Updated. See RIM's response below.
The folks at BoyGeniusReport claim they have obtained an internal letter from beleaguered (but still market-leading) mobile phone maker Research in Motion, and it's an interesting peek into the problems that have the company falling behind rivals Apple and Google in U.S. mobile market share.
BGR claims the letter was written by a "senior executive" as a plea to co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to move swiftly and forcefully to get the company back on track. (I've placed a call to RIM's media relations team to confirm that the letter is indeed real; I'll update when I hear back.)
Speaking on behalf of many employees, the exec writes:
We are in the middle of major 'transition' and things have never been more chaotic. Almost every project is falling further and further behind schedule at a time when we absolutely must deliver great, solid products on time. We urge you to make bold decisions about our organisational structure, about our culture and most importantly our products.
Ten talking points culled from the letter:
- Focus on the end user experience. "We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this."
- Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. "Rather than constantly mocking iPhone and Android, we should encourage key decision makers across the board to use these products as their primary device for a week or so at a time — yes, on Exchange! This way we can understand why our users are switching...it’s incomprehensible that our top software engineers and executives aren’t using or deeply familiar with our competitor’s products."
- Lack of leadership. "Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind."
- Stop trying to squeeze water from a rock. "We can’t afford any more initiatives based on carrier requests to squeeze out slightly more volume."
- Look long-term. "There is a serious need to consolidate our focus to just a handful of projects. Period."
- Quality begets quantity. "It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term."
- Ditch carriers and get cozy with developers. "BlackBerry smartphone apps suck."
- Foster open communication. "No one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them."
- Rethink the marketing strategy. "A product’s technical superiority does not equal desire."
- Go hard or go home. "RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles."
Whether the letter's real or not, the advice is worthy for any large corporation hazy on its mission. The point: fundamental fixes start at the top.
UPDATE: Looks like it's real, or at least being treated as such by RIM. They've responded in a blog post of their own. In sum: "We know, we know. We got this, trust us."
- Disbelief. "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."
- Denial. "RIM is nonetheless fully aware of and aggressively addressing both the company’s challenges and its opportunities."
- Admission. "There is a fundamental business reality however that following an extended period of hyper growth, it has become necessary for the company to streamline its operations in order to allow it to grow its business profitably while pursuing newer strategic opportunities."
- It's cool, shareholders! "The company is thankfully in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead with a solid balance sheet and substantial international growth."
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