Yesterday BlackBerry announced that they've hired a Chief Operating Officer. The company has not had a COO since John Chen took over and cleaned house.
Remember when Thorsten Heins brought in his own management team including COO Kristian Tear who had tremendous experience from Sony Ericsson and Ericsson? Or how about the co-COO structure that worked very well for BlackBerry during its hyper growth phase? They had Don Morrison covering carrier relationships (he was formerly an AT&T guy) and Larry Conlee (an ex-Motorola guy) who was in charge of manufacturing.
When BlackBerry (then Research In Motion) was a hardware story with software as a necessary component it made sense to have hardware-centric chief operating officers. But as the years went by it became clear that BlackBerry didn't have the software expertise it really needed. Sure, it had a bullet proof secure operating system and a fairly reliable (most of the time) NOC. But prior to BlackBerry 10 a core complaint among developers was the quality of tools available. A core complaint of users was the inadequate desktop software. And in many cases BlackBerry had to code core applications like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on their own. It was becoming very clear that BlackBerry needed to evolve into a higher quality software company.
That looks to be the team John Chen is building up thus far and he's following a very specific pattern. He hires people with enterprise software experience who he's also worked with before. He's installing his own guys, people he knows and trusts. The hiring of Marty Beard as COO is another good example of this transition. While I can't speak to the man's track record I can see that his most recent post (CEO of LiveOps) involves selling software to enterprises. LiveOps is a cloud contact centre and customer service solution.
But prior to this Mr. Beard was the president of Sybase 365, a division of Sybase. Recall that Chen was CEO of Sybase starting in late 1998. Then in 2006 Sybase acquired Mobile 365, a mobile and messaging company, and rebranded it as Sybase 365. By September 2010 Sybase 365 had become one of the largest independent SMS exchanges in the world, delivering a trillion messages that year. The enormous growth that Sybase 365 experienced was all under the Presidency of Marty Beard, and all while Chen was CEO of the mother ship.
I like Chen's human resources strategy. He spent a long time at Sybase before it was successfully turned around and sold to SAP. He clearly has the respect of those who used to work for him, and he clearly respects many of those people enough to bring them on as team members at BlackBerry and the best part is, he's not done yet. The hiring of Marty Beard to those onlooking, came out of nowhere so it'll be interesting to see what else comes up.