Friday, November 16, 2007

Why We Got the Blackberry - and Dumped the Treo

A week ago, we went over to the Verizon Wireless store to pick up the Blackberry for each member of the US team. I made the decision to take people off their existing plan and phones for a simple reason - quality and control. I wanted to make sure each person could be connected to the clients and the company at all times. We needed a mobile experience where everything worked seamlessly - no reboots, bad voice quality or botched data transfers. We had already gone to an Exchange hosting service to ensure reliable email delivery and integrated calendaring. Up till now everyone had a different phone, different service and individual patterns of access. Now it was time to complete the circle.

Because our team is around the world and our clients are dispersed around the country, time in the office does not reflect a true workday. Work can take place in the middle of the night or early in the morning. If the client has an issue, you need to know right away and respond quickly. We could not afford to waste a moment or give the client a poor connection. Since we are responsible for spending client money, they needed to be assured that the team was on top of things regardless of the situation. There was no excuse for a Client Manager to be out of the office and not receive a critical client email.

This was important after the Treo 700p nightmare that I went through. Great features, poor execution. Reboots happened every day because the damn thing froze all the time. Sometimes, the Treo would reboot when I was in the middle of a call. The Bluetooth connection was uneven. It was maddening and that was even after all the integration and improvement that I got when we implemented the Good Technology software and service. It was as if the people at Palm jammed a bunch of features in to make them look good in product comparison, but they forgot that if the phone is unreliable, you tend not to value the feature. This was the old Microsoft way - fill up the data sheet but don't worry about quality.

Reliability is an expensive investment and difficult to quantify, but people are willing to pay for it. This is what I have seen with the Blackberry 8830 - no crashes, no reboots and amazing integration. Great spell correction, decent voice dialing and just a lot of little touches. Voicemail dialing was preprogrammed. I didn't have to figure out the pauses before auto entry of the password, it gave multiple options in terms of how to contact a person, and the screen is fantastic. As much as I miss the camera, I especially like the idea of getting data access wherever I go around the world. This phone works with GSM and CDMA. Let's also not forget the huge number of free apps for the Blackberry. It makes things a lot easier - from the weather app to Google Maps to Facebook Mobile. I'm still learning all the things I can do and customize. Right now, I'm testing the Jawbone headset because my voice just doesn't carry with these headsets - just didn't get the deep voice genes :).

RIM focused on the needs of the business user with their product and service design. Palm was focused on competing with Microsoft CE and couldn't make up its mind on the business user or the consumer. Their OS is not built for reliability. Quality is worth paying for as is easy integration and functionality. It's not easy to sell, but just ask the guys at the store which phone gets the complaints - it's pretty easy. Email integration is critical for the business user, especially the ability to synch with Exchange & Outlook. That combined with the higher quality Verizon network means that my team is available everywhere.

Our Client Managers were especially happy about the 4 GB memory for their photo and music files as well as the ability to tether with their PC - that means connect their PC to the Net all the time. Then there's the Bluetooth headset and all the accessories. I want them to have fun. That means they're enjoying their job and they're connected - all the time.

This is part of the evolution of the company. When we first started, it was all about keeping burn to the absolute minimum while we figured out our business. Now that we have high profile clients and a proven model, we need to have the highest quality and efficiency possible.

Some people would say that now work is 24 hour. I say it has made work more fun because you can get things done anywhere.

Because communication is more reliable. I'm able to get more done and call more people. That's a good thing for me and Position2.

RIM gets it - execution matters...

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