An Investment Strategy Checklist For RIM's New CEO, Thorsten Heins

RIM co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped aside to let a new leader pilot RIM through the straits. Thorsten Heins, a hardware executive from Siemens, has been COO for about a year now. Welcome, Mr. Heins, to a rough sea and dark night. But there is light in the depths of the hold. (Okay, enough ship references. Down to business.)

Here's the straight story: RIM has been focused on the wrong assets for the past three years, competing in a consumer market against the most powerful consumer brands in the world and suffering from tablet night terrors. It's not working. Forrester's data is clear: Based on a survey of 5,000 US information workers in May 2011, RIM's share of employee smartphones has dropped from around 90% to only 42% in the US in the past three years. Apple and Android together now have 48% of that installed base.

Stop fighting the consumerization battle. Fight a battle that takes advantage of what made RIM a fabulous company in the first place: its secure data delivery network. Here's the differentiated asset analysis:

With this analysis in hand, the challenge and the opportunity become clear. It's the business and government IT relationships and the RIM secure global data network that differentiate RIM products and services, not the consumer market demand. No other mobile supplier in the market has foreign governments asking for access to its data network in the interest of their national security. (That government interest is a good thing -- it signals just how potent RIM's network is.)

Based on that asset analysis, here is an investment checklist with a focus on differentiation and customer value. Thorsten and team should prioritize investments that answer yes to these questions. Does the investment:

  1. Make our network more reliable? (As a carrier-grade network architecture and a network API set would do.)
  2. Add scale to our network of end points? (As does the iPhone & Android device support.)
  3. Make the network inputs valuable? (As would more enterprise app and cloud service BES connectors.)
  4. Make the network itself more valuable? (As would more core network services, authentication, or security monitoring, for example.)
  5. Help our IT mobile operations customers be more successful? (As a better, cheaper, more scalable, and cloud-hostable BES would do.)
  6. Make our core messaging device more desirable? (As improved handhelds and an open software platform would do.)

What would you add to this checklist?



And make other devices connectible to your network

If you can't beat the consumerized mobile phone platforms, allow for interoperability with them. Just take the BlackBerry for Windows Mobile code out of the vault and make it run again on Android and iOS. Conversely, make sure you offer compatibility with Android and iOS applications on your own devices. For real.

Too Little, Too Late & Good Enough?

Two thoughts. First you're right, RIM does have a secure global data network with no close peer. But does the rapid speed of consumer adoption of other platforms force IT leadership to deal with security from the perspective of being 'good enough'? Using a strong Mobile Device Management (MDM) strategy could an organization provide an environment (from a security perspective) that gets close? Then what does RIM have as leverage?

Second, even with a secure network (notwithstanding reliability) what about the idea of being too late to market? Microsoft is finding difficulty with their mobile platform, despite having some great strengths. Take away RIMs strength and then what do they have to offer? How quickly could they catch up?

What if RIM got into the MDM world for other platforms? All platforms?
What if RIM focused on government and business users and not the consumer market? (