Saturday, July 2, 2011

RIM Responds To Anonymous Employee Complaints

Anonymous letters from Research In Motion employees calling for change are getting a response -- sort of. RIM says, in essence, that management knows what it's doing and the financials aren't so bad. The anonymous RIM letters mention discontent among silent workers.

Several Research In Motion employees are writing anonymous letters to management calling for change -- and the company is responding. The online letters point out the BlackBerry maker's missteps in recent years while Apple and Android gained major momentum.

"I have lost confidence. While I hide it at work, my passion has been sapped. I know I am not alone -- the sentiment is widespread and it includes people within your own teams," one letter said. The writer, described as a "high-level employee Relevant Products/Services," also called RIM's transition chaotic and behind schedule.

"Mike and Jim, please take the time to really absorb and digest the content of this letter because it reflects the feeling across a huge percentage of your employee base," the writer continued. "You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects."

Laundry List of Complaints

The anonymous writer suggested a laundry list of changes for RIM. Namely, a focus on the end-user experience, recruiting senior software leaders, enabling decision-making, cutting projects to the bone, recognizing that developers (not carriers) can now make or break the company, getting serious about marketing, offering greater accountability and less mouthing off to the press, and driving more engagement and interaction with employees.

"Now would be a great time to internally re-brand and re-energize the workplace. For example, rename the company to just 'BlackBerry' to signify our new focus on one QNX product line," he wrote. "We should also address issues surrounding making RIM an enjoyable workplace. Some of our offices feel like Soviet-era government workplaces. The timing is perfect to seriously evaluate our position and make these major changes."

RIM's Response

RIM's response? The BlackBerry maker sort of pooh-poohed the letter:

"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 then took the opportunity to point out some of its financials, including nearly $3 billion in cash and no debt, net income last quarter of $695 million, and 67 percent international revenue growth in the first quarter over the year-ago period. RIM also noted that it shipped 13.2 million BlackBerry smartphones last quarter.

The Vision is Right

IDC Analyst Al Hilwa pointed out that all companies that experience hyper-growth can become stressful places to work and it is not surprising that some employees at RIM are venting.

"The technical vision for RIM is in the right place. I think their plan for leveraging the mobile Relevant Products/Services opportunity beyond smartphones is the right one, and their management should get the credit for initiating it," Hilwa said. "The vision has been accompanied by some technical execution challenges such as maintaining focus on the smartphone Relevant Products/Services OS transition and building out the developer strategy for the new platform. The outlined switch to QNX on the phones will help them if they can put devices in developer hands early enough to ramp up on building applications."

Hilwa added that, "Some of the advice given by the anonymous letter writers is probably applicable to any number of companies, and, there is no doubt that many in RIM's management wake up every day to work on solving these very problems."

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