Vodafone in alleged billing project blow-out

The $200 million project was due to be delivered by IBM at the end of 2005

Vodafone will make little comment about a massive trans-Tasman infrastructure project which industry sources say is running late, with a potential large cost over-run.

Computerworld has been told the project, which is billing-related, was originally costed at $200 million and was due to be delivered by IBM at the end of 2005. Two sources say the cost is likely to blow out to at least $300 million. One was told by IBM, when the contract was signed, that the deal was worth $200 million.

Vodafone chief technology officer Ken Tunnicliffe — formerly with IBM — quoted commercial sensitivity as his reason for making only limited comment.

He would confirm only that it was one of the bigger infrastructure projects, covering New Zealand and Australia, and that IBM was the systems integrator, working in both countries.

It was “billing-related”, but “I’d rather not say what else is involved”. Tunnicliffe would make no comment on the cost of the project, nor on the timing of delivery, other than to say it was “proceeding as planned”. Nor was he prepared to comment on an end-date for the project. “That’s confidential to us. Timing is important.”

Vodafone has a policy of not talking about its technology unless it affects the customer, he says. IBM referred Computerworld inquiries to Vodafone.

In December 2003, IBM was selected as the integrator for Vodafone’s new CRM, billing and provisioning systems in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. The CRM component was to be based on Siebel, which is used in several Vodafone country subsidiaries.

The new systems were to cover 1,100 “heavy” users and 1,400 “light” users in the sales channel.

If anyone knows about the complexity of billing projects, it should be Vodafone’s CEO, Russell Stanners. Early in the 1990s he was in charge of the IBM/Telecom ICMS billing project, which led to him moving on to a senior position in IBM’s international telecommunications business in New York.

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