The Almighty “C” and its growing Influence on B2B

By John Mansour

Blackberry is probably the most visible example of an organization whose strength in corporate IT departments was about as ironclad as you could get until the past few years. It has been well documented how the preferences of consumers, also employees of these corporations, forced corporate IT departments to adapt to their preferences instead of corporate IT dictating thestandard for mobile devices.

Consumerism is a growing trend that’s impacting many B2B organizations these days. We’re seeing it more and more with our own customers. The typical scenario – you’re a B2B organization but your customers’ customers are consumers. Their influence on your customers is growing by the day.

So if you’re a B2B organization and your customers’ customers are consumers, what are some of the new wrinkles to consider in your product management/marketing discipline?

There are a few that come to mind right off the bat.

1. Market Needs – there’s an additional layer that starts with consumer trends and their impact on your customers before evaluating business trends. You’ll surely see a stronger connection between the two.

2. Business Cases – they might actually get easier because consumer trends are generally tracked and quantified at a greater level of granularity than business trends.

3. Positioning – it adds another layer but it’s one that can make your value proposition much more compelling by tying the benefits of your solutions to your customers’ customer.

The B2B companies where I’m seeing the growing influence of consumerism most are companies that serve all areas of healthcare as well as organizations that provide products/services/technology to financial services organizations, utilities and local government entities.

Has this impacted your business? How? What are you doing differently?


Tweet this: The Almighty C and its growing influence on B2B #prodmgmt #b2b

The New RIM – Relaunching a Former Industry Juggernaut

by Saeed Khan

Back in May 2011, I wrote the following post: Addressing Market Shifts or Why RIM is not down and out just yet.  As the news of RIM’s relaunch spread this past week,  I remembered that post and realized I should look at it again and write a follow up.

My first thought after reading it again, was how wrong I was about the timeframe. I wrote it in May 2011 (didn’t realize it was that long ago). In it I said:

“They [RIM] definitely need to get their new QNX based Blackberrys out soon, ideally in 2011 and NOT 2012.”

Well, I guess I should have been more specific. The “NOT 2012” part was true. I never thought it would be 2013!

But here we are in February 2013 and RIM has not only relaunched the Blackberry, but relaunched the company.

They changed their name from RIM (Research in Motion) to Blackberry. Didn’t see that one coming personally, but it’s not the worst thing they could have done.

They hired Alicia Keys as Global Creative Director? WTF? You’d think after Lady Gaga at Polaroid and at Intel, someone would have told Thorsten Heins how dumb it is to have celebrity creative/innovation directors. Nothing against Alicia Keys, but what is she really going to do for RIM?

They spent about $4 million on a SuperBowl ad — first time they did that. I’m not a big fan of that kind of marketing to be honest, but not as bad as the Alica Keys move IMHO.

I’m going to still call them RIM for the time being. Easier to say and spell. 🙂

Calling the company Blackberry actually makes sense. The name Blackberry has worldwide recognition. And if they have other products, like the Playbook, then Blackberry Playbook makes a lot of sense as well.

Other recommendations I made in that post are as follows:

They need to create, educate and grow a thriving 3rd party development community.

They definitely worked on that offering incentives for developers to port or write Blackberry 10 apps. And there is definitely a growing number of apps available, though pundits were very eager to talk about the apps that weren’t there at the launch.

From my perspective, it’s about whether the most popular apps their target audience needs are there or will be there soon. e.g. Instagram

They need to acquire (or seriously partner with) mobile application or cloud service companies to provide differentiated capabilities for enterprise and business users

Based on the list on Wikipedia of RIM’s acquistions, it doesn’t look like they made any such moves.  There are some differentiated features in the new phones — such as Blackbery Balance and BlackBerry Hub — but none are “killer” features IMHO.

They need to provide incentives to existing customers who move to the new QNX Blackberrys vs. losing them to iPhone/Android handsets.

I have a personal attachment to this one! 🙂 I’ve been using Blackberry’s for a while now though I was not an early adopter by any means. My needs are simple and I really want RIM to reward me for my loyalty. My wife has an iPhone 5, my oldest daughter a Samsung Galaxy III. I can’t type on the iPhone, but I love the Swype keyboard on the Galaxy. That alone would make me pick the Galaxy.

Having said that, this demo of a predictive typing feature on the BB10 looks even better!

They need to show the market and investors that they are still an innovative company that can deliver rock solid products.

I think the jury is still out on this one. The new products look very good — I played with a demo version over the Christmas break. They are well built and function smoothly, but at this stage in the game, that’s the minimum anyone would expect.

