Arkla bills delayed a week by a glitch in new software : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Front Page Nation-World Arkansas-Local Editorial-Voices Sports Business Features-Style Classified Ads Acrobat. PDFs Business Matters Business & Tech Weekend Section Movies & Dining Previous Features Photo Gallery Useful Links Info & E-mail Archives TV Listings Weather

RETURN to Business Section / Thursday, September 30, 1999

Arkla bills delayed a week by 'glitch' in new software


If you haven't heard from the gas company lately, don't worry. The bill is in the mail. A computer "glitch" has delayed the billing of about 120,000 Reliant Energy Arkla customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. The company could not say how many of its approximately 440,000 customers in Arkansas are affected by the computer problem, according to Margaret Preston, a spokesman for the company in Little Rock. "We are about a week behind," Preston said. The company finished installing a new computer software system Sept. 7. It is part of a $226 million, companywide conversion by its parent company, Reliant Energy Inc. of Houston, to a computer program that connects all of its subsidiaries to a common system. Things haven't gone as smoothly as planned. "There was a glitch," Preston said. "It's part of the process of getting used to the new system." The Arkla division, which includes about 725,000 customers in the four states, was among the first of Reliant's subsidiaries to make the conversion, Preston said. Reliant also is converting its corporate headquarters to the new system. "It's a big project," said Richard Wheatley, director of external communications for Reliant. "It's very complicated." Employees in Arkansas will be working overtime and over the weekend to get the billing cycle back on schedule, Preston said. The due dates on the delinquent bills will be adjusted to give customers the customary 16 days to pay the bills from the date they are mailed before late charges are assessed. "We are not going to penalize our customers for something that is our fault," Preston said. The delays began with problems reading the meters and getting the related information into the new system promptly, she said. "It created a ripple effect," she said. The new system was designed by a German company and is becoming increasing popular around the world, Wheatley said. The software -- known as SAP, AG -- allows companies with many subsidiaries to use a single system for all functions, so the company saves money through efficiency, he said. The change to the new system began about two years ago and is due for completion by August 2000, Wheatley said. Most of Reliant's computers at the corporate headquarters in Houston have already been converted to the new system with few problems. The company has assigned 220 people to implement the change, he said. "We've had very few problems," he said. "We've been fortunate." The new bills generated by the system look different from previous bills and should be easier for customers to understand, Preston said. Statements that customers received in August included an insert that explained the new bills, she said. The bills also carry the new corporate name and logo of Reliant Energy Arkla. The previous bills had only the Arkla name with the familiar flame on a blue background. Customers who have called the company to inquire about the delays have been met by other delays. A recording on the company's telephone system warns callers that they may have to wait as long as 15 minutes for an operator because of the computer problems. "We apologize for the inconvenience," Preston said.

This article was published on Thursday, September 30, 1999

-- Homer Beanfang (, September 30, 1999


I love your name and address, Homer...good for a smile each day. But your posts are also always very informative. Thanks for taking the time to research and post these bits and pieces of the puzzle, as we look for the whole picture. Whenever I read about all these glitches around the country and the world, it occurs to me that even IF there were not a big-number disaster next year (on scale 1-10), the world will become one big tangle of messy transactions that will consume so much of one's waking life that life will become exceedingly difficult. I believe that those who have prepped will be at least ahead of the game then because they will not have to stand on interminable lines just to get the ordinary stuff of daily life, or their foodstuff. This will relieve a lot of pressure for all, including the unprepared and the providers/suppliers. They should be thankful for our hard work ahead of time to lighten everyone's load at that time. Maybe then they will!

-- Elaine Seavey (, October 01, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