What we can learn from BlackBerry

Whilst the rumour-mill goes into overdrive, with news of potential interest from “strategic buyers” is BlackBerry’s fate sealed or are there elements of the brand which can be salvaged? There are, I believe, a number of fundamental lessons which we can learn from the opportunities which BlackBerry failed to capitalise on.  So, what could Blackberry have done and is it still viable in the market? The missed opportunities of consumerisation

The first and, perhaps, most critical error was that BlackBerry moved from the enterprise space – where it had established a firm leadership position – and tried to replicate what had been a successful strategy within the consumer space.

Trying to take a ‘square peg into a round hole’, rather than re-thinking its entire strategy, proved to be its undoing.

The consumer market’s mobile boom happened for very different reasons than in the enterprise, therefore a different type of device was needed to appeal to these users.

But this presented BlackBerry with a dilemma: – should it change their entire DNA and risk losing their grip on the enterprise market or narrow the focus and never win the consumer market?

In the end, Blackberry lost ground on both fronts and their share of the smartphone market slid to 2.9 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent the previous year [2012]. (Figures from IDC, May 2013)

Rather than defining where they could maintain market share, its ‘catch-all’ approach failed to reap benefits.

A contributing factor to this was that it did not have adequate insight into exactly who its end users were.

It was pushed out of the direct touch relationship with customers and resulting efforts to pursue the consumer space ultimately resulted in the loss of its core enterprise user base.

When is a USP not an’ SP’ – the Qwerty keyboard

Indicative of their failure to adapt to the needs of the market was Blackberry’s strategy around its USP – namely the qwerty keyboard format.

This had become closely linked to its success with business users and enthusiasts that are loyal to the brand may love the keyboard.

However, it held less appeal for consumers who had been enticed by smartphone vendors such as Apple, which understood how to build intuitive touchscreen processes with voice and gesture control all designed around their behaviour.

Meanwhile, outpaced by these rivals, BlackBerry’s first touchscreen model failed to capture the imagination and the qwerty keyboard, once its USP, did not translate well into the consumer market.

Capitalising on the BYOD evolution

The challenges of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) actually presented a golden opportunity for RIM [as it was thencalled] to be the corporate enabler, especially by licensing technologies.

This was a further missed opportunity and BlackBerry embraced the BYOD revolution with too little, too late.

As a case in point, it was only in 2012 that it announced that its MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution would support Apple’s  iPhones.

We could contrast this with Microsoft which has embraced the BYOD change and turned the fact that multiple platforms will be run in the corporate environment, into a revenue stream – most recently releasing its own apps to manage all the iOS and Android devices.

The future

As its future hangs in the balance, there are elements which may prove to be Blackberry’s saving grace.

There are components which it could re-license or re-brand, however a better option may be to sell and go back to the market under a new brand.

Playing to its strengths, I would argue it needs to focus on its OS being the ‘bridge’ between any smartphone to the enterprise.

In a fragmented enterprise, it can create integration and has already started to have traction in this area.

The recent news that it has launched a new cloud service designed to enable web-based management of mobile users and apps could be a positive move.

But, as a relative latecomer to this market, they will have some work to do, in order to gain a real foothold in this space.

By David Akka, Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK.

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