all.

      The fundamental theory of the firm is that if can you insert enough profit taking intermediaries into any business process it becomes cheaper and more efficient.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

        "It's obviously cheaper to sell your building to a profit making property company and then rent it back from another profit making property company after hiring a bunch of profit making consultants to manage it all."

        It is! because the rent comes from the monthly operating account instead of being a large liability and entered in the capital acquisitions ledger.

        For a better account, reference the Administrator in The Meaning of Life hospital scene as he explains how the hospital saves money on an expensive piece of kit. Monty Python is all wisdom.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

          "It's obviously cheaper to sell your building...

          because the rent comes from the monthly operating account instead of being a large liability and entered in the capital acquisitions ledger."

          Unfortunately, this simple trick also has the rather unfortunate effect of increasing the cost base and locking it in...

          1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

            Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

            Unfortunately, this simple trick also has the rather unfortunate effect of increasing the cost base and locking it in...

            With the CEO's pay package linked to the stock price, you'll know he'll be long gone before the effects of this policy become painly apparent.

            It seems that a lot of people in C level management only see large corporations as cash cows to pillage. Someone else can clean up the carcass once it's been picked clean.

          2. unscarred

            Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

            It's (partly) because short sighted analysts look at ROCE and ignore Type 2 vulnerability.

            KPIs are dangerous.

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

          "It is! because the rent comes from the monthly operating account instead of being a large liability and entered in the capital acquisitions ledger."

          That is no longer the case since IFRS 16 came in.

          If you sign a 25 year contract, you owe rent for the next 25 years, and you have to put that as a liability on the balance sheet.

          In the return for signing up to that liability, you get the right to occupy the building, which is an asset that gets added to the capital acquisitions ledger.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

            "get the right to occupy the building,"

            Which has value of almost 0 and using that as "value" is blatant lie.

            But that's how you cook the books to make selling property at loss looking like profitable:

            Sell property, pocket the money and then record the "right to occupy" the building same as the value of the building was before selling. Voilá, *free money*, i.e. profit.

            In the books but who cares about anything else?

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

              Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

              "...And that's why we must kill the jews."

              You people are so insane that you can even work a company moving offices into your conspiracy theories.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

            "If you sign a 25 year contract, you owe rent for the next 25 years"

            Which only means no-one does that. It's rented "from now on", month-by-month-basis so no liability at all.

            That's how you make liabilities disappear from the books. All for rising stock price, i.e. CEO bonuses and stock options.

      2. Joe Montana

        Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

        The fundamental theory is that you sell the property then rent it back, in the short term the rent is much less than the price of the property so you get a short term injection of cash.This makes the company look more profitable *this year* so the execs get their bonuses, then they take their bonus payout and leave to go somewhere else and do the same thing.

        Once they're gone, the reality of having to pay all the previous maintenance costs for the building plus profit for the company now owning/running the building sinks in and their ongoing costs are higher than they were.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

      Perhaps I've become overly cynical

      No, you have not.

      If anything, you have finally understood.

      What you describe is what has gone on with most (maybe all eventually) state owned public services throughout the world that ended up victims of the 1980's neo-con lets get rid of the fat, be more efficient and cost less dogma which (of course) was nothing but neo-con speak for let's close in on this and fill our pockets for as long as we can.

      Examples abound and results are there for everyone to see, no need to make a list.

      O.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

        Re: Prehaps I've become overly cynical

        Yay! Yay! Kill the joooooz! Adolf was right! Yay! Yay!

        Fuck you and your think veiled National Socialism.

  6. jaycee331

    Better

    When you have to shoehorn terms like "better" into a project title you already know it's going to be an unmitigated disaster.

  7. jake Silver badge

    On the other hand ...

    "Interesting choice of words as big, bulky things and icebergs don't tend to mix well."

    On the other hand, icebergs are huge, unwieldy things, drifting mindlessly at the whims of the wind and currents, and likely to roll over unexpectedly, exposing their ugly underbelly to all and sundry.

    1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand ...

      Sadly probably a vey accurate analogy.

  8. GreyWolf

    Anonymous Mole here...

    The so-called management at BT have hired a bunch of American consultants who believe in co-locating people for greater efficiency. This for a company that has been using remote working really effectively for decades. When did you say the Americans are going to catch up with the rest of the world?

    1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

      Re: Anonymous Mole here...

      That explains quite a lot. American consultants were also 'helping' Boris Yeltsin after the fall of the USSR to 'secure' former soviet assets.

      Luckily for the Russians that was nipped in the bud.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Anonymous Mole here...

        Not in time. US interference got Yeltsin re-elected in 1996 and boasted about it, the financial crash came in 1998, and that's why Russians are so anti-American.

        I suspect it's about to happen to us. We even have a chaotic, drink-fond Boris in charge now.

        1. rskurat

          Re: Anonymous Mole here...

          so will the tanks be shelling Number 10 or Parliament this time?

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Anonymous Mole here...

      Consultants will tell you to do the opposite of whatever you are doing at the moment in order to justify their fees.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Anonymous Mole here...