I’m going to order a new BB10 later this week. Not just to be different from my wife and daughter, and not just to be supportive of a Canadian company, but because the new BBs do what I need. I’m not usually an early adopter of technology. I bought my first digital camera in 2002 and a flat screen TV in 2011.

I’ll keep you posted on how things are going and I’m sure the press will do their job in highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly of RIM’s new phase.

What do you think? Is RIM on the right track? What else should/could they be doing to compete and grow in the market?


Tweet this: The new RIM – Relaunching a former industry juggernaut #prodmgmt #marketing #RIM #BB10 #Blackberry


Addressing Market Shifts or Why RIM is not down and out just yet

by Saeed Khan

If you’ve read anything about Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) lately, it’s likely that the news has not been good.

Whether it was the underwhelming response to their Playbook tablet, the abruptly ended BBC interview by Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, or the recent drops in RIM’s stock price, negative news seems to have a death grip on the company.

People are looking at the growth of iOS (Apple) and Android based phones, with RIM dropping to a distant 3rd in market share.

But in all of this doom and gloom, it’s too early to count RIM out,  and there are real lessons to learn about dealing with shifting markets and new competition against established players.

First, let me say that while I’m a big fan of RIM for a number of reasons, I don’t have any financial stake in RIM.  Second, I don’t have any “inside” information that I’m sharing. This post is an outside-in view of RIM, trying to look past all the noise in the news channels, and analyse the situation from a Product Manager’s viewpoint.

The market has changed

I remember when the first colour Blackberry’s were introduced. Wow. Nice screens and they got rid of the thumbwheel and replaced it with the trackball, which later became a small trackpad.  Those seemed like big changes for RIM.  But to state the obvious, Apple completely upended the game with smart phones, and for a while, RIM seems to have been caught snoozing.

RIM’s initial forays into more “iPhone”-like touchscreen phones were the Storm and the Torch. Neither met with major success. They were simply me-too products when compared to the iPhone, and poor ones at that.

But RIM is not simply a handset company. RIM provides infrastructure to both carriers and enterprises. For carriers, RIM provides billing services, secure and efficient email and data transmission, and device management services. For enterprises, RIM provides the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) for provisioning and managing the devices.

These are clear differentiators when compared to the iPhone or Android devices. They are why both carriers and enterprise IT favour the RIM devices. And these are the likely reasons why RIM did not react more quickly to the threat of consumer-oriented touch-based smart phones like the iPhone.

Battleships turn slowly

But RIM is changing, and while it may not be clear to all, the Playbook tablet is key to RIM’s transformation.

Sure, people are complaining about the Playbook, the lack of apps and email integration etc. But RIM is not in the tablet business. They’ll definitely sell their share of tablets, though nowhere close to what Apple with sell.

The reason that the Playbook is important is because it, and more specifically the QNX operating system it runs will be the foundation of the next generation of Blackberrys. This fact was announced last fall, though it seems little attention has been paid to it by the broader press.

In short, the Playbook is the lab, before the new Blackberry factory gets into gear. This is a critical point to keep in mind.  For established companies like RIM, change will rarely happen rapidly, given the technology, systems, processes, contracts and other business issues to deal with.

But then, are RIM’s customers demanding change overnight? How fast can RIM’s customers, mostly enterprises, consume any change? And at what cost? Would they trade off speed of delivery vs. stability, security and management? And if so, why?

These are some of the important question to ask when addressing significant market shifts.  And once you have the answers, a strategy can be put into place to manage the change.

The road ahead

There are still many challenges ahead for RIM.

  • They definitely need to get their new QNX based Blackberrys out soon, ideally in 2011 and NOT 2012.
  • They need to create, educate and grow a thriving 3rd party development community.
  • They need to acquire (or seriously partner with) mobile application or cloud service companies to provide differentiated capabilities for enterprise and business users
  • They need to provide incentives to existing customers who move to the new QNX Blackberrys vs. losing them to iPhone/Android handsets.
  • They need to show the market and investors that they are still an innovative company that can deliver rock solid products.

While the market will give Apple slack for things like AntennaGate, or taking a very long time to ship a white iPhone, it’s unlikely the same grace will be given to RIM. Let’s face it, Jim Balsillie is no Steve Jobs.

So, even though the market for smart phones has shifted, and forced RIM into a defensive position, it’s clear they have a plan and are executing on it. Given the storms RIM has weathered in the past, if history is any indicator, RIM will make the shift from old to new platform, despite the doom and gloom predicted by many pundits. It may never be as sexy as Apple, but then who is? But in the end, there is nothing wrong with a profitable, $20 Billion dollar company. 🙂


Tweet this: Addressing Market Shifts, or Why RIM is not down and out just yet. #prodmgmt #strategy #innovation

How to dominate your competition – learn from Apple

by Saeed Khan

Did you notice what Apple did this past week?

