Seeking Alpha

Superfly_FR's  Instablog

Send Message
C.E.O of a small web/mobile development company since 1997. My real name is Antoine BAPST. Meet me on: Twitter : @superfly_fr : Superfly_FR
View Superfly_FR's Instablogs on:
  • BBRY: Why Do They Always Want More And More?
    Everybody is a bit nervous - for obviously opposed reasons - a few days ahead of E.R, especially in the "quiet period". And we get flooded by articles from analysts, experts (or the so-called) spreading "THE" reality, magic measure, super rumor or whatever they pretend to be relevant.
    The reality is that we currently have no factual clue of how the transition - as explained by J.C, not "dreamed" by "anlaysts" or "armchair C.E.Os" - is going.
    There's only one certainty : it will take time before trumpets, wistle and bells - if ever - sounds loud and clear in the crowd perception. I may be tempted to state that it's the main task they have to achieve once break even (finance wise) is reached.

    I'm somehow encouraged by posts like these, because they keep asking "faster, stronger, better, harder" measures which implies, somehow, that the current strategy has flexibility; wiping away the old sentiment "BBRY is a falling knife".
    Because all these "genius" strategies (I call them "magic wounds") imply such a pile of investments and goals shifts, there must be somehow an underlying sentiment here : "why on earth don't they use their $3Bil cash to do [whatever] ...". Let me finish the sentence : "... now they can afford it". Otherwise, that's plain utopia, fantasy, ignorance or whatever you want to call it and yes, in this particular context, you can add FUD at last.

    There's a limit to the exercise John Chen and #TeamBlackBerry is trying to achieve here. They ave to be extremely focused on what has been planned and that's only a time for (formerly validated) action.

    It's time to deliver what the plan has settled, like the plan settled it, within the time frame set for the passing points. There's simply neither time nor resources nor will to look back : calling into question is not an option. Fails will simply be cut, afterwards. That's how it is, as stubborn it may seem: the only way to conduct efficient change management. Especially when executed as an emergency therapy while the enterprise is fighting to survive (V.S strategic planned turnover). You may wonder why we ear so few from the board regarding strategy: I'd bet they're better in the shadow when every word can be turned into interpretation and mixed beyond reason to feed the rumors. No time and nothing to win here: just focus, shut up and deliver.

    So, what does it mean for us, the "fans" ?
    It means we have to consider BlackBerry as a long-term illness patient that is slowly recovering while he was depreciating before the shock treatment was ordered.
    He probably suffers of side-effects and the everyday life at his bedside implies dedication and patience. Making brilliant plans for the future can help, but that's only an escape. Escape is good, even mandatory for sanity and forward perspectives. Still it cannot heal anything alone. Treatment must be followed in its entirety, even when first bump of recovery appear. Otherwise, it's simply inefficient and the pain implied only added more sufferings to the situation. And - yes - there will be additional treatments afterwards to offset some of the remaining side-effects. Afterwards.

    So, what does it mean for me, the "stakeholder" ?
    Above all, there's no surprise for me. When I bought my first tiny lot of BBRY shares (end of 2011), I knew :
    1/ It was a (very) long term investment
    2/ The risk/reward ratio was only slightly in favor of reward but it could be huge (multiples).
    3/ I wouldn't bet my future on this and only invested available spare cash.
    4/ I put my money where my words are. I was (and I am still) confident for the company future.
    My investment was so long sighted (my daughter's 18 : still 2 and 1/2 years to go) it probably won't fit with any time scale used by traders. Even when I could have made subsequent profits, I played the "continuing bet", adding by small blocks until I reached the limit I fixed regarding my investment capabilities (1K shares). And here I am, fortunately helped with €/$ parity, sitting on my average price. Waiting for the fat lady.

    In business there can be chance (more likely a fortunate "vision") but I've never seen a successful magic wound.
    It takes time. And whoever tells you "yeah, you/he said that last quarter already", you're free to simply answer "yup: you too" ... And you're set for the next round.

    From my thoughts direct to the keyboard, CrackBerry Ambassador and BlackBerry Elite hats off, for what it worth and to whom it may concern.

