BT asks lawyers not to 'beat people up' in new PFI outsourcing initiative

BT is calling on lawyers to abandon their adversarial approach in order to meet the needs of PFI-style projects, and in particular a new infrastructure service that it launched at Mipim

BT used the international property event to launch the new service – called Outsmart – in partnership with construction companies Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and Turner & Townsend Group.
Outsmart is aimed at simplifying the process of procuring and maintaining infrastructure for customers and giving them more financial and operating options. It will apply some of the principles of PFI to improve the procurement models traditionally employed by large private sector companies.
But Val Jackson, BT business manager for international property services, said that the new service would require a rethink from lawyers who want to become involved.
“From a legal perspective, the traditional outsourcing approach involves Tupe [transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) regulations],” said Jackson. “What we'd actually like lawyers to do is to help us create more flexible models of law to facilitate the buy-in of employees.
“We think that, basically, the professional services people have got to get in the groove of doing that and help us to create different models and work in a more creative way. We want partnering relationships, not great tomes to beat people up with.”
BT's Spencer Hamilton, a business leader in its partnership finance group, added: “The way Outsmart will work is that financial incentives will be used to get things done. The rigid legal framework will be superceded by performance incentives. Professional services people have to rethink. We want win-win partnerships.”
BT also called on lawyers to consider sharing their clients' risks in return for a greater share in the returns of successful projects.
“They'll do [speculative] work, but they're not swallowing as much as they really could,” said Hamilton.
BT estimates that Outsmart will become a £1bn business within five years. The concept grew out of the telecoms giant's partnership finance group.
Among its portfolio of deals, BT is part of a consortium constructing the new accommodation building for GCHQ in Cheltenham. The consortium will own the building, provide support services and in effect lease it to the Government.