Upgrade glitch downs AT&T Wireless' CRM system

European customers primarily affected

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. this week faced the software nightmare every IT administrator fears: An application upgrade last weekend went awry, taking down one of the company's key account management systems.

AT&T Wireless, based in Redmond, Washington, was working on an upgrade of its CRM (customer relationship management) system, but a glitch in the process caused a break. For much of this week the company's GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) service customers, primarily in Europe, have been unable to make changes to existing plans or to activate new ones, according to spokesman Mark Siegel. AT&T Wireless Services' TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) network customer accounts are tracked on a different CRM system and are unaffected, Siegel said.

"What happens sometimes when you cut over to a new system is that it doesn't perform, on a temporary basis, at optimal levels. Unfortunately, that's what happened here," he said. "We have made tremendous progress in getting the problem cleared up. Our stores are coming back and systems are lighting up very, very quickly."

Siegel declined to estimate when AT&T Wireless Services' CRM system would be fully operational, but he said it would be "sooner rather than later." The company's CRM software is used for various account management functions such as tracking orders and making requested changes to customers' service plans.

Siegel refused to comment on what CRM software was being upgraded, but AT&T Wireless Services lists Siebel in its regulatory filings as one of its key suppliers and said in 2001 that it was standardizing its customer-facing operations on Siebel's CRM software. JMP Securities LLC analyst Patrick Walravens sent his firm's clients a research note Friday fingering trouble with a Siebel upgrade as the culprit in the outage.

A Siebel executive declined to comment and referred calls to AT&T Wireless Services.

Siegel took pains to exclude the software vendor he wouldn't identify from blame for the upgrade troubles.

"It's our problem. We regret it happened and we're working very hard to find a solution," he said. "We're very pleased with the vendor that we're working with."

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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