    Tags: BBRY
    Jun 18 6:43 AM | Link | Comment!
  • BBM Channels : An Unexpected Guest For Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) ?

    It's a fair game we all speculate about ($BBRY) BlackBerry's strategy and whether or not it's going to be be a disruptive or a continuous one. I for one believe it'll be a follow-up of previous strategy (I mean Heins' era) while it will probably focus on the enterprise (in its widest meaning) at the expense of the customers branch. But that's another topic I won't discuss further here. Yet, in this perspective, I did some digging about an unadvertised (as of date) area where channels may encounter success : Enterprise Social Networking (ESN).

    That specific area market is not mature yet, because the offering does not meet - in an Enterprise context - the efficiency it has in the consumer context: Social networking. Before I go further, I believe it worth a definition, to draw the picture clearly :

    Source: wikipedia

    Enterprise Social Networking focuses on the use of online social networks or social relations among people who share business interests and/or activities. Enterprise social networking is often a facility of enterprise social software (regarded as a primary component of Enterprise 2.0), which is essentially social software used in "enterprise" (business/commercial) contexts. It encompasses modifications to corporate intranets (referred to as social intranets) and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication, collaboration and other aspects of their intranets. Enterprise social networking is also generally thought to include the use of a standard external social networking service to generate visibility for an enterprise.

    Described as "modern" enterprises' darling, it has yet a very poor deployment or at least a very weak users adoption rate, to the point some may pretend it's "dead in the egg" (DOA). It is brilliantly described in a rich article from CXP Chief Editor Claire Leroy (in French) and most of the below is inspired by her writing.

    Let's take another picture :

    Source: Claire Leroy (personal translation)

    [...] we must consider another reality much less "glamorous" relative failure, or at least more advanced than the laborious ESN or Enterprise social network, supposed to be the equivalent of a Twitter or Facebook transposed scale (necessarily miniaturized) company and circumscribed within its organization. All surveys conducted in 2013 are bitter fact: companies remained, since the emergence of ESN in the early 2010s, generally resistant to the use of so-called "social" tools. At best, there would be in France just a few hundreds companies having deployed a ESN (or planning to): a disappointing situation, it must be admitted, after the enthusiastic buzz that the concept raised two-three years ago.

    Yet everyone agrees to confer Enterprises Social Networking business virtues and indisputable advantages

    Source: Claire Leroy (personal translation)

    [ESN is] based on the same principle and share the same ambition [ than customers' SN] : unite people around common interests and projects. In fact, nobody seems to dispute the contributions of ESN, which are considerable. Better sharing of knowledge and expertise, modernization of the collaborative approach based on a global tool and centralized development of interpersonal relationships, development of employees, creation of "social bond" ... many levers that companies desperately need today to evolve and be proactive, especially in the depressed socio-economic climate that is ours now.

    While social-everything is the trendy "e-behavior" (with evolution from FaceBook to SnapChat) and you can't watch any TV show or news without twitter being named at least once, in the enterprise: it just don't fit. So, where are the bottlenecks ? I found the Wikipedia entry pretty insightful about it :

    Source : Wikipedia

    Lack of adoption
    If training in the use of enterprise social networking tools is not provided to employees who do not have experience using them, they are unlikely to be widely adopted. The use of enterprise social networking must be championed at the highest levels of the enterprise to provide the resources needed and promote adoption throughout the organization. Gartner have said that only 10% of organizations see value in a social collaboration product, primarily due to the lack of change management provided during rollout.

    The sharing of information across the enterprise through via social networking creates a transparency that may or may not necessarily be welcomed by all sectors of the organization.

    There is often an assumption that social networking will not work well in a particular industry or that its use may be perceived as unprofessional. In addition the ability to justify use of enterprise social networking, based on return on investment is not always readily apparent.

    Privacy and security
    Because social tools make many things that were normally private much more public, including all types of corporate data, many organizations would rather wait for best practices or to see what their peers are doing before delving very far into social networking. Privacy can become a huge issue at the enterprise level, when customer and employee data are at stake. Security concerns must be addressed prior to embarking upon creation of an enterprise social network.

