Trujillo to punish IT over billing bungles

Telstra's battle-scarred IT shop is again bracing for the broom of change, with new CEO Sol Trujillo singling out the telco's near-moribund billing infrastructure as a key strategic failing.

Vowing that a strategic review of Telstra's operations would leave no stone unturned, Trujillo highlighted the company's ability to consume capital assets while at the same time lacking performance in delivering new products and being able to integrate them into core enterprise billing systems.

Trujillo has flown in a specialist team of close allies from the US to review Telstra's internal operations and to recommend on critical changes prior to the anticipated full sale of the telco.

Dubbed internally as the "razor gang", the group's first move has been to remove Telstra's group managing director for technology, innovation and products Ted Pretty, with those aligned to him widely anticipated to either resign or be removed in due course.

Others understood to be under close scrutiny include Telstra's chief information officer Vish Padbranham and chief technology officer Hugh Bradlow.

One US investment bank analyst familiar with Trujillo's management style told Computerworld that while the new CEO is publicly talking new investment in Telstra's product and billing technologies, the reality was those currently in charge were in the process of being removed.

"From a markets perspective there is a need for fresh blood in billing and IT - it's completely bogged, there are huge integration issues. Nobody can argue that what has been done so far has worked, so he will remove the people responsible," the analyst said.

Telstra's billing systems have achieved unparalleled notoriety in the last three years after the telco dropped a lazy $600 million of billing system detritus from a bungled IT integration project onto two of the country's largest collection agencies, almost sending them to the wall in the process.

The action also triggered an unprecedented backlash from the public, forcing the government to ban carriers in Australia from selling bills disputed by customers to debt recovery agents.

Whether Trujillo continues on Telstra's current path of offshoring IT development of Telstra's billing and corporate IT systems remains to be seen; however, it is no secret the new boss expects swift and effective change - even if it means a wholesale replacement of the company's current technology strategy which Trujillo has publicly criticized as lagging behind other developed world carriers' systems.

Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan angrily rejected Trujillo's criticism.

"I'm not sure what Mr Trujillo actually meant, because telecommunications, of course, cover many areas. And, for instance, with broadband, Australia has now come right up the league," Coonan said.

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