It’s been an honor to be a part of conversations with enterprise customers during a major transition for Research In Motion® (RIM®). We’ve had many valuable questions sent to us, and we’re taking the opportunity to get answers from Robin Bienfait, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for RIM. Robin oversees the Enterprise Business Unit, BlackBerry Operations, Customer Service, and Corporate IT functions. In short, she plays a major role in leading the vision for BlackBerry enterprise solutions, and the execution of making that vision a reality. Check out our chat below:
Hi Robin, thanks for joining me today! I’m looking forward to representing our enterprise customers and voicing the questions that they have.
My pleasure Luke, it’s both a challenging time and a very exciting time for us at the moment, and I’m glad I can help to address our customers’ concerns directly.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and the role that you play with our enterprise customers?
Our customers are the reason we do what we do every day. My job is to meet customers where they’re at and help bring solutions to them that work best for their environment. I spent 22+ years at AT&T through all sorts of engineering and network operations leadership roles. When I left AT&T to join RIM over 5 years ago, I had led 30,000 people all dedicated to building a scalable and reliable enterprise class network. During that time, I interacted with enterprise customers on a daily basis, as I continue to do today. I believe it’s important to get to know the different pieces of a business – it’s not just about being a leader, it’s about getting involved in problems and solutions. I am 100% committed to using my experience, knowledge, and dedication to meet the needs of our enterprise customers – that’s what I’m here for.
Ok. I’m going to get right into the tough questions that our customers are asking. I know it’s important to you, and to all of RIM’s employees, to make sure that our customers hear information directly from you. – How can enterprises be confident that RIM will be around until the launch of BlackBerry® 10, and beyond, as a stable solution provider?
Our leadership team is very aware that BlackBerry is facing a few challenging quarters as we approach the launch of BlackBerry 10 – and we know there is much work to be done. A few weeks ago in Australia I met with many of our customers from the banking and financial sector; these customers rely on us, and we need to re-confirm their faith in our ability to perform and deliver. And we will work to do just that.
All companies need to go through changes in their evolution and it is our turn right now. Thorsten is making a lot of changes to ensure the company is addressing its challenges to give our customers the comfort that the company is not standing still and will be here to meet their needs. I think it’s important to look closely at the position that our business is in: We have $2.2 billion of cash in the bank, zero debt, are bringing in seasoned industry leaders who understand BlackBerry customers, are reducing costs in non-core areas, and investing in a plan to radically shift the company and the technology. I’m confident that we’re well positioned. What’s important is that we have a clear direction, are pivoting rapidly, and are absolutely committed to achieving these goals.
Our customers see a lot of media activity around RIM and speculation about its future. Will RIM be acquired or bought out, and if so, would this disrupt BlackBerry service for enterprise customers?
RIM is clearly a hot topic right now and many individuals and publications are speculating about our strategic options and future. We are a public company so media and analyst scrutiny is expected during such a major transition. The reality is straightforward: We have over 78 million customers that need our services on a day-to-day basis, and we’re firmly committed to the launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform. Our primary goal is to support our customers and drive value for shareholders and employees by continuing to invest and develop our enterprise initiatives.
You know, strategic partnerships have always been a part of RIM’s business model. We started building partnerships with carriers over a decade ago, and we’ll keep building partnerships to bring the best expertise and technology into the services and products we provide. I acutely understand the strategic importance of RIM’s network to our customers, and we are absolutely committed to upholding our long-standing history of providing this service reliably. The RIM network has supported critical functions for customers for over a decade; our global messaging infrastructure remains a competitive advantage.
At BlackBerry World 2012 you made commitments to our Enterprise customers: BlackBerry® Mobile Fusion as a cloud offering, and security for data at rest and data in transit for iOS and Android devices managed through BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. Can you provide an update on these?
We have a full roadmap and timeline for our enterprise offering and are well along the path of meeting these goals. As I said, we are continuing to invest in enterprise solutions and are dedicated to partnering with our customers to help them solve challenges and to help them succeed, it’s a priority and focus for us. We continue to expand and scale our MDM solution, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, including cross-platform management capabilities that we know are a major focus for many organizations.
It’s a CIO or IT administrator’s job to ensure that their organization’s mobility needs are met. Why shouldn’t they be planning for contingencies?
