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Open Letter To RIM Senior Management from Supposed High Level RIM Employee

Large morning coffee

I am not sure what to say about this one. The BoyGenius posted up an open letter to RIM’s senior management from what they verified as a high level RIM employee who wishes to remain anonymous. If true then it is a pretty sad case if a high level employee feels he cannot get his message to management in any other way. It also comes at a critical time for RIM which is going to have a vote on July 12th about splitting up their Co-CEO + Co-Chairman of the Board structure.

While the letter does not really say anything groundbreaking it does show that RIM employees are feeling some of the same pain as their users. I have been speaking regularly with many contacts at RIM and they seem much more positive than this RIM employee. It could be that he is just not as privy to the upcoming changes coming from Waterloo since RIM has been playing it pretty close to the vest with each team. Still he does highlight a need for more transparency at RIM. My favorite line in the whole letter?

We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care.

Check out the full letter over at BGR. I also put a copy below in case it gets taken down. Let us know what you think.

To the RIM Senior Management Team:

I have lost confidence.

While I hide it at work, my passion has been sapped. I know I am not alone — the sentiment is widespread and it includes people within your own teams.

Mike and Jim, please take the time to really absorb and digest the content of this letter because it reflects the feeling across a huge percentage of your employee base. You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.

Before I get into the meat of the matter, I will say I am not part of a large group of bitter employees wishing to embarrass us. Rather, I believe these points need to be heard and I desperately want RIM to regain its position as a successful industry leader. Our carriers, distributors, alliance partners, enterprise customers, and our loyal end users all want the same thing… for BlackBerry to once again be leading the pack.

We are in the middle of major “transition” and things have never been more chaotic. Almost every project is falling further and further behind schedule at a time when we absolutely must deliver great, solid products on time. We urge you to make bold decisions about our organizational structure, about our culture and most importantly our products.

While we anxiously wait to see the details of the streamlining plan, here are some suggestions:

1) Focus on the End User experience

Let’s obsess about what is best for the end user. We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work. Android has a major weakness — it will always lack the simplicity and elegance that comes with end-to-end device software, middleware and hardware control. We really have a great opportunity to build something new and “uniquely BlackBerry” with the QNX platform.

Let’s start an internal innovation revival with teams focused on what users will love instead of chasing “feature parity” and feature differentiation for no good reason (Adobe Flash being a major example). When was the last time we pushed out a significant new experience or feature that wasn’t already on other platforms?

Rather than constantly mocking iPhone and Android, we should encourage key decision makers across the board to use these products as their primary device for a week or so at a time — yes, on Exchange! This way we can understand why our users are switching and get inspiration as to how we can build our next-gen products even better! It’s incomprehensible that our top software engineers and executives aren’t using or deeply familiar with our competitor’s products.

2) Recruit Senior SW Leaders & enable decision-making

I’m going to say what everyone is thinking… We need some heavy hitters at RIM when it comes to software management. Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind. We are demotivated. Just look at who our major competitors are: Apple, Google & Microsoft. These are three of the biggest and most talented software companies on the planet. Then take a look at our software leadership teams in terms of what they have delivered and their past experience prior to RIM… It says everything.

3) Cut projects to the bone.

There is a serious need to consolidate our focus to just a handful of projects. Period.

We need to be disciplined here. We can’t afford any more initiatives based on carrier requests to squeeze out slightly more volume. Again, back to point #1, focus on the end users. They are the ones making both consumer & enterprise purchase decisions.

Strategy is often in the things you decide not to do.

On that note, we simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren’t ready for the end user. It is hurting our brand tremendously. It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term.

Look at Apple in 1997 for tips here. I really want you to watch this video because it has never been more relevant. It is our friend Steve Jobs in 97 and it may as well be you speaking to RIM employees and partners today.

