Prologue: Should I break up with BlackBerry?

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Part of my job – along with Jason – is directing internal technology use for ITW.  Connected to that is the business analysis of end user experience, productivity, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  I take the personal relationship one has with his or her mobile device seriously- especially when you consider the power users in our industry. Lately, I’ve been struggling with our “offiicial position”and the IT Weapons Standard for mobile devices.  After 10 years, I’m facing a burning question: should I (and eventually our whole team) stick with BlackBerry?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to chronicle the experiment as I go through it.   Along with a few other Wepz,  I began piloting an iPhone 4S as my primary mobile device (for email and voice).   How will it compare to my 10 years of BlackBerry experience?  What are the drawbacks to switching?  Should ITW start recommending iPhones (or other devices) to clients instead of BlackBerrys for corporate email and mobile access?  I have so many questions, and over the next few weeks I’ll share my perspective.

Why is this a big deal?

This topic (choosing the right mobile device) is important because many people—and their organizations—listen to our advice.  Clients ask what the IT Weapons team uses internally all the time.  They ask to see our technology in action.  They want to know how we use it, what policies we have in place, and they use that info to make better decsions for their own companies.  The IT Weapons internal standard for mobile devices  has a strong ripple effect out into our client base.

We advise over 8500 mobile device users.  At $400 (on average) per device, this ends up being a $3.4M thought exercise (in capital) …  not to mention the eventual cost of device administration, management tools, training, apps, process re-development, and security & protocol changes for an organization looking to roll out or accomodate new mobile devices.   Like I said, this is a pretty big deal.

Our History with BlackBerry

Amidst the rise of the iPhone and the proliferation of personal devices into the workspace, IT Weapons has remained  a loyal and decisive holdout for RIM’s products.  All the technology and business stuff aside, it’s nice knowing that we have been supporting a Canadian company in a worldwide marketplace.

The history of the BlackBerry as a corporate communication device is a long and decorated one.  I was talking with a client (Paul W) before the holidays about the days when our collective *need* for this device emerged.  It looked like a big pager, it did email and you could access news feeds and stock ticker info.  Business folks began to feel liberated from their offices.  IT folks however, faced some tremendous challenges.  There were virtually no real security features and very few people held any respect for the difficulty of managing and supporting large numbers of these devices outside the office.

As an IT professional I have since lived through every iteration of the BlackBerry; the screen expansion, the colour screen, the switch from CSMA to GSM, the advent of SIM chips, and the dawn of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).  More importantly, we’ve watched the business world change dramatically in just over a decade.  We’ve gone from “hey, what’s with that huge pager on your belt?” to “oh, you are one of those berry people” to now having scorned loved ones yelling “stop ignoring me and put down that stupid Crackberry!”   Think about it …  Do you even remember when people had to stop to make calls at a pay phone or go into their office to send an email?

From a corporate IT perspective, the BlackBerry has enjoyed complete dominance until very recently.  With BES and the native tools baked into the devices, no other provider could match the supportability, security, and ease of management for business mobility that RIM developed for the BlackBerry.  As such, it has been the lifeblood of our organization, and for thousands of others.

But now, look around Bay Street, Wall Street, and Main Street.  The times … they are a’ changing!  Over the coming weeks we’re going to look in depth at what it takes to step away from the BlackBerry … and whether I should do it at all.

stay tuned …

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