Many Canadians have been wringing their hands, sad to see another national technology icon fall on hard times. This time, it’s RIM, makers of the iconic BlackBerry.
For IT, RIM’s future involves a great deal of potential change, none of it “on budget” or “in plan”.
Yet, at the end of the day, does the potential demise of any vendor actually matter?
Many of us worked in Digital shops, with VAXes marching across the floor. We didn’t like to see DEC go, but we adjusted, migrated applications, did what we had to when it did.
Software tends to continue under new ownership. JD Edwards and Peoplesoft buyers weren’t left in the cold by Oracle when those companies were acquired — even though Oracle’s game plan was to migrate them to its own products. Hardware, on the other hand, has a shorter post-death shelf life.
What RIM has that’s valuable if it sinks to irrelevance isn’t its handset design. BlackBerry enterprise server, modified to continue serving other handsets, perhaps. BlackBerry messenger as an Android or iOS app, perhaps. Patents, certainly.
The wise IT shop assumes its core vendors are always trying to commit corporate suicide, mostly by failing to see the new dangerous competitor on the rise. Any vendor who thinks they have you “locked in” or “locked up” is a risk for that kind of behaviour.
They’re always keeping room to manoeuvre open: lock-ins are kept down, releases are kept up (longer future life if they have to be ridden through a bankruptcy or merger). They’re always looking at alternatives, just in case.
Most of all, there’s a scenario in the plan where renovation to remove a vendor that’s exposing the enterprise to serious risk can be undertaken. That requires that depreciation be carefully managed.
Most of the “names” in IT over the years are gone, replaced by new ones. It’s time our planning included that.