4) Developers, not Carriers can now make or break us

We urgently need to invest like we never have before in becoming developer friendly. The return will be worth every cent. There is no polite way to say this, but it’s true — BlackBerry smartphone apps suck. Even PlayBook, with all its glorious power, looks like a Fisher Price toy with its Adobe AIR/Flash apps.

Developing for BlackBerry is painful, and despite what you’ve been told, things haven’t really changed that much since Jamie Murai’s letter. Our SDK / development platform is like a rundown 1990′s Ford Explorer. Then there’s Apple, which has a shiny new BMW M3… just such a pleasure to drive. Developers want and need quality tools.

If we create great tools, we will see great work. Offer shit tools and we shouldn’t be surprised when we see shit apps.

The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them. The solution? Recruit serious talent, buy SDK/API specialist companies, throw a truckload of money at it… Let’s do whatever it takes, and quickly!

5) Need for serious marketing punch to create end user desire

25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.

Also an important note regarding our marketing: a product’s technical superiority does not equal desire, and therefore sales… How many Linux laptops are getting sold? How did Betamax go? My mother wants an iPad and iPhone because it is simple and appeals to her. Powerful multitasking doesn’t.

BlackBerry Messenger has been our standout, yet we wasted our marketing on strange stories from a barber shop to a horse wrangler. I promise you, this did nothing to help us in the mind of the average consumer.

We need an inventive and engaging campaign that focuses on what we are about. People buy into a brand / product not just because of features, but because of what it stands for and what it delivers to them. People don’t buy “what you do,” people buy “why you do it.” Take 3 minutes to watch the this video starting from the 2min mark:

6) No Accountability – Canadians are too nice

RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles. No one is accountable. Where is the guy responsible for the 9530 software? Still with us, still running some important software initiative. We will never achieve excellence with this culture. Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn’t mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role. It’s time to change the culture to deliver or move on and get out. We have far too many people in critical roles that fit this description. I can hear the cheers of my fellow employees now.

7) The press and analysts are pissing you off. Don’t snap. Now is the time for humility with a dash of paranoia.

The public’s questions about dual-CEOs are warranted. The partnership is not broken, but on the ground level, it is not efficient. Maybe we need our Eric Schmidt reign period.

Yes, four years ago we beat Microsoft when everyone said Windows Mobile with Direct Push in Exchange would kill us. It didn’t… in fact we grew stronger.

However, overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago. We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won’t work. We should have made the QNX-like transition then. We are now 3-4 years too late. That is the painful truth… it was a major strategic oversight and we know who is responsible.

Jim, in referring to our current transition recently said: “No other technology company other than Apple has successfully transitioned their platform. It’s almost never done, and it’s way harder than you realize. This transition is where tech companies go to die.”

To avoid this death, perhaps it is time to seriously consider a new, fresh thinking, experienced CEO. There is no shame in no longer being a CEO. Mike, you could focus on innovation. Jim, you could focus on our carriers/customers… They are our lifeblood.

8) Democratise. Engage and interact with your employees — please!

Reach out to all employees asking them on how we can make RIM better. Encourage input from ground-level teams—without repercussions—to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it.

Lastly, we’re all reading the news and many are extremely nervous, especially when we see people get fired. We need an injection of confidence: share your strategy and ask us for support. The headhunters have already started circling and we are at risk of losing our best people.

Now would be a great time to internally re-brand and re-energize the workplace. For example, rename the company to just “BlackBerry” to signify our new focus on one QNX product line. We should also address issues surrounding making RIM an enjoyable workplace. Some of our offices feel like Soviet-era government workplaces.

The timing is perfect to seriously evaluate at our position and make these major changes. We can do it!


A RIM Employee

19 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Mmmmmhmmmmmm…. I smell bs from bgr….. As per usual… Must be his cologne…
    Altho, he should branch off to writing fiction… Or comic books…

  2. Anything that comes out of BGR should be viewed as highly suspect. He has been such a shameless Apple fanboy and “creative journalist” (more fiction than fact) for a long time that I don’t think many in the community take him seriously anymore.

