From CrackBerry to SlackBerry

August 28, 2013

A cautionary tale for IT

Five years ago, Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, was on top of the world. BlackBerry was the dominant player in the smartphone market and organizations all over the world, from large government agencies to businesses of all sizes, helped BlackBerry to become such a staple in the market that in 2006, Webster’s dictionary made “CrackBerry” its word of the year.

Fast forward to today and “SlackBerry” seems like a more appropriate term. So what happened? Some might blame it on a disruptive technology entering the market that could not be predicted … the iPhone (and then Android). That would be a mistake.

What really happened is that BlackBerry failed to understand who their customers were. They thought and acted like the customers were the businesses and corporate IT departments they were selling to. They found out the hard way that the customers are the people; the users. In the end, they failed to understand what people wanted.

There are many parallels that can be drawn between what happened to BlackBerry and the current state of information technology (IT) within businesses today. So for the next few minutes, suspend disbelief and imagine that your IT department is BlackBerry and your employees are the smartphone consumer market. Ask yourself some difficult but important questions:

1. Are your employees truly satisfied and productive using the “industry standard” email to communicate with people both inside and outside of the company? (remember now, BlackBerry was the industry standard)

2. Are employees lining up to expand their use of SharePoint because it is so delightful and seamless to use as a collaboration platform that they share their joy in using it with their family at dinner?

3. Are meetings so effective and enjoyable that employees are asking for more time in the day so they can schedule more?

4. Are you seeing the virtual smiles on people’s faces as they use the Excel task list that was sent by email to update and share their team status?


If you are still reading, you are either chuckling or annoyed with me at this point, depending on your perspective. Some may be thinking, “OK, that’s absurd. People would never talk about a work technology at the dinner table.” That’s the point … they actually do. We just need to understand what our customers (employees) are saying, which tells us what they want.

John Dvorak, PC Magazine “E-mail, once the most effective way to communicate with your tech-savvy associates, has become useless for too many people. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? It’s essentially dead. So now what are we supposed to do?” Kona was specifically developed to address the shifting technology and behavioral landscape that businesses face. When we developed Kona, we recognized that:

1. The barrier between work and home has all but disappeared. People aren’t looking for a “BlackBerry” that was only built for work. Kona will feel as delightful in organizing and getting things done at work as it does at home.

2. We live in a virtual world where the people we are trying to get things done with are not usually right next to us. People will no longer tolerate the disconnected feeling they have with teams, customers, or partners. With social media, they have experienced a whole new level of engagement and communication. Kona takes that social experience to a level of its own and makes the whole team and the company more creative, productive, agile — more successful.

3. Email is not social. This is a technology that was developed over 20 years ago and has hardly evolved. Kona connects teams around topics where interaction is real-time and people feel like they are there with you. Ideas and files can be shared in a visual way without mailbox or file size limits. Idea sharing is devoid of spam and reading through inane headers and footers.

4. Meetings and tasks don’t have to be an emotional drain on teams. By nature they are social. It should feel good to get things done before, during, and after the meeting.

While it may be too late for BlackBerry, it’s not too late for your business. Kona presents a real opportunity for you to capture and delight your consumers, I mean employees. FYI: Kona Mobile is available for both the iOS and Android mobile platforms (sorry again, BlackBerry — the market has spoken!).

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