Research In Motion investors woke up to some rather interesting news on Jan. 23: the company’s co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie were out and a new chief executive, Thorsten Heins, was in. The move is designed to breathe some new life into the ailing mobile company and hopefully bring in some fresh ideas that could ultimately help the BlackBerry maker return to its past glory.
For his part, Heins has said that he wants RIM to focus heavily on product development and marketing and he rebuffed calls to split the company into separate operations. Heins also said that he believes his company’s BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 tablet could very well be a central component in its success in the coming years. Simply put, Heins is bullish on RIM’s future and he wants to implement the strategies required to fulfill his dreams.
But what exactly should Heins do? More importantly, can he move beyond the ideas of Balsillie and Lazaridis and make the hard decisions to turn things around?
We’ll see. But until then, read on to find out what Heins should do to fix RIM.
1. Start working on a real iPhone competitor
RIM has tried to deliver touch screen-based smartphones in the past, as evidence by the Storm and Storm2, but it hasn’t done a good job of competing against the iPhone. The devices are too bulky; they aren’t as responsive as they should be; and due to software limitations, they require physical buttons to be useful. It’s time Heins spends significant investment dollars on building a true iPhone competitor that can stand up to Apple’s smartphone on design, hardware quality and software integration.
2. Center the PlayBook on the enterprise
RIM made the bad decision to try to appeal to both consumers and enterprise users with its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The company must stop that. Like it or not, Heins must admit that his company is enterprise-focused. RIM tablets must appeal to that market to be successful.
3. Leverage the services division
RIM’s real strength right now is in its services division. The company’s messaging platforms are top-notch in the mobile space and BlackBerry Enterprise Server is second to none. RIM should leverage that as much as possible and focus more of its efforts on staying ahead in wireless services, rather than wait and see if competitors can catch up.
4. License patents every chance you get
If there is anything all the litigation across the mobile industry has proven, it’s that wireless patents are in high demand. Considering RIM holds thousands of mobile patents, perhaps it should start licensing them to as many companies as possible. RIM is in the driver’s seat when it comes to patents and Heins should take advantage of that.
It’s Time to License BlackBerry 10 OS
5. License BlackBerry 10
Heins has already said that he will at least consider licensing the BlackBerry 10 to other hardware makers, but he won’t make it a priority in his plans. Why? BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system looks to be an ideal choice for many hardware vendors looking to target enterprise users and it could become a cash cow for RIM. There’s nothing wrong with licensing high-quality solutions to other firms-just ask Microsoft.
6. Keep Balsillie and Lazaridis out of the C-suite
Although Balsillie and Lazaridis are no longer calling the shots at RIM, they still have their grips in every facet of the company. Underlings who remain loyal to them might not be so willing to take Heins’ direction. One of the first things Heins should do is bar both Balsillie and Lazaridis from the C-suite. The two men nearly brought RIM to ruin by their failure to change course sooner and they should not play any role in its decision-making going forward.
7. Sell off the hardware business
For months now, investors have been calling on RIM to sell off its hardware business and instead focus on software, services and patents. It’s not such a bad idea. The chances of RIM becoming a top hardware vendor in the smartphone business again are slim even with Heins at the helm. Plus, there are several companies looking to consolidate their business and acquire hardware vendors right now. RIM should take advantage of that.
8. Remove all the top executives
Although Balsillie and Lazaridis were the two people who were most often in the crosshairs of critics, it should be pointed out that the rest of RIM’s top executives have done little to help the company as well. So, perhaps Heins should get off to a whole new start and remove all of RIM’s top executives. Not only would the move bring in fresh ideas, but it could deliver a jumpstart to RIM’s shares.
9. Redefine the U.S. brand
When one examines RIM’s performance in 2011, they’ll find that the company did quite well overseas, but struggled in the United States. Realizing that, Heins should try to redefine the U.S. brand and make it one that consumers and enterprise users will trust again. Outages, poor hardware and outdated software have caused many U.S.-based customers to turn their backs on RIM. Heins must address that as soon as possible.
10. Get employees excited again
Last year, an unidentified RIM employee wrote in an open letter to his company that morale was low and his colleagues and he weren’t necessarily heartened by what they were seeing at the company. It was a telling letter and it illustrated something that Heins should try to change. Happy employees are productive employees. And productive employees make for profitable companies. Heins must do everything in his power to improve employee morale this year.