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Category: Business

Autor: anton 28 March 2011

Words: 1047 | Pages: 5

Problem Identification Paper

Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” AT&T recently discovered how true that statement is, and in doing so cost the company both financially and in reputation.

The focus of this paper is on the botched attempt by AT&T to gain their competitive edge back from their main competitors. This paper will identify the problems associated with the project and discuss how project management principles were not used to reach project goals while adversity caused the project to implode. The discussion of relative legal compliance aspects causing difficulties for the company will be shown and recommendations will be given as to how this project could have had a vastly remarkable outcome under different circumstances.

The Project

Two years ago AT&T Wireless implemented a project to upgrade their Customer Resource Management system (CRM). The project was a huge undertaking and was the leverage company executives’ thought was needed to reposition the one time communications giant as worldwide leader in communications. At least, that was the plan.


After the turn of the century AT&T Wireless began to fall behind in the world of wireless communications. Customers jumped from carrier to carrier and AT&T lacked the technological advances to retain their customer base and remain profitable. Market share was slipping and changes were necessary as AT&T was losing ground on its most important asset, its phone network.

While the advances in cell phone technology advanced at blazing speed, AT&T’s antiquated system could not transfer data via cell phone. This was a monumental problem that was costing the company millions. Combine that with a shift is technology that actually diminished the quality of cell phone calls with AT&T subscribers and the scene is set for a tsunami of problems for the company.

The Problem

AT&T Wireless executives frantically tried to complete a CRM upgrade to Siebel 7, a CRM wireless number porting system. Since the company had dropped in market share and fallen behind Verizon and Cingular, the project was undertaken at a fever pitch. The new CRM system had to be up and running in time to handle an FCC deadline for allowing customers to change carriers without changing their phone numbers (number porting). The effort was a failure and the system not only crashed but also was not able to be brought back on line. The collapse affected not only AT&T Wireless services, but also other aspect of the business, and customer service representatives could not keep up.


Planning is the key and AT&T seemed to ignore the key factors in the process. AT&T Wireless’s Seibel system upgrade involved vastly multifaceted structure integration and testing that ran up against, and crashed through, an immovable deadline: wireless number portability. A replacement for accessing customer data or a plan to be able to roll back to the earlier, more stable version, if necessary, would have save the company millions.

Keep testing requirements strong, even when projects fall behind. When projects run late, testing always suffers, with often disastrous results. One example mentioned in the article pertained to the revision on a piece of Odyssey, a telco program used by AT&T that was to work with the new Siebel 7 system. Various teams were responsible for different aspects of the project, one of which entailed changing code on the Odyssey system. Since the company was so pressured to complete the project, teams within the project did not consult with the other teams. As one team changed the code another team would run tests on new programming that was dependent upon the old code and was now meaningless. The lack of direction was causing the project to unravel.

When all of AT&T Wireless’s major competitors chose another company for wireless number porting, AT&T Wireless should have rethought its choice of a competing vendor, which meant extra layers of integration that ultimately failed. The due diligence of integrating a new system with AT&T’s current system was non-existent and the company paid the ultimate price as Cingular, one of AT&T Wireless’ largest competitors bought the wireless business from AT&T.

Management of employees and morale prior to, during, and after completion of the project was another significant factor in the failure of the upgrade project. While AT&T wireless was planning to outsource their customer service responsibilities to oversees companies, the management’s lack of interpersonal action caused turmoil during the project, thus threatening the outcome. The company would have been better served to postpone layoffs and offshore outsourcing until the systems project was completed. Morale and productivity among AT&T Wireless IT staff were devastated by rumors of offshore outsourcing and layoffs that spun around the project but were left mostly unaddressed by IT leaders.

The lines of communication that should have been kept open and clear were anything but. If the company had planned layoffs or outsourcing is unavoidable during a project, management should have communicate that news clearly and gotten the changes over with as early in the project as possible. The focus of workers was not on the project as it should have been and could have been avoided altogether.

Management failure on every level led to the ultimate selling of the wireless arm of AT&T. The lack of planning regarding the programming meant that AT&T was not able to revert back to their previous systems as that system had been cannibalized to accommodate the Siebel 7 integration. This was a major flaw that was totally overlooked and left the AT&T without a failsafe plan.

Management failed to, well, manage. The article points to many instances were management was nonexistent in their oversight of the project objectives and milestones. The project failed to deliver the expected benefits to the stakeholders, was not managed well, and left their customers with the desire to switch carriers.

AT&T has a reputation that was miserably failed in this project. Despite the negative public relations, it is possible for the company to recover by focusing on providing the best service for the customer base currently held by AT&T while working on vertical integration. The company can regain its market shares and all moves require careful forethought and planning. While some very difficult lessons were learned in the wireless integration process at AT&T, the lessons did not impede the forward-looking direction of the company.

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