Accenture has hit back at British Gas by saying allegations that a billing system, implemented by the consultancy firm, was riddled with “millions of errors” were “inaccurate”. As we reported yesterday, a preliminary appeal brought by Accenture against British Gas was rejected on 2 August, after a High Court judge ruled that a …
I'm having problems with British Gas's billing
I won't go into detail here, suffice to say that someone somewhere is being a muppet. Whether that is the fault of the billing system or BG themselves is not yet clear.
It wasn't millions of errors!
It was a couple of database coding errors that propegated to millions of records.
Seriously BG shareholders should be concerned.
I work for BG, and remember the disruption and hell it was causing at the time. Whether it was due to a borked new system, or [poor integration of it to the existing systems, I cannot say, as I wasn't involved in that side of the business. Could have been either side at fault.
Anon for obvious reasons.
it's a billing system! Test it!
If BG accept a billing system without adequate testing then so fool them. FFS! It's a billing system, dealing with money, believe it or not it's incredibly important it does exactly what it's supposed to do and get the monetary values right!
Not how the process works
In major projects where there is serious money at stake, the process goes as follows:
Design -> Code -> Test -> Deliver
You will notice that there's a linear progression with the inbuilt assumption that each step starts, runs, completes and the next step starts. There is no room in the schedule for fixing bugs that are thrown up by the testing, because it's too difficult to "sell" such a stage. No--one can say how many bugs will be found, therefore no-one can say how much time the bug-fix stage should be. But more importantly because when all the preceding steps slip and the delivery data is cast in stone, there simply isn't time to find bugs let alone fix them.
Everybody knows this will happen. The implementers rely on the customer changing their minds to give them an excuse for missing their targets. The customer builds in a contingency - so they never (unless they're new at this) actually expect a delivery when it is scheduled and they always expect the costs to be much higher than the supplier promised.
Just why that didn't happen here is difficult to say. Maybe someone was so naive they actually believed all the progress reports, or weren't bright enough to withhold payment until the programme had been delivered.
Maybe in fantasy land. in real world
Rough spec > Code > Quick Test > Change Spec > Go Live (no need to retest as it has to go live now!) > Recode > Go Live > Change Spec > Go Live >Recode > Go Live > Change Spec > recode > Go live > ah f**k it it'll do.
... that's about it. With included salespeople with targets to hit who will tell the customer anything, and a customer who doesn't really know what they want.
My money's on Accenture
Knowing British Gas, I wouldn't be at all surprised if 99% of all the issues were down to them.
It's quite a simple matter to prove that the system meets the requirements laid down in the contract.
BG signed off the contract and signed off the design. If you want changes to the system, then raise change requests and that will cost you. Tough luck guys.
This will be another case of someone signing off the system, then discovering years later it doesn't do what they want and wanting it fixed free of charge and no surprise, the supplier tells them where to get off.
Those were my first thoughts
And then I read the bit about Accenture claiming to have delivered a system to specification on time and on budget.
For some reason that doesn't pass the bull-poo detector.
Re: Those were my first thoughts.
For me, I saw "millions of errors" and thought that sounded unlikely,
Then I noticed "Accenture" and thought it was plausible.
Finally I saw "SAP-based" and decided it's an open-and-shut case.
Seems that British Gas have forgotten Ferguson vs British Gas 2009 already.
I think we should take this opportunity to recount stories of having worked with Accenture on absolute failures of projects.
I was involved with one where Accenture bought this company (or their banking solution code at least) called Alnova and were implementing it as project for another bank.
When you Google Alnova you'll see loads of results about what a great product it is companies can save so much money by implementing. But when I worked with it was so badly coded that if you entered your login password wrong 3 times it let you in anyway, but if you couldn't wait to have to do it 3 times, you could just enter alphabetic characters instead of digits (or vice versa, can't remember which) once and it would let you in.
Accenture will probably win this case regardless of whether they're at fault or not because their strength is their legal department and the contracts they produce.
And didn't they make some epic fail with the British Health Service but made away like bandits because of their iron clad contracts?
