Category Archives: Mobile OS

Thinking About RIM, its people and its future

First of all let me tell you something that has been heavily on my mind over the last week or so – RIM is NOT Nortel.  I will write more about that later on, but I believe that Research In Motion and its BlackBerry line of products and services has a long life left in them.  This is not an obituary.  We are just taking a break from mobility to think about our friends and the lives being affected one way or another by the ‘reset’ that RIM is going through right now.

It has been 4 days since Research In Motion announced a large scale reorganization, the retirement of Don Morrison and 2,000 layoffs.  The news, however, did not hit home until late Tuesday afternoon when I first got wind of the names of some of those being let go.  The folks released are far more senior than I originally anticipated.  It definitely hit home because I worked very closely with ‘some’ of those people in my past.  If you check LinkedIn you can already see profile changes and people who were previously inactive are much more active now.

Prior to my current role, and before and after my time at RIM, I worked in large-scale reorganizations, layoffs and process re-engineering.  One thing I can tell you is that the tension will always be present in this type of situation.

It is inevitable; it is unavoidable.  It is part of the process.

I have seen and personally tried all kinds of ‘change management’ techniques and at the end of the day there are always casualties far beyond the actual people that are let go.  What RIM is going through right now is painful; very painful.  And it is ugly.  Very ugly – especially on a personal and human level.

But it was necessary.  The market changed. Competition became real.  If you are a current employee this may even be impossible for you to understand – but if this is executed correctly RIM will be a stronger company by the end of this current quarter.  Believe me when I say that no one at the top took this decision lightly.  In fact, I would go out on limb and tell you that even Jim Balsilie and Mike Laziridis lost sleep over this.  I have coached executives through this kind of thing before and the ones that suffer the most are those that built the company with their own hands (i.e. founders, entrepreneurs).   In my opinion, both Mike and Jim will try their hardest for this not to happen again.  It does not feel good and it penetrates to the deepest parts of a founder’s ego.  In some ways they may even perceive this as their own personal failure.

Regardless of your opinion of them – Mike and Jim have worked very hard over the years and have sacrificed much on the personal side as well.  How much they sacrificed only those closest to them really know.   Bottom line – this is not easy for anyone.  It goes to the core of an organization’s heart… and everybody hurts.  Everybody.

Unfortunately as humans we sometimes need big shakeups to bring about true change.  We need to be shocked out of complacency and comfort zones in order for us to bring up our game.

So far the execution of the ‘changes’ has hit among other areas sales, marketing and product management.  Of course, as an outsider I do not have complete visibility into what is going on and I am sure there are other areas being affected.  My hope is that these folks are not merely scapegoats but that RIM will truly use this time to refocus and leverage the enormous talent and capacity that is still in house.

I left RIM three years ago and I have only good memories from my time there.  Although today my main device at work is the BlackBerry Torch I do have an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy S at home and my work Playbook is on order (I actually just returned my iPad so I could have a Playbook instead).  Despite all of its shortcoming I still consider my Blackberry an invaluable productivity tool for work.  But here’s the catch – I only use 3 applications outside of email, contacts and calendaring (LinkedIn, Twitter and Globe and Mail Politics).  For anything else I use my wife’s iPhone or my Android device.

So I close this post and this week with RIM in my mind and on my heart.  I want to firmly position myself in the corner of those that believe that RIM is NOT dead.  If all goes well Research In Motion will be a stronger company by next quarter and will release new products and services that will enable them get back on track.

Do you want to know what RIM’s secret weapon is?  Even today the BlackBerry platform differentiates itself from all others through its BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the thousands of implementations.  If there is one player that can instantly dominate the Mobile Device Management space in one swoop is RIM.  With their acquisition of Ubitexx they should be able to get there relatively soon.  Will write a separate post on this early next week.

Of course all the hopes reflected in this post are also predicated on my belief that RIM will refresh its devices with QNX to the point  of making them more competitive and that their product design and release cycles will be compressed and enable them to come to market faster.