My IT organization was ready to roll out an Android and Apple BYOD program, having conceded that Research In Motion and its BlackBerry had been left in the innovation dust. But Sam, our CEO, suggested I "socialize" the new BYOD strategy with our management group before proceeding.
As I thought more about our situation, I decided to weather the "When can I use my iPhone/Galaxy?" storm a bit longer and delay our BYOD plans. The mobile device management landscape is changing constantly, and buying a bit more time seemed like a good idea.
We still run numerous BlackBerry Enterprise Servers, and we haven't given up on RIM. We have technicians who are steeped in the BES platform, so we understand how to run this engine, which has been a reliable one for years. And while many of our employees have personal Android and Apple smartphones, our company standard is still the BlackBerry. What we want is an easy, cost-effective transition to a far richer mobile experience, so if an MDM system could help us manage Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and other devices effectively, we 'd have a clear path forward.
However, I just can't imagine RIM launching a smartphone and management platform that's provocative enough to gain my attention. Taylor Swift's catchy tune rings in my head: "We are never ever ever getting back together."
[ For perspective on what users want from RIM, see BlackBerry 10: 6 Ways To Win Back Consumers. ]
Even if RIM is able to convince me that it has exactly what we need, how long could it sustain its new product strategy? There's ample evidence to suggest that RIM is quite capable of mishandling good fortune. Sure, founders and former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have moved on, but current CEO Thorsten Heins's early comment that RIM largely had a "marketing problem" still irritates me. I have little confidence that even if its new BlackBerry device and server innovations are successful, RIM has the ability to innovate at the speed the market expects.
Despite all of the hype and the numerous invitations I've received to launch events, I'm not entirely clear on what my company will get from the new BlackBerry device, BES services and BlackBerry World app store. I've taken a quick look at RIM's website to get an idea of where this might be headed:
"BlackBerry World now gives you access to more of what you love. Download apps, games, music, videos, books, magazines and more. Plus, the new BlackBerry World storefront gives you recommendations so it's easy to find something new."
None of that seems groundbreaking. It's also not relevant to me as a CIO. Where is my enterprise partner, which understands my security, risk and cost-control needs?
It's tempting to look only at what BES 10 will do, but additional benefit comes from the transition strategy: What will it take to get from here to there? I'm looking for a transition that takes advantage of my existing staff's knowledge and capabilities. RIM would hold an advantage with a low-impact plan to convert to BlackBerry 10.
I've also come to appreciate the granularity of control BES gives us. We need to manage the propensity for employees to use their company-paid device for non-business activities. I'm not looking for simple on-device management that the user controls.
I'm very concerned that more functional devices will lead to much higher usage costs. Our employees travel quite a bit, so roaming costs are a serious issue. The current BlackBerry excels at little else other than email, helping to keep roaming costs in check. We have seen enormous usage increases with Android and Apple devices. Will BES 10 allow for some serious control? Help me, RIM.
Regardless of how successful BB 10 is, we have other devices in play and will have more going forward. RIM says its Fusion MDM platform will manage it all, but I don't see support of rival products making it to the top of the company's development plan. An independent provider will do a much better job of following the market.
Many of the BB 10 invitations I'm receiving are coming from carriers, RIM's best friends. After all, where would RIM be without them? Like most companies we have significant communications contracts with different carriers, which can bundle products in ways that create value for us. This structure gives RIM an advantage of easy access to enterprises. Maybe the carriers will add something new to the mix, like bundled pricing advantages that we don't see for Apple and Android devices.
If RIM knocks it out of the park, I'll pay attention. We're definitely slowing down our smartphone migration plans to get a seat in the bleachers for the RIM show. But I won't be waiting for long. We have opportunities to pursue. Apple and Google drive the application innovation we're looking for. And the independent MDM providers are beginning to deliver the management functionality needed to harness those innovations for enterprise use.
As much as I would like to see RIM succeed, I have little faith that the company can sustain any momentum it might gain from this latest product rollout. I just don't see us getting back together.