    Behavioral issues
    One of the significant areas of concern with the use of social networking internally within organizations is the impact and effect of behavioral issues. As the interactions within a social network are loosely coupled to business process and structured information systems, the effect of individual personalities and human psychology become more pronounced within social networks. Such emerging concerns cover issues such as attention management, death by trivia, dominant personalities, behavioral adoption and influence strategies.

    But Claire Leroy also adds a very important aspect of things; to be ESN ready, an enterprise must adopt a Social approach and a matching management structure.

    Source : Claire Leroy (personal translation)

    We arrive at the paradox for a successful ESN project [enterprise] must already be a "social enterprise", but how to become a "social business" without ever having a ESN key driver of this "socializing" Culture?

    Tell me about the chicken and the egg ...

    Bottom line :

    The spark may be the tool. As I was performing my research about ESN, I've read articles and tools documentation that required all my efforts and a lot of approximate translations before I got the slight idea of "how to ..." : Setting up an ESN sounds as complex as building a nuclear plant and - as a consultant - I heard instantly the objections of my clients (from associations to multi-national companies) : "what for ?", "where is the ROI ?", "how long will it take ?" to name the obvious top three.

    With my candid eyes (I must admit I'm nowhere ESN specialist), I cannot refrain seeing BlackBerry Channels in conjunction (or not) with ScrOOn as one possible accelerator in this area. The key factors here are (anticipating the release of Channels for Android and iOs due "end of year"-ish) :

    • Identified and autonomous redactors (Head of service/project, team manager, P.R, documentalist ...)
    • Ephemeral nature : a channel can be instantly set for a specific purpose (event, project,"disaster recovery" ...) and fully disappear in a snap or stand for years (documentation, archives, project follow-up ...)
    • "Noise Free" V.S "catchall" communication : you don't have to browse through 25 P.R articles if your core interest is H.R
    • Instant and costless implementation
    • Targeted and secured Channels with groups/audience on invite only (Channels can be unlisted V.S public)
    • Modern and hassle free notifications with matching support (mobile): No, I don't believe desktop is a must-have, I even pretend it raises more problems than offers benefits in this particular scenario !
    • One to one private interactions (+ one-to-group chat/BBM voice/video) within the channels
    • Many to many cooperation within the channels (incl. "moderation": read deletion)
    • Social content federation on the Croon Platform allows a "cost less" internal/external social feed control
    • (BES10/BB10) The balance feature offers enhanced bullet proof security for documentation, reports, collaborative drafts and work in progress projects. This is "fingerprint free"; one leaves the company he lost all contents (no copy/ unmonitored transmission available outside work perimeter)

    ... As I'm typing, more key factors appear, but if you've been kind enough to read decrypt until this line, I bet you got the point.

    BBM Channels offers a one-to-many/many-to-many secured, "noise-free" and user friendly social environment many companies may look at as the funding of the promised land they never saw anywhere but on paper. As a "do it yourself now" solution, it will promote BlackBerry brand and devices. As a "Full story" (customers (featured) channels + internal channels), in conjunction with Scroon, it'll do the previous and generate revenues.

    I had a dream ... make it real !

    References and quotes :
    Claire Leroy/CXP : EDITO - Les réseaux sociaux d'entreprise ont-ils vécu ? | Conseil et analyse en solutions logicielles pour l'entreprise et ses métiers
    Wikipedia : Enterprise social networking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Scroon : ScrOOn, The Social Media Architects and

    P.S to Frank Boulben : thank you for that.

    Disclosure: I am long BBRY.

    Additional disclosure: I'm French, sorry for grammar and spelling mistakes

    Nov 28 7:24 AM | Link | Comment!
  • BlackBerry : My Snapshot.

    There are so many articles, analysis, opinion materials ... sometimes one needs to step back and sum up his general perception about a given situation. While not pretending it is the whole truth, I took some time lately for this exercise and thought it might be interesting to share it here, as the angle used is more likely based on the global company situation and perspective rather than the stock tribulations.

