New RIM Chairman Will Face Tough Challenges

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Rumors are circulating that RIM will soon shake up its leadership by appointing a new chairman. The maker of the BlackBerry smartphones has had a rough year, and is quickly losing relevance. A change at the top may bring some fresh perspective and new vision, but expecting a new chairman to be a white knight that saves the company may be asking too much.

The role of chairman at RIM is currently filled by two people. The co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, are also its co-chairmen. While the saying suggests that “two heads are better than one,” the chaos at RIM seems to indicate instead that “too many chefs spoil the soup.”

A new chairman will have some major work to do to reverse the fortunes of RIM.
RIM made the same mistake that other iconic companies have made over the years. It believed it was too big to fail and didn’t take its rivals seriously until it was too late. The Apple iPhone and the Android invasion have decimated RIM's market share in the industry that it helped put on the map in the first place.

Throughout 2011, RIM careened wildly about with seemingly no vision or strategy. Companies make mistakes, with course corrections all the time, but few companies have had the problems that RIM had in 2011 and survived to talk about it. It is a testament to RIM’s once-dominant role in the industry that it still exists at all.

Is it too late for RIM? Perhaps. Many might consider it a coup if the incoming chairman can just successfully negotiate an acquisition that gives RIM some sort of exit strategy that puts money in shareholder pockets. It would at least be better than the current business strategy that seems to revolve around self-annihilation.

RIM has struggled to keep up with the competition -- never mind actually innovating -- but don’t throw any dirt on the coffin just yet. It is hard to ignore the fact that many businesses and government agencies rely on BlackBerry devices for mobile communication, and they’re not prepared to just abandon their BlackBerry infrastructure and jump ship to another platform overnight.

The new chairman will have to crack the whip and get the company headed in the right direction again. Define a tablet strategy and deliver, or get out of the tablet business. Map out a solid roadmap for the BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry smartphones, and execute.

The company still has promise, but reversing its fortunes will be a Herculean task. Suffice it to say, I don’t envy the position the new chairman will find himself in -- but I wish him (or her) good luck.

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