UPDATED 11:46 EST / JULY 01 2011

Anonymous RIM Executive Asks CEOs to Cede Position

Apparently RIM has to make significant strategy alterations in order to keep BlackBerry on top of the smartphone market, but what happens if one of its top-level executives loses confidence in the very company he works for? Ouch!

Purportedly written by a senior RIM executive, an open letter was published by Boy Genius Report appealing to RIM co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lizaridis to reform the company’s organizational structure, culture and leadership saying, “the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.”

I don’t think there’s anything overwhelmingly shocking about the letter. For a company that’s on the verge of losing the game, it does sound like good judgment more than anything. The reported employee’s suggestions include:

• Focus on what users want and adding new experiences that aren’t available on other platforms.
• Release fewer, better products instead of bowing to wireless carriers, who only want to squeeze out more volume. Stop shipping incomplete products, like the BlackBerry PlayBook.
• Throw “a truckload of money” at developers and developer relations, because “BlackBerry smartphone apps suck.”
• Figure out better marketing campaigns. PlayBook ads that focused on Flash and multitasking didn’t resonate, nor did human interest ads about people using BlackBerry Messenger.
• Start holding employees accountable for failure. Stop giving important initiatives to managers who can’t deliver.
• Make the work culture more enjoyable (“some of our offices feel like Soviet-era government workplaces”) and re-brand the company internally, perhaps by changing the company name to “BlackBerry.”
• Finally, put someone else in charge as CEO. Balsillie and Lazaridis should show some humility and take on different roles.

Looking at the last bullet, the employee is obviously asking the two CEOs to cede their positions to someone with fresh ideas. After questioning the veracity of the letter, which BGR asserts to be authentic, the company said they are fully aware and aggressively addressing both challenges and opportunities whilst enumerating some of the company’s strong points. Here is RIM’s full response:

An “Open Letter” to RIM’s senior management was published anonymously on the web today and it was attributed to an unnamed person described as a “high level employee”. It is obviously difficult to address anonymous commentary and it is particularly difficult to believe that a “high level employee” in good standing with the company would choose to anonymously publish a letter on the web rather than engage their fellow executives in a constructive manner, but regardless of whether the letter is real, fake, exaggerated or written with ulterior motivations, it is fair to say that the senior management team at RIM is nonetheless fully aware of and aggressively addressing both the company’s challenges and its opportunities.

RIM recently confirmed that it is nearing the end of a major business and technology transition. Although this transition has taken longer than anticipated, there is much excitement and optimism within the company about the new products that are lined up for the coming months. There is a fundamental business reality however that following an extended period of hyper growth (during which RIM nearly quadrupled in size over the past 5 years alone), it has become necessary for the company to streamline its operations in order to allow it to grow its business profitably while pursuing newer strategic opportunities. Again, RIM’s management team takes these challenges seriously and is actively addressing the situation. The company is thankfully in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead with a solid balance sheet (nearly $3 billion in cash and no debt), strong profitability (RIM’s net income last quarter was $695 million) and substantial international growth (international revenue in Q1 grew 67% over the same quarter last year). In fact, while growth has slowed in the US, RIM still shipped 13.2 million BlackBerry smartphones last quarter (which is about 100 smartphones per minute, 24 hours per day) and RIM is more committed than ever to serving its loyal customers and partners around the world.

As to be expected from a company who doesn’t want to lose investors, aye?  This drama brings us back in the days of Jamie Murai’s open letter to RIM as the developer heavily criticized RIM for being full of itself; imposing a $200 charge per 10 tablet apps to be published in the App World while niche leaders Apple and Google only charges $99 and $25 respectively for unlimited number of apps. Now how can tablet rookie RIM justify their rate?

In fairness to RIM, their response didn’t end with the letter. They decided to establish a committee of independent directors to look into the potency of their two executives to take on the role of chairmen as well. The company has always defended its leadership structure, with Lizaridis and Balsillie on top, for some time now and the organization of a new body to look into this issue means that their stand is wavering.

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