RIM Co-CEOs Step Down and COO Thorsten Heins Takes Over
Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the Research in Motion Co-CEOs responsible for developing the BlackBerry and turning the company into a force to be reckoned with in the global electronics arena, have decided to step down from their positions on Monday.
With the announcement, RIM named Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins as the new chief executive.
“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership,” said Lazaridis. “Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now.”
Lazaridis will move from Co-Chair to Vice-Chair of RIM’s Board of Directors and said he intends to purchase an additional $50 million in company shares in the open market.
“I agree this is the right time to pass the baton to new leadership and I have complete confidence in Thorsten, the management team and the company,” added Balsillie, who also noted that he will continue supporting RIM as a shareholder and director.
Heins joined the RIM team in 2007 as a senior vice president for the handheld business unit. By 2011, he had become one of the company’s two chief operating officers and was responsible for sales and hardware and software product engineering.
Although his rapid rise through RIM’s ranks was impressive, Heins faces a significant battle in his stated goal to make RIM one of the top three players in the worldwide wireless market.
It’s no secret that RIM could use some serious reviving. The company has lost 75 percent of its stock value in the last year and has had to face service outages, market share losses, software delays, acquisition rumors and disappointing sales performances of ambitious launches like the PlayBook tablet.
“As with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains,” Heins said. “We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result. Going forward, we will continue to focus both on short-term and long-term growth, strategic planning, a customer- and market-based product approach and flawless execution.”
Additionally (and importantly), RIM is recruiting a new Chief Marketing Officer who the company hopes will collaborate with product and sales staff “to deliver the most compelling products and services.”
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”