BlackBerry CEO Chen on his plan to win back enterprise customers

Looks to BlackBerry Messenger to offer enterprises a strong emergency communications option

Recently-installed BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, is on a mission to restore the ailing company to financial health, largely by restoring faith in BlackBerry among corporate CIO's and other traditional enterprise customers.

It's a big task.

The former Sybase CEO has been meeting with enterprise customers since taking the BlackBerry post on an interim basis on Nov. 4 after the departure of Thorsten Heins and a failed attempt to take the company private.

"I have spoken with carriers and CIOs and distributors and the conversation is always very positive," Chen said in an interview with Computerworld at the International CES conference here. "They see why it's good for the market to have a successful BlackBerry. I seem to get meetings easily. They want us to be successful. There's a lot of good will out there."

Chen, who analysts call a no-nonsense administrator, has been busy reorganizing BlackBerry's top management. BlackBerry has hired Ron Louks, who will serve as president of devices and emerging solutions reporting directly to Chen.

Louks was most recently CEO of OpenNMS Group and previously was Chief Strategy Officer at HTC America and Chief Technology Officer at Sony Ericsson. Handpicked for the job by Chen, Louks will focus on BlackBerry's long-term product roadmap, including hardware, software and design, along with the company's joint development efforts.

Chen said he still owns a Sony Ericsson cell phone that Louks helped design there. "It was small and thin and had a tiny keyboard, but was not good for surfing the Web," he said, pointing to a historical Web browsing problem with earlier BlackBerry phones.

"I hired him because I am an enterprise guy and I needed a device guy," Chen said.

Chen agreed that if BlackBerry phones of six years ago had a browser like that in the latest Z10, Q10 and Z30 models, the company might not have fallen so far behind Apple's iPhone and an array of Android phones.

He also agreed that the boot time on those new BlackBerry devices is "too long -- we will fix that."

Computerworld reviewed all three phones and found the average boot time exceeds 70 seconds -- double that of many other new phones. Chen attributed that to the time needed to load all of BlackBerry's famous security software.

BlackBerry has also hired a new chief marketing officer to replace former CMO, Frank Boulburn, who left as part of the BlackBerry management shakeup in November which also included the scalps of the company's CFO and COO.

New senior vice-president of marketing, Mark Wilson, was previously CMO at Avaya and is now tasked with building brand preference and drive integrated marketing. His resume also includes senior roles at SyBase, AT&T and KPMG.

BlackBerry hasn't yet said what its next phone will be called or when it will hit the market, although in the months before Chen took over, BlackBerry seemed headed to developing only enterprise-class smartphones. Then, in December, BlackBerry announced a five-year strategic partnership with Foxconn to build smartphones for Indonesia and other fast-growing markets where low cost phones, sometimes with fewer features, are more popular.

"I do have a consumer play with Foxconn ... especially outside the U.S. I don't want to leave those markets, but the main focus of mine is to restore enterprise confidence," Chen said. "For the immediate future, I'm going to be in the enterprise."

One potential way to win back enterprise users, Chen hinted, could be with an enterprise-grade BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, one that uses the SMS channel as a way for companies and government agencies to have an emergency communications network during catastrophic network outages.

"I could make BBM the enterprise emergency [channel] for people who want serious" connectivity, he said. BBM could be used for voice calls, and eventually for videoconferencing. "There's a lot of value, a lot of stuff to deliver to customers," he said.

Some government customers have told Chen that BlackBerry's network stayed up when others failed during various crises and emergencies. That gives Chen confidence he can win back enterprise customers despite the recommendations from some analysts that their clients find alternatives to BlackBerry.

Part of his job is going is to convince CIO's to take back some of the control they have lost in recent years as workers increasingly used their own devices in a sometimes chaotic bring-your-own-device world. "In some companies, the CIO has completely lost control and I'm trying to convince them they need to regain control," Chen said. "There's has been a loss of way."

"BlackBerry is definitely still the most secure [mobile] solution," Chen said. "The question is, does [argument] bring me enough business? In the long term, it will."

RELATED: From CMO to CEO: BlackBerry Australia's Matt Ball

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

mhamblen@computerworld.com.

> >

Read more about it leadership in Computerworld's IT Leadership Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

Undoubtedly, Robotic Process Automation enables marketing teams to accomplish repetitive tasks with fewer resources at a great accuracy.

Raj

What marketers need to know about robotic process automation

Read more

who wants to date me I am 9 years old and i am a boy

Jeremy Hawkins

Sink a sub gaming experience signals Subway's renewed brand push

Read more

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

Blog Posts

Attention marketers, it’s the small things that make a big difference

Marketers spend their careers searching for the formula that can improve the bottom line for their brands. Most new marketers also come into a role and feel like they need to put their own stamp on things.

Peter Pynta

CEO APAC, Neuro-Insight

Unboxing 101 - How savvy influencer engagement can build a brand

The humble unboxing video is a powerful tool. Correctly executed, it harnesses consumer fandom, viral authenticity and brand design magic to deliver a high-impact message to a tightly targeted cohort of consumers.

Gali Arnon

Chief marketing officer, Fiverr

​Power to the people

Purpose is the ultimate statement of intent for many organisations. Why are we here? What are we trying to achieve?

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in