back to article BBC man Linwood 'was unfairly sacked' over £100 MILLION DMI omnifail

A BBC technology chief who took the fall for the Corporation's failed £100m Digital Media Initiative was unfairly dismissed, an employment tribunal has ruled.. The tribunal that found that the BBC broke the law in suspending its chief technology officer, John Linwood. The tribunal found Linwood was unfairly dismissed under …

  1. Warm Braw

    Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

    According to the BBC's own News Website:

    "The BBC ... interviewed replacements for Mr Linwood before the disciplinary procedure began"

    Regardless of the merits of the project itself, even I as a former small-time employer know that this is setting yourself up lose in any subsequent tribunal.

    Are the HR people who allowed this to happen going to lose their apparently pointless jobs?

    Are the executive board who decided in a minuted meeting that 'Mr Linwood should be dismissed "one way or another"' going to contribute to the eventual cost of the settlement?

    Of course not. Lessons will be learned and the people who learned them will be promoted so that they may cascade their experience from the highest level in the corporation. And cascading upon their minions is what those upper echelons seem to do best...

    1. James 100

      Re: Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

      Wow. I'd been wondering how firing the guy in charge of blowing 9 figures up the wall could possibly fail ... presumably BBC HR wondered the same thing, but managed to find a way.

      As I opened the article, the headline made me ask "if blowing the price of a small hospital with nothing to show for it isn't enough to get fired, what the ... is?!" - but then, that's what people were wondering after the 'Baby P' firing was ruled unfair too.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

        He inherited it and his bosses went La La la when he or anyone else suggested there was a serious underlying problem with the approach.

        There was a different project in BBC R&D that works that could have been adapted. But that presumably would not have suited Siemens.

        How can you possibly bring anything outsourced to Siemens back in without scrapping it and restarting with a new spec? He was doomed to fail.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

        "I'd been wondering how firing the guy in charge of blowing 9 figures up the wall could possibly fail"

        Given that he arrived in the post well into the project and long after it had lost its way - "Pretty spectacularly"

        I've been wondering how much it'd cost the beeb ever since it happened.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

        No need to wonder, it's on the website. Lucy Adams, who was HR Director until April this year, got £320,000:

        It would seem that the industrial tribunal got this right, in ruling that the employee was 15% culpable and 85% scapegoat.

        The big question is what happens next, given that there's bound to be a compensation payment and that senior management have shown themselves reckless in their knee-jerk removal of the guy in charge of a massively failing project.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

      Yes, but "as a former small-time employer" you were accustomed to obeying the law, not ignoring it.

  2. Boris J's Quiff

    Gravy Train

    I want to be on the BBC gravy train

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gravy Train

      All Aboard.. TuuTuu.... BBC Tuuuu.

      Sorry, could not resist :D

    2. Tom 7

      Re: Gravy Train

      If you're an engineer you'll find the gravy train is in fact a load of shit creek in bucket.

  3. Anonymous Coward 101

    It is apparent from the Guardian's story that the objective was to punt the guy using any means necessary (also, it is clear that some BBC executives do not understand that stuff they say in emails can come back to bite them):

    1. JimC

      > punt the guy by any means

      Back when i was young that was the reward for being responsible for an almighty ballsup...

      What's changed?

      1. rhydian

        Re: > punt the guy by any means

        Its an HR cockup, pure and simple. As the tribunal said, there was nothing stopping the BBC from not renewing the bloke's contract. The problem was the higher ups decided they wanted a sacrifice on the altar of "accountability" and hang the cost.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: > punt the guy by any means

        The problem is with the word "responsible". Unfortunately and all too frequently, there's a difference between having your name on the door and actually being responsible for the project.

        From my admitted long distance view on this, it sounds like as the guy with his name on the door as far as he was able to, he acted responsibly. He warned the BBC that the project was off the rails and needed to be canceled or brought under control. Warnings which were promptly ignored by his superiors who told him to carry on with the existing program. Then when the investigators caught the BBC wasting money, they attempted to shitcan him and put all the blame on him, aka scapegoated him.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    The potential benefits of DMI

    "CTO John Linwood, who was the project sponsor and was formerly of Microsoft and Yahoo, has been suspended from his £280,000-a-year job on full pay and temporarily replaced by technology controler Peter Coles."

    'In a memo sent to BBC staff in 2008, published by The Register and explaining the potential benefits of DMI, the system is described as "necessary modernisation" as the broadcaster moved away from recording standard definition on tape to high definition on memory cards.' ref

  5. PeterM42

    Outsource to Siemens????

    Well - THAT was never going to achieve anything!

  6. ForthIsNotDead

    Someone in Siemens must have got a huuuuuuuuuge bonus...

    ...think about it - they effectively hoovered up money from the BBC until they got the boot.

    And they didn't even get the boot... BBC bought the unit of them!

    KA CHING!!!!

    Siemens played an absolute blinder there. I mean, if you're really really going to seriously rip someone off, THAT'S the way to do it.

    Seriously. They SO ripped them off, I can really only applaud them. I should be disgusted, but at this moment, I can only muster admiration. Lots of it.

    Of course, that said, I'm sure dealing the BBC on an IT project is probably just as bad as dealing with the Government on an IT project, so I'm possibly being unfair to Siemens. Who knows. Perhaps the BBC, with their "too many cooks" way of doing things, just didn't know what the hell they wanted.

  7. John H Woods Silver badge

    Siemens firing is ...

    ... a high-tech job blow.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I find hard to believe / amazing is that after blowing £100m they have absolutely nothing to show for it. I mean seriously what were they doing? I'm guessing there must have been quite a few people involved in this project, did no one notice that all those people seemed to just be sitting around looking at cat pictures on the internet all day?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not just the Beeb who do this...

    I know one person who found out he was getting the sack when he saw his job being advertised in the local rag (someone submitted the ad early) and another at a different company who came back from holiday to find his desk had been cleared.

    In both cases, Industrial Tribunals decided that the reasons for sacking were valid, it was just the way in which it was done breached company policy - with both sides then claiming a victory.

  10. a well wisher

    Whats his chances of getting a job on that sort of salary outside the BBC - aka the real world !

  11. Hans 1


    >What I find hard to believe / amazing is that after blowing £100m they have absolutely nothing to show for it.

    They do, however, it is unreliable, does not scale at all and all parts still do not fit together. Like in any project, start small, get the base right, and work from there. At the BBC/Siemens, they got dozens of script kiddies working on a dozen components, with no base to build upon and link them all up. They all attempted to build the "next big thing".

    Then they had 15 different technical spec cheats, sometimes contradicting, specifying requirements ...

    What I find hard to believe is you seriously believe people stare out the window/watch cat videos all day while in the office ... and then for 9 years??

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