RIMM New CEO Thorsten Heins: Into RIM's Ring of Fire

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Frank Voisin
Apr 10, 2012
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Bloomberg Businessweek profiled new Research in Motion (RIMM) CEO, Thorsten Heins, and the company he now runs:

The company is debt-free and sits atop $2 billion in cash. It currently has 77 million subscribers. Sales outside the U.S.particularly in Indonesia, South Africa, and Venezuelaremain strong. Later this year, RIM will put an entirely new operating system into wide release in conjunction with the launch of a line of BlackBerry 10 smartphones. Heins says it will redefine mobile multitasking, enamor RIM to the app-developer community, and arm the company with a future-proof platform.

As the all-important rollout of the BlackBerry 10 approaches, Heins says RIM will be reaching out to enterprise customers and working with them to upgrade their employees BlackBerrys with the newer, more nimble models. Heins believes that RIMs troubles in the U.S. stem from its failure to anticipate what he calls the BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, movementin which the companys core white-collar customers began replacing their corporate-distributed BlackBerries with Apple and Android-powered smartphones from home.

Heins says he has a plan to alleviate RIMs existential crisis, and the discipline to make the company hyper-efficient. The first thing you need to do with your employees is youve got to be open, says Heins. Tell them where we are. Theyre thinking it themselves anyways. You cannot sit there and say, Hooray, hooray, Im rocking in the U.S. if you arent. So you have that realism there. But also, you have to get them excited about the future of BlackBerry. Then Heins leans forward in his chair, peers over the top of his glasses. I dont like to be dictatorial, but if I have to, I can be, he adds. Right now at RIM, Im a bit dictatorial.
I like his (implied) shot at outgoing co-CEO Jim Balsillie, who was known for his Hooray, hooray, Im rocking in the U.S.-type statements which fooled no one and added to the popular view that the company had completely lost touch with consumers. In this regard, Heins appears to be the anti-Balsillie, capable of sizing up the real problems facing the company and making the necessary changes to position RIMM as best as possible (which may still not be enough to stem the loss of market share).

Some of the problems Heins is working on:

RIM expanded so fast, for so many yearsits revenue went from $300 million in fiscal 2003 to $3 billion in fiscal 2007that projects proliferated out of control. Heins says one of the problems he has diagnosed since taking over as CEO is organizational inefficiency. Hes found engineers tasked with working on multiple, sprawling initiatives at the same time, with everybody having a hand in everything. Accountability is a mess.

I love this Canadian wordhuddle, says Heins. You know, you huddle around things. Sometimes we huddle for too long. Youve got to have a point where somebody says, I get all the arguments. Its decision time. Im accountable for this whole thing.

At the same time, RIMs current success in emerging markets is likely to come under increasing pressure from low-cost, discount handset vendors. Serious threats abound on the high and low ends of the market.
Id like to see RIMM license its BB10 O/S to third party hardware manufacturers and work to make android apps operate more seamlessly on its devices (the process currently seems complicated. UPDATE: It appears RIMM is going in the opposite direction?).

Read the full article here. What do you think of RIMM and its new CEO?

Author Disclosure: Long RIMM

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