Wah Wah; but it was working when we tested it
Alnova, what a crock, I was contracting in a bank working on the interface between one of the banks existing systems and alnova, of course the alnova implementation date kept slipping so you can imagine what happened to the contractors.
My moneys on Accenture to win the case, they are meticulous record keepers, not to prove the work was done correctly but to prove how the client messed it up...
Any evil icon will do
"My money's on Accenture"
Glad something cheered me up on the grey wet miserable day. Maybe you should check Accenture's history.
Google "DEFRA Single Payment Scheme" for just one of their sterling efforts.
I think you'll find they mean getting *cash* out of HMG for their efforts, in *spite* of said efforts being rubbish, *not* delivering a first rate system in the first place.
I am aware of Accentures history and the circumstances how they became Accenture
Further, I also know of their marketing and development strategy where's allegedly they sell a solution knowing it won't work and then charge huge amounts on the change requests required to make the system function.
But my money is still on Accenture. I've dealt with BG over the years as a residential customer and their sheer incompetence and lack of process knows no bounds.
SAP-based? Oh dear! The fail did have to start somewhere, after all.
You know things are REALLY bad....
...is when people are arguing this much over who's the worst bunch of fuckups, Accenture or BG... especially when both contenders are such clowns.
British Gas' billing systems are broken
Ah, British Gas.
Moving to a new property earlier this year, we switched to a different supplier immediately, but it took a couple of weeks to occur.
Five months later we got a debt collection letter from British Gas (the original supplier). No prior bills, no prior communications, no nothing. They thought we owed a couple of hundred quid for a couple of week's worth of electricity and gas. In a two bedroom flat.
I don't think this company can do billing to save its arse. Hint: Sending bills helps.
We still haven't received a bill from them, nor a statement.
If BT signed off on the system
Then that is an acknowledgement from them that the system was performing to requirements. IANAL, but as I understand it, that sign-off has a legal status. If Accenture have led BG to believe that the requirements of teh specification have been met, when they have not, that is another matter. Again, IANAL but I believe that could be considered to be fraud.
So what it comes down to is not whether the system meets the needs of BG (which apparently it doesn't), but whether it meets its specification (which it may or may not do). If the specification was wrong, then tough titties BG, it's your fault.
Badgers icon, 'cos there isn't an 'IANAL' one.
If this is the online billing system, then I would imagine both sides are at fault. I moved home through their service and was told I had to resign up using a new email address because the system was so inflexible, the move process didn't work properly and they were unable to remove that email address from their database due to 'issues'. I needed to contact them twice again to get my account back on the right tariff. Poorly thought out, poorly implemented and poorly tested.
Brilliantly run company. Failure after failure after failure = new contract after new contract after new contract. Billions of dollars to reward them for their incompetence. Kudos to them.
You wish you know their secret, just admit it ;-)
British Gas simply passing the buck (pound or euro)
Seems like British Gas has problems that are common to utilities, often started when meter readings were misread.
Our wonderful Toronto Hydro electrical supply utility had such belief in their computers infallibility they cut me off for a month whilst they figured out that I was right.
I left British Gas due to their billing system problems. It was a total farce and caused me immense hassle and stress.
I first noticed something was amiss when British Gas wrote to me saying my monthly gas direct debit, which as normally around £30 a month was going up to over £100 a month. Their system had decided that was a fair figure despite me being in credit on my DD payments.
I rang them and they agreed the assessment was wrong and dropped the debit down to its previous level.
The next month the system did the same again! I rang them again, and questioned them about why my bills were getting so expensive and they had no idea. They agreed my gas usage hadn't gone up and that I was in credit, but couldn't explain why the system wanted to up my direct debit. They put the debit back down again, and I waited in trepidation for the next letter.
Guess what - a few weeks later another letter appears, this time increasing my direct debit to £150 per month!
By this time I was really stressed out, I'd been dreading letters from British Gas, so I complained to their customer services department and did the best thing I could - left them for a different supplier.
I will never use them again.
@Ravenger, Direct debit amounts
Ravenger, your experience with direct debits increasing was apparently a common thing at some point in the recent past, stories of that hit the national news with allegations being made that British Gas was quite deliberately upping the DD monthly amounts in a deliberate strategic attempt to collect as much money has possible, to line their coffers with the interest.
