BlackBerry has mounted a six city global tour aimed at educating enterprise customers on the company’s vision and product strategy for the next decade. Several members of CEO John Chen’s new management team were on hand at a half day Toronto Experience event at the Allstream Centre last week to outline BlackBerry differentiation and how the company is addressing evolving enterprise mobility needs.
- BlackBerry is "returning to its roots" with renewed marketing and product focus on enterprise mobility. Following on its less than successful flirtation with consumer smartphone markets, BlackBerry is refocusing on enterprise customers with a new leadership team, with ‘classic BlackBerry’ devices (complete with keypad buttons for the original user experience) and with solutions designed to manage the mobile complexity that enterprises now face as a result of BYOD, the explosion of data entailed in M2M communications and the IoE and growing security risk. The company’s primary message is that with device, EMM, communications capabilities and embedded software offerings, BlackBerry is uniquely capable of providing end-to-end mobility solutions in COPE, BYOD and BYOX (bring your own apps) environments. "BlackBerry is the choice for a holistic solution,’’ according to Jim Mackey, the company's EVP for corporate development and strategic planning. In addition, compared with five other providers, RIM apparently delivers the most cost effective EMM solution: concurrent with the event, the company released results of a Strategy Analytics report which found that BES10 boasts the lowest overall total cost of ownership (TCO) over five years, that BlackBerry has the lowest TCO for commercial and regulated and high-security EMM environments, it is the most secure solution as competitors do not offer the same level of IT policies and compliance controls, and that BES10 offers the most comprehensive set of capabilities for the broadest range of customers, including regulated, enterprise and SMBs.
- Security capability will serve as the company’s key differentiation point going forward. Mackey characterized BlackBerry offerings as "Security Plus" because the company has embedded security at the device level, at the hardware, OS and software layers. Citing BlackBerry’s global infrastructure, connections into more than 500 providers, the fact that BES sits behind the corporate firewall and the company’s deep understanding of security from a knowledge and IP perspective, John Sims, president of global enterprise services, argued that these assets, which extend beyond product, position BlackBerry as the best partner to deliver secure collaboration and communications — to regulated industries, government and large enterprises in particular, traditional BlackBerry customer segments that "share its vision of security and privacy."
- Software is accounting for on an increasingly large share of company business. According to Sims, "the gold standard" occurrs when BlackBerry’s four divisions work together; however these are each expected to operate independently and profitably. Efforts to build the software division have been no secret though, and were highlighted at the event as the best bet for expanding BlackBerry’s footprint. While BES10 already provided EMM support across multiple mobile platforms, including Android, iOS, the BlackBerry OS and Windows phone, BES 12 features a "unifying platform" with an easy-to-use and "completely unified user experience" designed to further spread the BlackBerry platform. The company also announced that it is moving to application development and enablement through the introduction of new capabilities, and new SDKs and APIs for internal and external developers, exposing only what is required to inspired developers in order not to compromise security. BlackBerry also noted its intent to move up the software stack, providing support for email and personal messaging (launch of enterprise BBM Protected chat) collaboration and productivity apps, integration with corporate tools such as SAP Fiore and Salesforce.com, and as a future proofing manoeuvre, its ultimate intent to develop vertical apps for segments such as healthcare (and finance), such as that demonstrated through its development partnership with Nanthealth.
The bottom line:
Necessity is the mother of invention, and BlackBerry especially exposed to this imperative. Over the past half-decade, the company has seen its once dominant business device slip into the "other category" in smartphone market share analysis. In IDC’s most recent review of smartphone shipments, "BlackBerry was the only operating system to realize negative year-over-year change both for the quarter (-77.0%) and for the year (-40.9%)." In this scenario, strategy messaging delivered at the Experience event was curiously positive, reflecting a realistic assessment of the best tactics for BlackBerry going forward. While the company is working to improve operational efficiencies through negative measures like staff layoff/reorg and constructive initiatives such as the leverage of internal cloud resources for hybrid solution delivery to customers, it is investing in its higher growth software division to build solutions orientation, in the ‘apptastic world’ and pushing the QNX kernel for IoT implementations, forward thinking strategies that should allow the company to expand its platform without winning the smartphone wars. In terms of market, BlackBerry will focus on growth in specific BRIC regions that can generate enterprise demand (like Indonesia and Latin America), and on traditional regulated segments where its core strength in security will play.
As a response, these tactics offer a good foundation for BlackBerry transformation, but a key question remains: will the company be able to execute quickly enough to restore investor and customer confidence? If leadership is the deciding factor, Sims believes BlackBerry has the required resources: Chen is "pragmatic" and "will make tough decisions" as "there are no sacred cows"; he has new executives and the employees "are inspired." Now if he can just convince others...