That’s a good question, Luke. Customers certainly don’t want to question their smartphone and connectivity – they just want it to work. Business continuity planning is a healthy practice for any business, and one that we often enable with BlackBerry solutions. But with a firm plan of action underway for RIM, demonstrable fiscal responsibility, and a deep history of security and support for enterprise, I firmly believe that we remain the clear choice for enterprise customers at this time. No one else has RIM’s track record of protecting enterprise data.
Will the planned layoff of 5,000 RIM employees affect customer service?
I want to clearly answer this – we do not expect any effect on customer service. Our customers are the reason we exist and we’re absolutely committed to helping ensure our customers’ needs are met. I know the decision to reduce headcount is very difficult – difficult on the people affected, difficult on their team members, difficult on their families – but we’re doing this to ensure the long-term success of the company. As Thorsten mentioned on the Q1 earnings call, support for critical functions like Network Operations, Customer Support, and BlackBerry 10 launch teams are our priority.
If RIM’s recent performance hasn’t been up to your expectations (and the expectations of many of our stakeholders), what changes have been made within RIM to proactively work to turn around performance? What additional changes are planned?
As I have outlined, many changes have been made to help build a strong and healthy future for RIM – we are focused on our priorities and keeping our line of sight on innovation. The culture is really shifting and streamlining. We’ve made radical shifts in top-level leadership to drive focus, reduced management layers, engaged in cost cutting initiatives, and a dedication to innovation via the BlackBerry 10 platform. We plan to continue this focus throughout fiscal year 2013 and in particular to meet the goal of cutting $1 billion in costs. We are pivoting strategically, and we’re confident in the clear path forward as well as in our assembled, experienced leadership team. Thorsten has discussed many of these changes in his recent submission to the Globe and Mail. If you haven’t read it, I’d encourage you to do so!
RIM has millions of customers waiting for the launch of BlackBerry 10. How do you know that BlackBerry 10 will meet their expectations?
Make no mistake; BlackBerry 10 is not a simple addition to our lineup of BlackBerry smartphones. BlackBerry 10 is a brand new mobile computing platform built on a rock-solid foundation of QNX technology that has been meeting the security, reliability, and performance needs of customers for more than 30 years. This platform will allow us to deeply engage with the mobile computing space and provide a springboard for rich future products and services. We are excited, we are dedicated, and we’re confident in this platform. In terms of meeting the needs and expectations, we’ll be partnering with many of our enterprise customers to allow them to take a look in advance of the launch, so they can see for themselves what we’re working on. The BlackBerry 10 platform will be supported and managed by BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, a solution built on years of leadership and experience in the MDM [Mobile Device Management] space. So you can see that this is an entire ecosystem and platform built to enable businesses and their employees. Like I said – very exciting stuff.
How can I trust BlackBerry Mobile Fusion as an MDM solution when the future of RIM is in question?
Beyond what I mentioned about a dedication to reliability and BlackBerry network service for our enterprise customers, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion represents a fundamental strength of RIM. We pioneered not only the smartphone market, but also mobile device management – in direct response to the needs of enterprise customers for security, manageability, efficiency, and convenience. We haven’t stopped, and won’t stop, listening to our customers, and BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is tailored to meet the needs of businesses today. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion builds on the foundation of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which has almost a quarter million active deployments. It represents innovation in mobile device management that extends across multiple platforms. Managing mobile enterprises has been our strength for over a decade, and BlackBerry Mobile Fusion with BlackBerry 10 will position us for the future.
It seems that one of RIM’s systemic issues has been product delays. How can customers be confident in RIM when BlackBerry 10 has been delayed more than once?
I know many of our customers are looking forward to the launch of BlackBerry 10, and they were disappointed by the delay into Q1 of calendar year 2013. The reason for this delay, as Thorsten has mentioned, is that we need more time to integrate all of the features that we’ve built. BlackBerry 10 is a combination of some incredible technologies, and the experience needs to be seamless. We will produce a stable mobile platform that delivers rich and exciting experiences for customers, and we refuse to compromise on quality in the process.
Thanks for joining me today Robin – do you have any closing thoughts for our enterprise customers?
Thanks for the questions, Luke. On behalf of all of RIM’s employees, I want to thank our customers for their incredible support – it’s clear that they’re cheering for us and want us to succeed. It’s truly an amazing experience to meet with so many influential business leaders in my work and to hear first-hand how important BlackBerry is to their business and personal lives. Their feedback is part of our daily evolution and growth and we wouldn’t have it any other way.