CrackBerry talks to Thorsten Heins

Part IV of CrackBerry's Interview with RIM's New CEO

Let's face it. Delivering products to market on time has never been one of Research In Motion's strong points. When we asked CrackBerry readers for questions to ask RIM's Nnw CEO, an overwhelming number of you wanted to know exactly how will RIM change their ways to become a company that can deliver products to the market on time.

RIM's Thorsten Heins acknowledged that the company was not disciplined enough in the past, spending too much time tweaking products already set for production. Heins put the blame solely on the management structure and was clear "that has nothing to do with our people, they have worked day and night and are totally enthusiastic." Heins intends to keep the start-up mentality and innovation coming, but in a more scalable way, "by putting small teams together, assigning them dedicated tasks, making them accountable, and giving them funds to fulfill their tasks rather than being distributed over 3-4 programs. That happened in the past, and that led to programs getting omitted frankly."

On the people front of the transition from BlackBerry OS to QNX, Heins says RIM "figured out pretty fast that those [QNX] resources are not sufficient enough", so the company has been working to realign their Waterloo-based BlackBerry OS coders over to the new platform. It's definitely a challenge for those programmers who have worked on one platform to learn something new and Heins noted that he is really happy to see people taking it on. "We have now rearranged all the resources properly, all the leadership is clear, all the team's tasks are clear, and people work together, so we have achieved a different level of efficiency now in that part of the platform development."

I'm hoping this new structure works for RIM. I'm jonesing for a BlackBerry 10 phone! You can listen to the audio above and read the full Q&A below for more details. 

Interview Part IV - Delivering Products on Time

Kevin: What are some of the specific changes to make sure that RIM delivers on time? Is there reorganization, what else is there?

Thorsten: There is a lot of change that has happened and that will happen. We can talk about this for probably an hour in itself, but let me give you in a nutshell. First is resource planning. What are my [staff's] skills sets, where do I have it and how many people, the names of the people, and then you assign those people to dedicated teams.

In start-ups everybody does everything. Start-up mode is great because you need speed and just need to get stuff done. That doesn't scale, that's the problem with it. So the way you keep start-up mode is you put small teams together, assign them dedicated tasks, make them accountable, and give them funds to fulfill their tasks rather than being distributed over 3-4 programs. That happened in the past, and that led to programs getting omitted frankly.

Secondly, there is some discipline to the process that once the product is defined, [keep it] defined and go out and build it. Our approach was that we would have this kind of idea for a product and we continuously changed the product for the better, not the worse, but we constantly disturbed the development process in turn. That kind of wears people out because they just worked on something and then we come in and say "hey you know what we want this just a little bit tweaked." That's what I mean with processes. It has nothing to do with lack of innovation. We will innovate. I want a whole area of people that have enough freedom and room and money to innovate. When they're ready and say, "you know this is really cool", then we put this into product and once it's product it doesn't change anymore.

Kevin: Right, lock it down and get it out.

Thorsten: Yeah and we were not disciplined enough. Again, this has nothing to do with our people, they have worked day and night and are totally enthusiastic. We've put them really through their paces with BlackBerry 6, 7, and the same thing again with the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10. I just want to make really clear it's not their fault, it's just the management structure we need to put in place and it's what we have been doing and what we'll continue to be doing.

Kevin: Speaking on people, obviously again big platform change from BlackBerry OS to BlackBerry 10, which involves language changes at the coding level, are you finding your people are migrating from the one side to the other? Is it working as smoothly and fast as it needs to happen?

Thorsten: That's a real good point, because actually that was one of the big changes that nobody talked about that happened and is still happening. We started with a core of QNX around the new OS and the new platforms. We pretty fast figured out that those resources aren't sufficient enough and we have our BlackBerry resources here in Waterloo as well. So we migrated a lot of R&D development from BBOS OS as we call it internally over to the QNX OS. 

I'm really happy to see people taking it on actually, we did this prior to the Holidays, and we have now rearranged all the resources properly, all the leadership is clear, all the team's tasks are clear, people work together, so we have achieved a different level of efficiency now in that part of the platform development. 

Keep it locked to CrackBerry... more from RIM's new CEO will be hitting the blogs soon!

Read CrackBerry's 1st Interview with RIM's CEO