"We Were Not Disciplined Enough" RIM's new CEO explains how they will deliver products to market on time

CrackBerry talks to Thorsten Heins
By Kevin Michaluk on 27 Jan 2012 04:25 pm EST

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

Reader comments

"We Were Not Disciplined Enough" RIM's new CEO explains how they will deliver products to market on time


The more I hear Thorsten, the more I like what he is saying. The proof will be in the performance, and I think he is providing the right leadership and instituting the right management style.


I'm a 10 year BlackBerry user. I bought the Playbook the day it came out. I got a 9930 the day it came out. I also now sport a iPhone 4S and dropped all of my RIM devices last November.

That said, these interview sessions are AWESOME. I hope and want to come back one day. I'm waiting. The keyboard on that damned 9930 is still in my dreams at night. :)

There are plenty of defectors who will come back as soon as we see them heading in the right direct -- EVEN if they're not there yet!

These interview articles are a HUGE first step.

P.S. KEVIN! Ask about Apps. They need to be reaching out now (read: TODAY!) to the Top 50 app developers out there and make sure they have a fully stocked app store the DAY of the launch of BB 10.

I agree 100% there. They really need to take a page out of Microsoft's book on that one. I mean virtually no consumers want Windows Phone, yet Microsoft has done a spectacular job of getting developers interested in the platform and has just crossed 60 000 apps.

RIM has never been able to compete with the big platforms in Apps. This needs to change - and I don't mean today I mean three years ago - it has to be a something that RIM is willing to put the resources in and provide the tools. RIM seems to have done well in getting new tools for developers to make apps with, but now they have to get them to do it and NATIVELY on blackberry 10, not android ports.

It is good that he faults the management structure, the prior structure was obviously a near disaster. Hopefully this guy knows what he's talking about, and not just another MBA (I don't know his qualifications) who knows little about technical stuff.

I'm disappointed. This is a typical CNN interview. You refused to ask him the hard questions. What about their product quality control? Why so many refreshes? RIM did not get those negative press for no reason. Think about it.
Feel free to flag me

I am so blown away here..In a good way. Such beautiful news to hear from both Kevin's questions, to Thorsten's responses. I don't think this is "CNN" like at all. Very easy going coffee talk with solid points. So proud and honored that we are included in all this. Crackberry definitely has made a name for itself and proven to be a main voice to Blackberry and the fact that Thorsten see's this and has capitalized on it......it just well......AMAZING. I'm pumped and you all should feel that way too. Can you tell me a time ANY of the competition reached out like this to it's community????

Just wow. And excited.

Agreed. Kind of feels like the CB Nation is being taken along for the ride and that our voices might be heard now (or at least acted upon). Kinda neat that we get to be this fly on the wall. Please RIM, give us something to be proud of with BB10 and the PB refresh! Thanks Kevin and Thorsten for your efforts thus far. *fastens seatbelt*

I think it speaks volumes Kevin on how much he has engaged with you, it shows an authenticity and sincere demeanor from him. Also, Kevin, you can speak on behalf of the BB nation...good stuff!

I really like what I'm hearing from the new CEO. I hope that he has what it takes to marshal the troops and really put his words into action.

I think the fact that one of his first priorities seems to be to reach out to the fan base, through Kevin, and engage the community is a huge step. We are his customers, and if he has a willingness to listen to the community then RIM could have a very bright future. It's far better than simply staying the course and doing things your own way for it's own sake, which feels like what RIM has been doing in the past.

Completely agree, Kevin acts as our spokesperson and is on board with most % of comments on issues or thought processes.

I don't take this lightly for Thorsten to reach out to us all in this way. It's a huge tip of the hat and assurance to us all. As a consumer and business professional, this is one of the BEST and SMARTEST things he could have done in his first few days as CEO and man do I applaud it.

Well done, and Thorsten, if you are reading any of this, good luck and we are all behind you and can't wait to see what unfolds in the near future.

It seems so weird for him to act this way. Mike and jim seemed to just do whatever they wanted with no thoughts on how things played out. It's definitely way too early to say that Thor is going to turn things around, but, I love how his "reign" is starting....

It's exciting to be a BB fan right now.:)

I hope the best for RIM and Thorsten, RIM should use more of Crackberry's huge human user resouce base as an RD tool fully, really it make sense as the biggest concentration of BB users is here, and we have all from fanatics to the very hard critics. Not that we'll take over decisions but can share ideas and opinions as to help with making RIM recover its place in the marketplace.

Ask Thorsten if RIM will keep us informed through crackberry.com so we don't have to hear gossip from tech bloggers.

I like what I'm hearing, but I hope Thorsten isn't telling us what we want to hear for the sake of doing so.

Okay, he seems qualified. But I really wanted to hear more substantial explanations. This didn't get this bad because of a little snafu. It has evolved to this due to poor structure, resting on your laurels and not pushing ahead. RIM has been leap frogged by the competition and they IMO are trailing way behind in market share, technology, innovation.......I mean come on......we are getting excited over email and calendar integration on the playbook, meanwhile the crappiest Android tablets all have that. Is that where we have fallen? they need to wow us now....RIM needs a huge spark. They need it soon, not in a year......or Thorsten's tenure as a CEO will be short lived because RIM will be part of some other company.

johnqpublic101..As a business user we need phones with the BEST radios, Reception, Call Quality..and Loud speaker volume. Besides talking to an important client if your ever in an accident and have to call 911 we need an excellent phone. This department you can beat the iphone easy as all iphones fail. Also please keep the Blackberry Bold 9930 as it is hardware wise. We need much faster updates though to keep this phone working.