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RIM insider: fundamental cultural disconnect to blame

updated 10:20 am EDT, Fri June 17, 2011

RIM tip pins failures on insular culture

A staffer at RIM's Waterloo headquarters gave a close look into what might be causing the mounting BlackBerry problems at the company. The anonymous tipster portrayed it as an inherent inability to understand the non-business market that extends up to the two co-CEOs. The company has fooled itself into believing its engineering- and enterprise-heavy focus have translated over to home users, SAI understood.

"The problem is that they brim with hubris [at RIM] regarding their success in the corporate market and are culturally blind to the gaping holes in their armour regarding consumer," the source explained. "They honestly think they understand consumer product, business, mentality, marketing -- but they really don't."

Much of the problem comes from an overly insular culture, he continued. Many of those choosing BlackBerry colors and other design traits are "50-something year old grey-beard engineers" from near southern Ontario who believe that being a parent qualifies them to make youth-oriented design decisions. Staff from outside of Ontario are considered strangers. Concerns existed over co-chief Jim Balsillie taking over the marketing lead since it was that lack of marketing dictated by the executive that created the problem.

The company was also locked in the same obsession with feature checklists that led many companies to struggle against Apple. RIM focuses on issues like security as bullet points but not the important subjective elements, such as the overall user experience.

Many of the staff were professional and motivated; the company wasn't out of contention, the insider said. The challenges, however, were deep ones that the company so far refused to acknowledge.

The endemic conditions are unusually close to those plaguing Nokia before Stephen Elop began to restructure the company. Until the Canadian shifted focus, Nokia was at times notorious for preferring Finnish employees. The company also deliberately ignored the iPhone and assumed that Nokia's existing practices would beat Apple. A change of CEOs, like that called for at RIM, not only see the company more directly acknowledge competitors like Apple and Google but encourage employees to try them to see what features they were missing.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. jfgilbert

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +14

    No need to change

    They should not allow their employees to use other phones, it is bad for morale and shows lack of confidence. After all, Ballmer banned Apple products from his home when his kids wanted iPods, and it worked well for him and Microsoft, didn't it? He anticipated all the moves from Apple and Google, foresaw the market direction, and devised effective counter strategies against them, right?

  1. climacs

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Sep 2001

    +14

    oh brother

    Many of those choosing BlackBerry colors and other design traits are "50-something year old grey-beard engineers" from near southern Ontario who believe that being a parent qualifies them to make youth-oriented design decisions.

    having worked with engineers, I can vouch for how thick-headed these nimrods can be. They are really, really good at one thing and that makes them think they are really, really good at anything. FAIL

  1. UmarOMC

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +2

    Here was a major hint to me:

    They called their tablet the PlayBook! THINK about it...

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +5

    Engineers shouldn't design the experience

    Many of those choosing BlackBerry colors and other design traits are "50-something year old grey-beard engineers" from near southern Ontario who believe that being a parent qualifies them to make youth-oriented design decisions.

    I would argue that engineers of any age should *not* be allowed to make high-level product design decisions. Just look what happened to Microsoft. Gates was a hard-core engineer, he expected everyone else to be as hard-core as he was (including end users), and nobody could say "no" to him.

    The result? Terrible user experience. Zero future vision other than "copy Apple badly." Pretty much the same thing is happening over at RIM now, except RIM can't strip-mine their user base with Windows + Office upgrades.

    Jobs isn't an engineer and never was. He hasn't lost his connection with end users and what they need and/or want. RIM needs to hire someone who hasn't lost that connection.

  1. Salty

    Professional Poster

    Joined: Jul 2005

    +1

    RIM should ...

    RIM should seriously sell themselves to Microsoft. The two companies more and more seem made for each other. They aren't interested in end users, only businesses, and they like to try out flashy impractical c*** and hope that it impresses consumers.

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