Doesn't suprise me
Worked for Centrica a couple of years ago (in another area), this project had hundreds of ICT Indian "experts" shipped over to do the development (The kind of expert who cuts and paste's code from the internet, or when you explain a problem asks for code samples etc), and because of the profile of the project the people managing it seemed to think they were some kind of supernatural deities instead of being the usual breed of retarded British manager.
I was told it was their flagship project and was the biggest Sap project in Europe
Doesn't surprise me the system's crap
The big problem with this
The big problem with this SAP system was that it was the corporate equivalent of "The one ring", everything came into it, and it sits at the center of everything which is ok if it's a well written efficient system, however as usual it's given to the mediocre and expensive Accenture.
Centrica is full of very nice people who are reasonably naive about IT in comparison with other companies(VERY reminicent of working for a large Government organisation), they also have large numbers of important applications, written in a wide range of languages and platforms which over the years have been strapped together with the IT equivalent of Duck tape.
Judging by my experience with British Gas, I would guess that they:
- did not specify the requirement for the billing system properly,
- did not manage the implementation properly,
- then did not go about getting it rectified properly.
After complaining to the regulator about their billing practices and getting compensation, I then switched to NPower.
British Gas seems to need a little help in the following areas:
- understanding teeny weeny clauses hidden in the back page of the contract
- being able tosay no to significant changes from arrogant or incompetent stakeholders
- avoidance of sharp objects
Can't blame Accenture at all, being bean counters, sales and marketing, and lawyers first, corporate entertainment (for themselves) second, and a competent technology providere dead last.
Plenty of blame to go around
The original data uploaded to Jupiter must have come from BG's non-relational gas account/billing system. It's hard to maintain data quality over a period of decades - think about how many software releases that must be - on a system where the data correctness rules are enforced by the application, not fixed declarative rules.
I've also known no company require so much sign-off on suppliers' designs and yet make such, er, surprising engineering decisions. After two projects for Centrica I resolved never to work with them again.
The Accenture commercial folks are very smart, thorough or perhaps both. Even if the shortcomings in the end result are partly due to things under Accenture's control, I'm sure that Accenture will prevail.
On one of the occasions I relapsed and worked with Centrica again, Accenture was in fact the prime contractor. I recall flagging a design issue (not at all related to this SAP stuff) which would unavoidably result in data corruption (truncation of a field meant that significant information would be lost in a small proportion of cases, making previously-unambiguous data now ambiguous). I was unable to get Accenture staff to acknowledge the problem; basically they took an "it's too late now" and "the customer already signed off" approach.
So my personal opinion is that both parties have probably made mistakes but it's very unlikely that Accenture will actually lose the case.
The initial proposition for Jupiter was quite sound, technically, in that it sort to separate out CRM (Seibel-based) from Billing (SAP-based) and from the core "Product Engine" systems (i.e. Meter Reading, Meter Management, Energy Supplier-Change Management, Services (etc) x 2 for Gas and Electricity markets).
The issues revolve(d) around the CRM, not the Billing nor "Product Engine" systems and we're, IMHO, the consequence of implementation decisions made by Acidenture.
Seibel was, largely, a soft-configured CRM product, chosen for that very reason in that it would be easy to change as necessary during the design lifetime of the solution. When it came to it, however, performance issues were quite severe so Acidenture decided to change functional components of the CRM from soft-coded to hard-coded, thus destroying the initial premise (change flexibility et al) and in effect, turned the CRM into a bespoke, Seibel-like but not Seibel clone - It became harder and harder to deliver changes that were largely agreed and planned right at the start of the project as major Milestone delivery phases, as more and more functionality was turned over from soft- to hard-coding in the CRM.
The level of customisation for the CRM ended up circa 97% and didn't have the configurable featureset that was part of the initial design decision, negatively impacting the overall solution.
The nature of the deal was such that Centrica had little say in how the solution would be implemented then deployed.
On balance, I think there might be a case to answer.
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