What the new BlackBerry needs is a clear path back into the enterprise. It was an easy task a decade ago, when email was the killer app and companies were quick to hand out BlackBerries to employees. Those days have been replaced with employee-driven decisions, like which phone they want to use. And when device selection is left to the end user, Apple and Google come out the winners, leaving BlackBerry, Microsoft and Nokia out in the cold.
Wikibon Senior Analyst Stu Miniman says that for BlackBerry to have a chance of catching up, its phones will have to be a lot more consumer-friendly than they are now. According to him, BB10 is still a “half-baked product,” giving BlackBerry little opportunity to regain its former glory. That’s not to say BlackBerry won’t try.
The road to the enterprise is paved with consumer intention
So who should BlackBerry target as the phone maker looks to regain corporate customers? We’ve debated the consumer vs. the C-level executive in an earlier article, but it’s really not an either/or situation. In today’s era of BYOD, the consumer is the obvious choice. It seems the consumer has become a most influential factor in corporate settings, an environment no longer dictated by the CIO. And the trend towards consumerized IT has turned our smartphones and tablets into carriers for cloud services and productivity tools alike.
“We are facing a shift from the IT department dictating the evolution of company IT infrastructure towards HR influenced or BYOD,” says Panorama9 CEO and co-founder Allan Thorvaldsen. His company offers a cloud-based platform for centralizing IT management. “We see a tendency toward HR when hiring people offering liberty to go buy what you want further mixing the existing environments (Windows/Mac).”
Mobile devices are carriers, helping cloud services infiltrate the enterprise
Like a virus and its host, the mobile handset has become the ideal mechanism by which to infiltrate the enterprise. And many cloud service providers recognize this emerging pattern, targeting end users with free trials and other incentives in an attempt to get their foot in the door with C-level executives. It’s like pandering to kids with the ulterior motive of getting into their parents’ wallets. If an employee screams loud enough, perhaps boss-daddy will give in.
SugarSync is a recent example of a consumer-centric cloud service leveraging mobile to penetrate the enterprise. A new pricing model for business users comes with unlimited storage and flat rates, along with a competitive cloud tool that can be used for collaboration, file-sharing and automated organization. Similar tactics have been employed by other cloud services eyeing the enterprise, from Dropbox to YouMail. Central to their success is the continued support of BYOD.
“We have witnessed the ultimate example of consumerization of IT over the past year, including tremendous adoption of our service by businesses that are storing more and more data in the Cloud each day,” explains Laura Yecies, CEO of SugarSync.
One foot in the door…
These days bosses have little choice but to cave in to employee demands, and to the company’s own benefit. Not only do cloud services and mobility increase productivity, but they’re more scalable and can save costs on IT infrastructure. Many companies recognize the perks of empowering their employees with more device choices and improved access to pertinent data, even going so far as to incentivize new hires with these little freedoms. A recent report from Good Technologies indicates that larger firms are spending big bucks on BYOD, and employees are also willing to pay for the privilege of using their own devices.
“BYOD is inevitable,” Thorvaldsen says. “Rather than trying to change the evolving (IT)-world, the smartest move is to submit. More and more SMBs are moving services to the cloud or moving IT-infrastructure to a hosted environment, meaning a more streamlined and simplified IT environment with less security risks when dealing with BYOD.”
BlackBerry plans for BYOD on both ends of the spectrum
For BlackBerry, that means an intense focus on the consumer and the developer community could pave the road to the enterprise. The revamped BB10 operating system will make or break BlackBerry’s initiatives here, as the phone maker will need to do its best to attract app makers to its platform. Of course we’ve seen BlackBerry’s seriousness on this end, hosting contests and giving away cash prizes to developers that want to port their apps from iOS and Android. Unlike Microsoft, however, BlackBerry has no software presence on rival platforms, leaving the Canadian firm far too reliant on hardware and a fickle consumer market.
Good thing BlackBerry also has an updated Enterprise Server, which does support rival platforms for companies needing to manage their growing BYOD needs. This is an important software play for BlackBerry, anticipating a future of consumer-driven trends in the enterprise and a need for smarter applications. Software-led infrastructure is certainly an important component in the current iteration of corporate IT, and is a smart way for BlackBerry to hedge its bets.
Kristen Nicole has also contributed to other publications, from TIME Techland to Forbes. Her work has been syndicated across a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, and MSNBC.
Kristen Nicole published her first book, The Twitter Survival Guide, and is currently completing her second book on predictive analytics.