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back to article O2's Companion halted

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 …

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Anonymous Coward

How long

"he's been promised they'll work on it over the next 24 hours, though he was also told that yesterday."

How long does it take for them to press a few buttons on their system to enable data

its not like Landline where they might have reconnect the wires!!

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Dead Vulture

3 years?

It's a bit more than 3 years - it was already a year or so into development when I joined O2 as a developer nearly 6 years ago...

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@ AC

I think this is quite a naive view, depending on how this billing system's incorporates into the GSM/UMTS network and how bad the billing system fault is people could add the APN/service again and again but the billing system may push it back off each time.

Not to mention that the tariff and billing admin is generally done by customer service. . . need I say more

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Thumb Down

Bunch of f00kwits

I can't belive they are adding yet another billing system, they had loads when I was last there.

Typical of a telco to not really give a rats ass about the customer service.

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Dead Vulture

Companion : Balls....

""... that O2 has been working on for the last 3 years at least ...""

I left the employ of O2 just over three years ago.....

I was a PM for Companion, and had been for the previous two years. The programme, even as far as I knew, had been running since just after the Y2K work.

It was a shambles then and frankly, is still a shambles now. I have friends who still work for O2.

The primary issue was that O2 never really scoped the project properly, there was no SOR [Statment of Requirments] other than 'one billing system to replace the 11 [yes, 11] current billing and invoicing systems.'

IBM, the supplier, knew a bad SOR when they saw one, and milked it for all it was worth.

TSO, Technology Services Org' within O2 are the brains behind the whole kit and cabuddle.

Hey ho.

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Anonymous Coward

re How Long

It would be quicker if it were only a few wires that needed reconnecting.

Modern mobile networks are far more complicated than that but its far too dull to go into on a Friday evening !

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Silver badge

28 days?

Hm... 28 days later ... he still has no data services. I'd say ... 28 days w/o data services in a BlackBerry? You gotta be joking! A BlackBerry w/o data is just a "pretty phone" without anything valuable except maybe the gigantic storage capacity for contacts and SMS/MMS messages.

I too would complain if I was told to wait 28 days ... ow!

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Unhappy

O2 support?

Hey this is O2, count yourself lucky they even answered the phone.

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Coat

Don't you think

This could have been a blessing in disguise for the poor guy, after all, if his crackberry wasn't working he could have done something more worthwhile with his time.

I reckon the O2 billing system was trying to do him a favour :)

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Flame

RE:companion

I left working for o2 in their collections dept in june last year so have had to work with their computer systems. They originally had a system called DISE which is a text based program built decades ago and worked brilliantly. They then spent close to £100 million (AFAIK) developing the companion system in-house. Most new (consumer) customers were on companion and they started migrating people onto it from DISE. They then realised companion was crap and bought the new DISE 3G which was basically a single-window-based GUI planted on top of the old system. They then started migrating customers back onto DISE! Now you say they migrating them again!

Just to give an example of how crap companion is,, these are the steps required to see how much a customer owes:

1 - Log onto kana (deals with workflow and stores customer notes)

2 - Click on a button that brings a dialogue box asking for an email address.

3 - Click on search customer which brings up the companion window.

4 - Enter search details (eg mob number)

5 - If found right account the window will fill with some customer details (basically just name and address)

6 - Click on security tab (this brings up details such as date of birth and password - needed to verify customer)

7 - Click back on prev tab.

8 - Click customer verified button.

9 - Screen will close and email address will go into box mentioned in 2. Click OK

10 - Dialogue box will close and it will show in kana as having a msg in inbox. Click on a button on toolbar.

11 - A new window will open. Scroll to the bottom and select view bill.

12 - A new window will open (This is EBPP system) showing bill as it appears on customer's statement (ie doesn't show whether it has been paid etc).

13 - Click on payment history and finally view what is owed. Bear in mind this will show full balance owed, even if only part of the bill is late

Between 8 and 13 can take up to a minute if system running slow. As I was in collections, I was getting calls that were getting automatically diverted from custs who owed money and it took ages to even find out how much.

Now on DISE:

1 - open DISE

2 - navigate to search screen. (about three/four key strokes)

3 - Enter search data

4 - see main page with all security details and arrears.

Big difference.

BTW sorry for long post. The system made me so mad, I just needed to vent!

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Don't get me started...

"its not like Landline where they might have reconnect the wires!!"

Well, not even that in my case - picked up the landline phone in my new flat - fantastic i thought - dial tone, test facility, speaking clock, alarm, emergency services - no problem ring up 're-activate' be done in a jiffy...

Like hell...

According to BT there was no line present at my property.... £124.99 New line installation fee please.

So eventually i agreed to let an engineer come out who looked at the line and said to me "why did they send me?", i refused to give them the £124.99 instead sending them a letter to the head of customer services (faster than being on hold!) And i was called back by the chairmans office. They agreed to cancel the £124.99 charge and reduce my minimum contract to 3 months.

Bottom line? Agree to the work then refuse to pay. 99% of the time they will just drop it as it's not worth chasing over.

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Stop

Another ex-o2 employee speaks

As another ex-o2 employee - I left in late 2004 - I'm astounded that they are still persevering with this system. It was a standing joke how long it was taking to develop in Feb-01 when I started there, and still was when I left.

This was a disaster from the start, and when o2 were already using a brilliant system (comparitively) in DISE, that was all-but developed in-house in the first place, it beggars belief why o2 have continued to pour money into this black hole. How many more high-profile failures before the rest of it gets ccanned?

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28days..

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.

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Dead Vulture

Billing probs

I've had to call up every single month since I upgraded my phone in October to have my bill corrected. It's a different random problem every month. Never had any problems before and it's getting very annoying.

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Coat

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.

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Anonymous Coward

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.

Now....

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.

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