Sunday, 13 September 2009

Bill Thomas leaves EDS

(By Richard Holway 4.00pm Sunday 13th Sept 09) Late Friday Joe Eazor (who heads EDS) announced that Bill Thomas is to retire from EDS (now part of HP) at the end of Oct. Bill will be succeeded as SVP and general manager in EMEA by Mike Nefkens.

I must admit that this announcement came as little surprise – it had been pretty much on the cards from the day HP’s acquisition of EDS was announced in May 08 and consummated in Aug 08. The way that Bill does (and EDS did) business always seemed a world away from the ‘printers and ink’ of HP. Since the takeover we have written about a whole series of long-standing EDS people leaving or being ousted. It seemed that all the new HP/EDS appointments were from HP or, to a lesser extent, external. EDS has lost a whole generation of IT services experience and contacts.

I am, however, pleased that Bill’s replacement is from the EDS ranks. Nefkens had headed EDS’ relationship with GM and, before that, the relationship with ABN AMRO in EMEA. Netkens joined in 2001.

I’ve known Bill Thomas for most of his 25 years with EDS and its predecessor – SD Scicon which he joined as a Fortran programmer (at a time when entry-level IT jobs existed in the UK!). Indeed, readers must know by now how high I rate him. I think he is one of the best IT services managers to come out of the UK. The UK has produced few managers capable of running a $12 billion operation, an employee base of 50,000 and a geographic footprint covering 36 countries. Indeed, Bill was the very first (and as far as I know only) non-American to be appointed to EDS’ Executive Committee.

What made Bill different was that he shunned the limelight in favour of putting huge emphasis on client and staff relationships. I personally have never heard anyone say a bad word for Bill. People said he was “tough but fair” He led the Rolls Royce contract from the start but, all these years on, still takes a huge personal interest in it. Bill told me that his greatest achievement was the DII contract – the biggest 'single contract' outsourcing contract ever awarded in Europe Pride not in its commercial size but pride in delivering real operational efficiency to those that we put in harm's way to protect us. He learnt that EDS had won that contract whilst he was in Basra. I remind readers of that because Bill believed in the importance of the relationship between the supplier and the ultimate user. If only the NHS IT project (where EDS did NOT have any major involvement) could have been closer to the doctors and others who ultimately had to use the service.

I’d also like to point out that, unlike most of the other departures I have written about recently, a succession plan was in place. EDS stressed that Nefkens was the choice of BOTH Thomas AND Eazor. Indeed, I gain much confidence knowing that Bill really rates Nefkens and that it was Bill's choice.

What now for Thomas? In 2008, he was instrumental in the launch of the International Centre for Programme Management (ICPM) at Cranfield University. I suspect his involvement in the University will continue. I’m sure Thomas will attract the usual collection of NEDs and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t drafted in by HM Government to give his advice.

But Thomas is only just approaching his 50th Birthday – a mere youngster! Although the word ‘retire’ in the HP Press Release is probably literally correct, in that he can start drawing his (probably not insubstantial) EDS pension soon, I just cannot see Bill being satisfied with non exec or advisory roles for long. Believe me, Bill, they can be deeply frustrating and nothing can touch the satisfaction of being ‘in charge’. So my money is on Bill emerging in a powerful new role – quite likely NOT in the IT sector – before too long.

Bill has been my top EDS contact for so many years that I cannot help feeling that an era has come to an end

1 comment:

  1. It has to be EDS loss. I am pleased to read everything you say about Bill. He's been my contact at EDS too.