  3. I’m not sure if it’s BS… I’ve been hearing for years how F@#! up there hiring process is. I really hope this is not another Nortel… as they went bankrupt and still paid the managers a performance bonus!!! REALLY, a performance bonus for being bankrupt!!!

    Basically, it comes down to management is too busy covering there ass, and it sounds like there are too many managers at RIM.

    So what the hell are they doing with 19k employees? Something is deadly wrong when you have that many employees and all they can do is produce some simple Java programs. For God sake, I’m still having applications on my playbook randomly close on me! And BTW, these adobe web crap apps are just not cutting it. Give me some Native C apps!!! You have to build the core apps since nobody else is doing for you!

    1. Facebook – check (good start)
    2. Twitter – MIA
    3. Video streaming service – MIA
    4. More Real Games like NFS – MIA
    5. 3G/4G – MIA
    6. Email/PIM suite – MIA
    7. BB Maps – MIA
    8. Skype – MIA (BTW, they open up developer suite to everyone now!)
    9. BB Protect – MIA
    10. BB Travel – MIA

    All these should have been done and release by now! oh and include them in your OS build as the morns that you let review your playbook is too stupid to know how to download them as they still think the playbook has no facebook app!

  4. Not really believable. From a RIM employee maybe from a high level one. No

  5. Whoever every wrote this letter touch a lot of crucial points.

    There is no way you can run a company and the employees voices are not heard!

    I’ve always said RIM was too comfortable that why apple is now the leader and RIM is trying to fight back.

    I really hope the CEO’s read this letter and they finally realize what matters most to them WE the end users and the voices of the Employees.

    But for me Blackberry Forever <3!!

  6. Why would they send an internal letter that would become fodder for anti-RIM marketing itself…

  7. “I will say I am not part of a large group of bitter employees wishing to embarrass us”.

    Not wishing to embarrass RIM and that letter reached BGR first? FAIL.

    But then again, this letter is fake.

  8. Bgr is outdated just like those blocks running on ios that’s what happen when you know your website needs traffic “fake letters” but what’s funny the apple this apple that sentences

  9. He (BGR) just tweeted he’ll be on CNBC’s moneywise “around 5” to discuss said letter lmao!!!!!!!!!! It’s like the kid in the air balloon hoax all over again! 15mins of fame for him..

  10. Rim speaks out about this so called letter :

    BGR’s mom needs to stay off the ‘puter.
    I’m sure she’s a source of many things but bb news is NOT one of them…

  11. Omg

  12. RIM officially responded by not really saying anything. They didn’t really address anything that was in the letter, and it felt like all of the other answers they have been giving for a while, general and not confidence building. I wish they would have come out swinging.

    • If they had come out swinging, that would have given credence to the letter.

      BUT…the letter sounds like what a lot of us users have been saying here (and elsewhere) for a couple YEARS now.

      • That’s the thing Dave B, it just isn’t that likely that a Senior RIM employee would be as clueless as all of us on here. The letter offers no real insights, it is full of vague crap that an outsider would come up with, with nothimg that an insider might say.

        And apple apple apple, come on does anyone NOT thing that BGR didn’t write this. My guess is the site is still smarting from the last smack down RIM gave them regarding playbook sales

        • I agree kiddo2050, it doesn’t sound like this guy is a senior exec at RIM at all. Whoever wrote this doesn’t seem to grasp a lot of the things an insider would know (go against carriers?? is he nuts???). He’s just rehashing what the media has been spinning round and round.

          And all these references to Apple? C’mon, everyone knows that Android is the real competition here.

          *If* it was written by a RIM employee, it was probably some disgruntled and clueless product manager/team lead. Not a higher up for sure. In all likelihood though it was BGR himslelf who wrote it.

  13. BGR is going to get sued one of these days. This might be the tipping point. This does a lot of damage and you can’t just publicly disclose the supposed content of such letters and expect companies not to come looking for some verification. RIM isn’t going to turn a blind eye to this, I can assure you.

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