Yes, they announced the iPad 2, but it’s worth taking a look at the details of the announcement and analysing the implications.

It’s been less than 1 year since the original iPad was released, and we all know how much of a success it has been, even with a number of seemingly glaring limitations. And although the iPad has a dominant position – 70%+ market share, competitors like Samsung, Dell, HTC, Motorola, RIM, HP and others have all started to stake their claim in the market.

Yet before most of Apple’s competitors have established their first generation products in response to the iPad, Apple announced a new, faster, thinner, less expensive upgraded version of their product: essentially obsoleting the original iPad.

And this strategy is not new to Apple. Look a the history and evolution of the iPod, and you’ll see the same pattern. Year after year, newer, more feature laden products were introduced, with more storage, video playback, video recording etc. driving new demand and staying well ahead of any competitors like the Zune.

Apple was it’s own biggest competitor. Given their dominant position in portable audio/video market, why would they let anyone else take market share?

And looking at the tablet market, it looks like Apple is following the same pattern with the iPad. A 3rd edition iPad is already rumoured to be coming out by the end of 2011. Can Apple’s competitors keep pace?

Now ask yourself, how does your own product strategy compare to this? Are you in a position to obsolete your own products, or will you let your competitors do that for you?


Tweet this: New post – How to dominate your competition – learn from Apple #prodmgmt #ipad

The secret to Apple’s success?

If there’s one company that is the envy of the high-tech community these days, it’s Apple.  Steve Jobs is hailed as a genius CEO and lauded for a string of hit products. Apple’s market capitalization is over $200 BILLION dollars currently, easily ranking it in the top 10 companies in the world by market cap, and just shy of Microsoft for biggest technology company.

Everyone wants to understand the secrets of Apple’s success and hopefully emulate them. The reasons given by people for Apple’s success are many. The following are a few of the arguments made:

1. Vertical integration – Apple owns most of, if not the entire, technology stack for its key products,  and thus gives it advantages over other less vertically integrated products.

NOTE: “Vertical integration” used to be called “being proprietary” and was given as the reason for Apple’s relative lack of success against Microsoft in the OS/PC battles of the 80s and 9os. But phenomenal success has a way of changing people’s minds.

2. Making markets vs.  addressing markets – Some claim that Apple doesn’t ask people what they need but gives them products they decide they want.

Does anyone NEED an iPhone or iPad? Not really, but a lot of people seem to want them.

3. The Cool Factor – Let’s face it, Apple does make “cool” products. Attention to design and detail – fit and finish as they say – really distinguishes Apple’s products from competitors.

4. Entering markets after they’ve developed — Contrary to #2 above, some people claim that Apple doesn’t make markets but enters existing markets once they’re growing and takes  advantage of latent demand.

The iPod was not the first digital music player and the iPhone was not the first smart phone, and the iPad is not the first portable computing device. In the case of the iPad, products like the Kindle and Netbooks actually paved the way for the market to accept  small computing devices, and Apple’s iPad is riding that wave.

5. Differentiated business models – whether it was iPod+iTunes or the iPhone+App Store, Apple innovates not just on technology, but on the business model. This makes it difficult for competitors to play catch up, let alone overtake Apple once it establishes itself in a dominant position.

6. People care about the experience not technology — Apple has always been about the user experience, but for a long time, the majority of the market didn’t care about that.

The majority of desktop computer users cared about “techs and specs”.  Now the tables have turned, and the majority don’t care about the specs, they care about the experience. The iPod, with it’s “1000 songs in your pocket” motto and iTunes which radically simplified purchasing music latched onto the experience wave, and Apple has been riding it ever since.

7. Simple product offerings – Apple has a very clear and simple set of products. It’s easy to understand the differences between their products, product families and the various configurations. This makes it easy to buy an Apple product if you want to.

A lot of companies complicate things unnecessarily. How many iPhone models are there? How many Blackberry models are there? How many Nokia smart phone models are there? See the difference between Apple, RIM and Nokia?

The same is true for the iMAc, the iPod and the iPad. Granted, there are actually a number of iPod models (Nano, Shuffle, Touch etc.) but they are very distinct amongst themselves. This can’t be said for digital music players from other companies.

I’m sure there are other reasons for Apple’s success, but it’s interesting to see how much debate is happening today on this topic. What it says to me is that there is no single reason for their success. And keep in mind that Apple has had failures as well.  Notice Apple doesn’t talk much about Apple TV. And remember the G4 Cube? The 20th Anniversary Mac?  Even the ultracool MacBook Air has had far from stellar success.

So, what do you think are the reasons for Apple’s incredible success over the last 10 years?