O2's Companion halted
New billing system hates BlackBerrys
Some O2 customers being migrated to their new all-singing-all-dancing billing platform, known as Companion, have discovered their bolt-on data packages have been cancelled and are being threatened with no connectivity until the next billing cycle in March.
One Reg reader, on discovering that his data bolt-on had vanished was told he'd have to wait until the next billing cycle for reactivation: leaving him in disconnected limbo for the next 28 days with no recourse other than cancelling the connection and porting the number to a new contract (which would not be on Companion). Understandably apoplectic about why he should take responsibility for sorting out O2's mistakes, he contacted us instead.
O2 tells us they have now re-enabled those missing bolt-ons and contacted the "small number" of Blackberry users affected, though as of publication our reader remains disconnected - he's been promised they'll work on it over the next 24 hours, though he was also told that yesterday.
Companion is an advanced billing system that O2 has been working on for the last 3 years at least, to replace the sticky-tape-and-glue system that's been in place up until now. Upgrading a whole billing system is no small matter and occasional glitches are unsurprising, but it's how those glitches are dealt with that matters. Telling Blackberry users they'll have to do without data for the next 28 days, unless they complain to the press, is hardly a sensible way to do business.
The exact cause of the problem remains a mystery, but O2 has halted the migration of customers to Companion until it can establish what's going on - so at least the situation shouldn't get any worse. ®
Some Perspective Please
Firstly, I am a current O2 employee with experience of many billing systems.
O2 inherited their old billing systems from the choice of the government to restrict the old networks (vodafone and cellnet) from selling their airtime to the public. It isnt O2's fault that there were a lot of old systems.
The implementation of companion as a billing system will go down in history as one of the biggest cock-ups in history, along with the NHS's new system and Windows Vista.
It is a cobbled-together-from-ill-fitting-third-party-software type affair, which was poorly excecuted with the "help" of IBM (who we should note claimed "nobody ever got sacked for choosing IBM", except for one of O2's directors who was gone within 12 months).
The DISE platform was hard to learn and not foolproof, but worked really well and was FAR quicker than companion. It seems that the reason it was sacked off for most customers was that O2 had spend so much on the dross that is companion, that an about-face would be embarrasing.
Nobody likes change for change sake, but it is even worse when they keep telling you "it's better, it really is" when they have never used it, or any other system.
It was implemented more than three years ago and immediately fell over, causing every non-customer facing staff member to have to take calls to try and clear up the mess, for over two months. It still isnt finished, but is at least pretty much as usable as it needs to be.
Unfortunately, progress moves swiftly and most companies will be playing catchup. O2 is not different, but we do have a customer-centric focus now, and the use of outsource partners is on the decline.
not quite so old
@Cowards - people with hazy memories of Companion in 2001 may not realise the work was suspended for a while back then before re-starting properly a couple of years later. It hasn't been in continuous development for all that time.
There have been multiple releases over the period which, because they have been successful, have not been reported. "Computer system works as expected, delivers some benefits but suppliers wanted paying for it" isn't a great headline.
The reason he was told 28 days is because he was probably speaking to someone in a contracted customer service departement such as Ventura. The people who you speak to on the phone are perfectly capable of giving you the correct information and dealing with your problems.
Trouble is they are often managed by people who don't know their heads from their arse's and are scared to question anything. They were probably told to tell the customer it would be active on the next billing cycle because when a new bolton etc is added to the account it gets the date of their next bill as the default start time. Also in places such as ventura they have no/very limited access to make live changes and wouldnt dream of looking outside the box for a solution.. But when your contracted to statistic orientated goals such as x number of calls, limited transfers and call handling times... why would you care how long a customer has to wait... as long as you dont have to transfer them to another call centre or allow them to keep you on the phone too long, everyone gets paid.