        15 year cycles, according to some textbooks. See also fashions in IT.

  9. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    In reality

    That 16-minute walk is to weed out the grey-beards who will fall by the wayside, literally, wheezing and puffing to get between the sites

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: In reality

      Clearly J J Carter never learned anything from it's elders.

    2. IGotOut

      Re: In reality

      I thought the obesity problem was mainly problem for the younger generation.

      Maybe getting the fat fucks to walk a little may help.

    3. John Arthur
      Facepalm

      Re: In reality

      Indeed it must be to weed out the grey-beards. Google maps say it takes 25 minutes to walk between those two places!

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: In reality

        Google maps currently say 27 minutes for the 1.3 miles - so time must be time of day dependent.

        However, to do 1.3 miles in 16 minutes you need to be walking at a average of 4.875 mph, which not only is well above the average for men or women for all age groups.

        So suspect that "16-min" is like the broadband speeds: possible but unlikely to be achieved.

        I think El Reg should be asking some questions...

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: In reality

        Any decent pubs on the way? -BT Graybeards

        1. Jove Bronze badge

          Re: In reality

          Yes, a few - but the "greybeards" like to keep them secret to avoid having the script-kiddies spoiling them.

          1. rskurat

            Re: In reality

            I'm sure avocado toast pairs very well with a pint, so yes they're best kept secret

    4. boltar Silver badge

      Re: In reality

      Yup, lets weed out the grey beards who actually have a clue and bring in some "full stack" web devs with look-at-me-mum hairstyles and piggy nose rings to write the next generation of network software. I'm sure node.js would be just great for writing core router software in.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: In reality

        Point of order ... a couple of the hackers working on the 1- to 2BSD transition had "interesting" hair and nose rings in the 1970s. You don't really think today's kids have invented anything new, do you?

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: In reality

          Probably not. But the point is with age generally comes experience in all walks of life and software development is no different. If you have some really critical code to write you're better off getting someone older who's been around the development block a few times rather than some kid who's still into the latest fads and will use then regardless of suitability.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lost world of the cubicle

    As long as the brave new world isn't like the one I saw in a HP office. All sat round one big desk working quietly on a laptop pc and banking severe posture and muscular problems for later in life.

    The cubicle is where its at .You can kick out and relax and the old grey matter will thank you by fulminating ideas. Companies enjoyed glorious success when the cubicle was king.

    Now they all grub around for scraps sat at the big desk. Its obscene really.

    1. IGotOut

      Re: Lost world of the cubicle

      Oh how I miss the soul destroying open plan office, where you feel like you have no privacy, people constantly interrupt your train of thought with a "just a quick question" and where you feel like you are monitored every second you are there. Oh and let's not forget the two gobshites talking bollocks as loudly as possible on the desk 15 rows down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lost world of the cubicle

        Up voted just for this:

        "Oh and let's not forget the two gobshites talking bollocks as loudly as possible on the desk 15 rows down."

        Mind you, I wish they were all of 15 rows away...!

  11. Jove Bronze badge

    A big step down ...

    ... in leaving the City of London, and moving to the old "rough side of town".

  12. NeilPost Bronze badge

    Why bother with a Central London Head Officeat all??? ... move to Carlisle or something. Is there literally anything it needs to be in London there for?? If you need a meeting or conference there are plenty other locations in London BT have - inc the excellent conference and theatre facilities at BT Tower.

    .. or could someone have done deal with the European Medicines Authority.... so that the EU (inc the UK) did not have to shovel WeWork a £60m subsidy you take their former Head Office off them ??!

    1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

      Is there literally anything it needs to be in London

      The CEO probably has an apartment just around the corner.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The CEO probably has an apartment just around the corner.

        Quite this. Our offices was relocated to <REDACTED> as the CEO then had a house close by.

  13. hoola Bronze badge

    Sell 90% of Real Estate

    This is one of the more insane moves ever. All this does is provide a quick buck for investors and then long term leases for whichever outfit buys it. You can only so it once because after that you will no longer be able to afford to get it back.

    Almost everything in the UK is geared to profits in the next quarter not what the situation may be in 5 years time. It is one of the reasons we have no major industrial or manufacturing sector left. The investment is high and the returns take longer than a year.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Sell 90% of Real Estate

      >This is one of the more insane moves ever.

      Double so, given the evidence we now have of all those that did this the first time around in the late 80's/early 90's, who then got caught because the internet massively reduced transaction costs meaning that only those with low overheads and operating costs could compete in the world market.

      We've seen the same totally predictable outcome with PFI/PPP contracts....

    2. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

      Re: Sell 90% of Real Estate

       for investors and then long term leases for whichever outfit buys it.

      Once the carcass has been picked clean, government will come to the conclusion that the services provided by BT were actually quite necessary and in the public interest and it'll probably be renationalised at an extortionate rate, while the tax payers can cough up yet again more money to put flesh on BT's bones.

