Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Goodbye Xansa

Well, that’s not exactly true but today marks the completion of the £456m acquisition of Xansa by Steria which was first announced in July 07. This means that today Xansa has delisted from the LSE.

Steria says that the integration will be completed by 1st Jan 08. John Torrie takes charge of the combined Xansa/Steria operations in the UK. Two other Xansa execs, Mukesh Aghi (Indian CEO) and David Leigh (Group BPO director) join the Group Steria Executive Committee.

Steria says “the new Group reinforces its position in the top 10 IT Service providers in Europe (1.8bn euros revenue with more than 18 000 employees ), and propels it to a number nine position in the UK IT Services market.” One of its key differentiators now is that 25%/5000 of its workforce is based in India. This is one of the legacies of the foresight of the now departed Dame Hilary Cropper who moved what was then FI Group into India over a decade ago.

It is always sad for me to write of another UK IT services company falling into foreign ownership and, as the shipping forecast says, “losing its identity”. This morning I wrote of Systems Designers/SD-Scicon. I could add Hoskyns, Istel, CAP, Data Sciences, ICL etal to the list of UK IT services “has beens/could have beens”. It is rare that I write the story the other way around which is why I really hope that Andy Green can do something with Logica when he joins in the new year.

But I have the fondest of memories – particularly of the Cropper era. We had the most ‘robust’ discussions in the 1990s and I really do believe I had an impact on their strategy – particularly in their move to Application Management and later BPO. Cropper was just so refreshing. She understood the ‘game’ and made sure that you were told a sufficient number of ‘confidential snippets’ to ensure you stayed onside. She’d ‘phone the evening before any announcement was made to make sure I understood what a good thing the announcement was to be! Something that stayed in place even when Xansa was a listed company.

I well remember the IIS acquisition back in 1996 which laid the foundation for the Indian push. The fact that I claim to be an early convert to the offshore model has almost everything to do with Hilary! She made everything personal – from the frequent hand written messages to the long lunches. To be fair, I think I had a pretty close relationship with Alistair Crawford too…but it clearly wasn’t the same.

FI Group/Xansa, with its early emphasis on homeworkers, the outsourcing of application management and offshoring was, on multiple occasions, “ahead of its time”. That it is now French-owned is even more “gauling”. If we can beat them at rugby, why not IT services?

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