Wake Up Call

It’s all well and good coming up with fantastic ideas to set you ahead of the competition, assuming that you’ve thought the proposition through properly. Take Samsung for example – in these times of paranoia and heightened security consciousness, they released a function onto their handsets which allows you to enter numbers into it so that, should your phone be stolen and a new SIM card installed, the handset automatically sends a default SMS from the new SIM to the designated numbers without the new user ever knowing. Genius! This means that you can contact the authorities with the details and they can duly track down the offenders and pursue prosecution. If you’re really lucky, you may even get your phone back!

However, what if your phone is stolen and leaves the country? This happened to me. When I first saw this remarkable little application I thought ‘Great! A nice added extra that’ll ensure that I can nail someone for stealing my stuff’. In fairness this is probably very true when it comes to opportunists who swipe your handset off an unguarded table in a bar, but falls far short of the mark when dealing with more organised crime.

It wasn’t long after the event of theft that my partner received a message from an unknown number. A very odd message indeed, as it wasn’t English and came from a phone in Morocco.

It seems as though handsets are a shared asset out there or passed on quickly, as my partner continued to receive messages every week. Suffice to say that she and I have been unimpressed by unsociable reminders as to my loss, with many rude awakenings in the middle of the night. Still – I thought that I could contact Samsung for a speedy resolution to this irritation.

Wrong. After around four phone calls and much back and forth between departments, I finally spoke to someone who had heard of this rather unique function. Sadly, as the recipient numbers are stored only in the handset, Samsung have no means by which to change them or reset the service. Their only advice was to speak to my network provider about it. Further confusion ensues here when I can’t speak to them regarding stopping the messages because the recipient account has nothing to do with me. Then the only advice they can offer when speaking to the offended account holder is to try and have the numbers added to a blocking list. There are two major flaws to this solution:

  1. to accomplish this you must have a crime reference number from the police and, as the handset stolen was mine and the associated crime number bears no relation to my partner, this wasn’t possible
  2. (the more inhibiting problem) as the service is only activated when a new SIM is installed and this is only likely to happen once the phone is resold/passed on, we can’t know the offending number to add to any such list until it has already started to act as an extra alarm call!

It seems that, due to lack of foresight in the concept of this service, there is no hope of controlling the transmission of these messages, unless the latest user sees it themselves an duly deletes the stored CLIs. Well there hasn’t been any activity for a month or so, so we live in hope now – although I have a drafted message explaining the problem to send back to any future number. I can but hope that’ll do it!

This is a small application and has done little damage, all things considered, but it serves as yet another example of poor implementation from a manufacturer or provider, when the how this should have been done is so easy and obvious (white list repository, network operator agreement, etc, etc, rather than something integral to the handset). Normally these initiatives are flawed through a lack of funding and/or time to get something to market as quickly and as cheaply as possible, with testing being what seems the natural sacrifice of any project*. The overwhelming approach now been operated by most companies, to stick to a deadline rather than ensure delivery of something with quality is a worrying and poses such challenges when tasked with assurance and risk.

The value add of RA & Risk functions tends to be directly proportional to what sway it has with senior management rather than the message carrying an independent level of gravitas. As RA and ERM groups tend to be the only areas of a business that understand the potential ramifications across the board and can give some form of measure or scale to these challenges, it seems clear that reputation has a big part to play and our functions need to step out hard into areas of development within our companies to try to offer prevention and not cure. Indeed, RA and Risk functions should be involved from the outset for all change activity in a business, including the definition of strategies.

Anyway, I digress! In short, if you have this particular function active on anything, set the recipient to be someone you don’t like.

*I am not forgetting the damage here also done by a ‘yes’ man approach from Sales to prospective clients, or indeed the innovation of a marketing function who don’t understand or appreciate the complexity of support or billing of a solution when desperately looking for new USP’s.

Rob Chapman
Rob Chapman
Rob is a consultant working for Cartesian in the UK, specializing in business assurance. He previously worked at Three, Cable & Wireless, Verizon Business and TalkTalk.

Rob is also Chairman of the UK's Risk & Assurance Group. The RAG is the oldest regular gathering of RA professionals anywhere in the world, having first met in 2004.