    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

      Re: Sell 90% of Real Estate

      Nonsense. BT is not a property investment company and shouldn't be investing in property. Doing so simply increases the capital required to carry out their core business, making it lower yielding.

      Those who specialise in something are usually able to do it better, so a lot of the time they're able to provide the same service at lower cost while making a profit. That division and specialisation is what underpins all human development since prehistory.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    "We are currently embarking on one of the largest workplace transformation programmes the UK has ever seen. The Better Workplace Programme is going to take a lot of hard work but it will have a huge and positive impact on BT's working culture, our productivity and, ultimately, our ability to serve our customers."

    fnarrr, fnarrrrr

    BULLSHIT BINGO!

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Better Workplace Programme - yes, called Working from Home.

      All BT FT staff get free BT infinity 2 (where available) and BTTV, so they are all already connected.

  15. David Roberts Silver badge

    One of the big problems with pensions

    Was that the scheme was set up to cater for a workforce of around 225,000 which could pay the small number of pensioners out of current income.

    Each "downsizing" increases the number of pensioners (if taking early retirement), does not reduce the number of future pensioners, but does reduce the number of workers paying into the pension schemes.

    If they slung the proceeds of the property sales into the various pension schemes to clear the deficits that would possibly give a better balance sheet in the long term.

    Long term? Who am I kidding?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical CEO BS, again

    ""Between now and moving into the new building we'll be working with architects, designers and – most importantly – our colleagues"

    Naturally "colleagues" means *other* C**-level people: None others are colleagues for a CEO.

    Painfully obvious that peons at lower levels are totally irrelevant.

  17. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    Hot desking

    One of the reasons I accelerated my early retirement.

    As for management consultants, [EXPLETIVE DELETED].

    1. Legionary13

      Re: Hot desking

      Management will take credit for the cash savings implied in hot desking but the less-easily measured costs are hand-waved away. In normal offices there can be a great deal of informal information exchange (whether about shared clients or simply how to get a task done) that just vanishes in hot-desking. Plus human connections - whether you like your immediate colleagues or not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hot desking

      I worked for a large facilities maintenance and construction company that recently when into administration.

      They built a new regional hub (which they sold to try and get some profits) but they didn't have enough desks in the office for all the staff so they encouraged a remote working policy which meant that most people could work remotely 2 days a week.

      They didn't call it home working though, suggesting that one could work from another office, library or coffee shop - anywhere there's wifi! Of course this was just a lie to get them out of any commitments to home working.

      Also the above company had a lease on the old building and never got their data centre and equipment out of it in time for the move, so had to extend the lease on the building by several years, causing more cost. All those management have since moved on, with large handouts of course.

      I can see the same happening with BT... sell the stuff... promise to get out of the old building, but never quite manage it, having to extend the lease and then you have two buildings you need to lease, owning neither but the management have disappeared with their bonuses ad payouts before the proverbial hits the fan.

  18. steviebuk Silver badge

    When you say...

    "Between now and moving into the new building we'll be working with architects, designers and – most importantly – our colleagues, to make sure it's the home the business wants and needs."

    Don't you mean.

    "most importantly - we'll ignore our colleagues opinions. We'll only listen to the over paid architects and designers".

  19. Derezed

    S

    Sell off assets...

    Wow. He has earned his golden handshake, golden parachute, massive pension plan payment and ten figure bonus.

    Visionary.

  20. Nick London
    Coat

    Hutber's Law

    Patrick Hutber was the City Editor of the Sunday Telegraph IIRR

    Hutber's Law states that if a company opens a shiny new headquarter;s building in town it is time to sell the shares.

    You have been warned

  21. iansn

    Just spent three and a half month getting a BT DSL broadband installed. Existing line on BT infrastructure with TalkTalk, spoke to BT business sales of course yes you are on FO infrastrucutre(no Im not I told them) but he told me I was. Plus a cloud phone. A week later a txt at 6.35 am told me the engineer was coming at 8 when I had an afternoon slot requested. Send staff in to open up, engineer arrives at 4.30 pm after ' a hectic day' looks at the shop, checks the line, cant find the DP goes away. India BT Cancels the F|O broadband and orders FO broad band. This farce went on for over 100 days. 12 hours engineers time on site, 7 engineers all to fix a problem that didnt exist, I aleady had a DSL router and a working phone line before BT turned it off and the broadband was off for 5 days. No netowrk diagram of the building, nor where my connection went to, the street cabinet it was supposed to go to didnt have FO cable and they could not find the intermediate DP. All identified by engineer visit one. No one read the notes followed up or anything. I was billed £500 for a missed engineer appointment when it was BT that missed it. £1200 for leaving BT business for BT Business and the cloud phone delivery was 3 months late. It took an email to the CEO to get this moving and sorted and even then the £1200 bill still got through. I did get 5 routers too posted everytime the cancelled the new FO broadband order.

    The interface between BT and Openreach is useless, the BT Indian outsourced helpdesk is worse than useless, the whole thing is a diabolical mess. I should never have picked up the phone and called them

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