Everybody Else: What Not To Do Part II

Let’s take a quick stock of the wackiness that has been swirling around the last few weeks.  In no particular order:

  • Netflix bums everyone out by raising their prices in July, and then pisses everyone off in September by making one, easy to use service two, far less convenient offerings, one of which has a really dippy name.  (You can read my post about this here.)
  • AOL makes a not-particularly-well-thought-out investment move involving the head of an acquired company who was promised autonomy, only to have it blown up in its face by the head of another acquired company.
  • HP bets its future on a new tablet and OS, decides it was only kidding and scraps the whole thing, including its CEO, only to hire a new, “name brand” CEO that knows nothing about any of its businesses.
  • In a similar vein, Yahoo!, which is running neck and neck with HP for the dubious honor of having the most incompetent board of any public company, cans its CEO without any succession plan.  In an effort to keep their employees from racing to the door, the board sends a rambling, semi-coherent email letting everyone know that all options are being explored, which may or may not include a sale or hiring a new CEO depending upon which way the wind is blowing, only to be followed by a more direct and pointed email from the acting CEO telling employees it’s business as usual for now and have a nice weekend.
  • For those of you who still haven’t become fully used to Facebook’s last round of changes, a whole new round has been introduced (with even more coming next month) because fb decided they know better than we do whether, how much, and what we want to share with one another.  Massive amounts of bitching ensues.
  • RIM reaches a point where they should just gather up their toys and go home.

All of this begs enormous numbers of questions and observations.  There is, however, one commonality, which also happens to be the only factor of real consequence.  Every one of these companies has taken its eye off the customer.  They are all (rightfully) obsessed with iteration, innovation, fear of obsolescence, and the need to stay ahead of the competition – these are critical drivers of every tech company.   But when everyone inside a company is breathing the same air (drinking the Kool-Aid, buying the same bullshit –  insert your own metaphor here) things start to get really funky.  Do you think fb did a lot of research before coming up with Timelines?  It represents a fundamental change to what constitutes a fb profile – it’s no longer a snapshot, but rather a mini-biography, some chapters, I’m sure, many people would prefer to forget or at least right the wrongs of the past and not share again.  RIM clearly thought email was enough.  It’s not like that stopped being true yesterday.  The list goes on.

The lesson here, boys and girls, is really simple.  Never take your eye off your customer, whether she is internal to your organization, a consumer, or a business client.  She’s the ONLY thing that matters.


First, my apologies to my very small but growing group of loyalists – if you’d had a month like the one I just had, blogging would have been at the bottom of your list of priorities too.  Thankfully, bones are knitting, surgical scars are healing, and life is returning to something that resembles normal.

One quick post before everyone scatters for the holiday weekend.  I have been a Blackberry loyalist for about a decade, and after much resistance, have recently come to terms with the very sad truth that the company’s products are going the way of the Motorola StarTac.  (Hmmm, since tech superstar Justin Timberlake is otherwise engaged in reviving one moribund former digital darling, maybe his The Social Network co-star  Jesse Eisenberg can help RIM out – I mean, they have similar credentials, right?  Just a thought.)  Not only have they consistently failed to innovate over the last few years, but their products don’t even keep pace with iOS and Android features.   Adding insult to injury, the developer community has abandoned them in droves – the death knell in the era of the smart phone and the iPad.  (Btw, can we all agree to abandon, at least for now, the generic “tablet?”  The only tablet of consequence is the iPad.)  Finally, the enterprise market, which RIM has long dominated by a substantial margin, is migrating in increasing numbers to the iPhone as employees demand the cooler, sleeker and (gulp) just plain better device.

One brave high level RIM employee has published an anonymous open letter to co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis (well-respected tech site BGR has verified the employee’s identity) that gives a straight up account of all that is wrong with the company and some smart, clear cut moves that need to be made quickly to restore the company to its former glory.  Kudos to Mr./Ms. Whistleblower – after all, any schmuck can tell you it’s raining, but not everyone has the ability or good sense to give you an umbrella.

You can read the letter here and RIM’s unsurprisingly lame response here.

Happy 4th!