Should You Flip Off the Flip Phone?

I read an article recently called ‘Businesses: Don’t Overlook Basic Flip Phones’. The piece talked about the corporate world’s obsession with the smartphone, and questioned whether all businesses really needed what has become a mini computer, in addition to their other devices.

Here’s a key line:

“Workers may not like pulling out the lowly flip phone to make a call, but enterprise should be about function over form. There may not be a need to pay for functionality that is not needed. The cost of deployment, provisioning, and support is as low for the flip phone as possible.”

There are a lot of points I agree with the author, James Kendrick, on (and no, not just the ‘cheap alternative’ argument, being an FD :))

A key argument is that any device connected to the internet can’t shy away from security concerns. It’s why there’s a lot of talk at the moment about the potential of someone hacking household items like your smart fridge (see ‘A Fridge Too Far’ for an insight into the unintended consequences of this).

One of the highest risk factors for an organisation is data breaches. Smartphones are constantly connected, and if not properly protected, can provide access to huge amounts of valuable data. 47% of companies reported last year that customer data is stored on their employees’ smartphones (see our mobility infographic here).

Without strong mobility management policies, and a thorough understanding among your people about what it takes to keep a smartphone secure, that customer data will always be vulnerable.

So the notion of a flip phone which can call, text and do little else, is probably an attractive one to most risk conscious IT departments.

However, if you’re prepared to manage the risks, then there are significant rewards to be gained through the well-considered use of smartphones.

Mobility is an important part of Microsoft’s strategy, and even though I’m no techie it seems that the hype is being backed up by new developments across their product range.

The latest CRM and ERP solutions have been designed to be easy to use on smartphones (even easier as now we’re seeing larger screen sizes), so accessing key reports or up-to-the-minute customer information on your phone, on the way to the next sales meeting becomes part of the routine.

And might just prove critical if there are outstanding invoices to be cleared before any further orders can be taken (sorry, that’ll be the FD in me bursting out again! But imagine a world where you mobilise your sales organisation as first line credit control!)

In the same way that we all upload holiday snaps, selfies and pictures of our dinner to Facebook (of course I’m not speaking from personal experience) service teams can upload before and after shots of installations or repairs to their systems.

We’ve adopted Microsoft’s Unified Communications (UC) solution (Microsoft Lync) across our business and it means that our people effectively carry their extension number with them wherever they go. Customers call one number, and they will be able to reach them wherever they are.

UC also means that they can use the ‘presence’ feature to check on the availability of colleagues (i.e ‘Available’, ‘In a meeting’, ‘Driving’) which is pretty handy when you’re with a customer and need a quick question answering.  

For those companies whose teams travel overseas, there are savings to be made by tapping into the hotel Wi-Fi to make calls, rather than rack up excessive call charges.

Here’s a really quick video which gives you a taste of this – for more on unified communications our telecoms experts recently recorded a webinar called ‘The Future of Telephony’

That’s probably just scratching the surface of what’s possible, but it certainly seems that there’s plenty to gain from the use of smartphones.

The key is setting up robust security policies and changing the bad habits that most of us have drifted into with our personal use.

Then again, if all you want to do is make calls, feel free to stick with the brick!