    I must admit I'm not a trader nor much influenced by "the Street" stock analysis. I'm not a financial expert. But I've been tracking on a daily basis everything BlackBerry since Feb. 2011. Back then and since,I invested a thousand shares in this company (I'm $10.35 avg). I've always considered this investment as "love money" (like I could have invested in a startup) with a very long perspective. I count, "long" as a multiple of years, 3 to 5 being my initial timeframe.

    This is my "freeze the picture", as of date 11-09-2013, 02:14 PM.

    About the company

    • BB10.2.0 is out and already raving reviewers, even those with previous moderate appreciation about 10.0 and 10.1. Improvements are clear and very welcomed.
    • Z30 is out and is finally demonstrating that BB10 can match what some described as "better in legacy OS". Battery life is back, to name one. Because of its phablet caliber, I don't expect it'll steal the market. But it is the first real POC and I can't wait for next generation BB10.2.1.xxxx devices that would go further.
    • While we don't know what BES figures are - and we can expect some serious foot on the break because of the restructuring process - the situation seems encouraging, and I've not heard of any large (Fortune 500) BlackBerry reference that stated they'd jump ship.
    • BES in the Cloud is coming, and that was one major concern we used to discuss a lot as a missing key feature of BlackBerry offerings.
    • BBM multi-platform is in the wild and is moving quietly as an IM/social reference for the top 3 mobile operating systems. (By this, I mean we shouldn't expect it to be #1 in weeks) .
    • BBM and BlackBerry brands are discussed a lot - the bad, the good - in social feeds; as long as it last, this maintains their recognition and value, to say the least.
    • Drastic reorganization has been conducted (CORE is over, but more to come) and BlackBerry is now/will be soon light staffed, which ease to maneuver the ship in bad times. This also implies the company will contract external entities, be them for services or production. This is an important point if you are - like I am - expecting selected partnerships/alliances to pop.
    • Of course, I have to point out disappointing sales figures of BB10 devices, while surprisingly, legacy devices still sell pretty well.

    Now, there's the BBRY point

    • In a storm, they survived, and that's something many won't have bet a penny if we look 3 years back in the mirror
    • Current situation - which is far from static yet - leads in interesting directions. Major change : BBRY has pulled off the "for sale" sign and they are not going private, something I personally considered as a counter-heart acceptance for BlackBerry salvation, but not as a good thing, nor for us shareholders than for the company growth. Standing in the public area - and still face exposition and media coverage - is the strongest testimony of confidence.
    • "No one is interested by anything BBRY" was the common statement over the Street. Latest leaks we had proved it totally wrong. Hardware, software, infrastructure ... all of them have been reviewed and estimated by external companies (Lenovo, Cisco, SAP, AAPL, MSFT ...) to the point they actually made an offer. Waiting for the figures to pop, we can say that assets like patents valuation could have been ridiculously low in many analysis. The sum of these figures will probably lead to a revised BV estimation.
      "The price is what the buyer wants to pay" has been used many times to counter what we believe was a fair BV, far over the current stock valuation. Let's add these figures and see how far we are from the 12-18Bil estimation.
    • All the above did not happen in a day and is probably the result of a long established "agile" (aka the method) strategy.

    The tree that hides the forest
    There's something behind the hoods we've not understood soon enough. First generation of BB10 devices were designed and built (Z10) quarters -not to say year- before BB10 actually hit the streets. "We" (NYSE:I) have been somehow biased in their perception because it was such a drastic and encouraging change in BlackBerry offering that we have over estimated their adoption rate.
    BUT I believe BlackBerry - yes, I'm pointing at the marketing team - was aware of that. Companies use testing panels for decades now. And I cannot believe they didn't go through this before launching the devices and that the results differed much from the situation we can note right now.

    But then came the surprise. Half of early adopters were non former BlackBerry users. That was not expected and added a parameter that wasn't in the mix. While everybody was expecting a CrackBerry fans' rush, it didn't happened. Neither when the keyboard Q10 arrived, unfortunately.
    All the marketing mix was down: when they built everything on "[us] people that Do", this segment became half of the target. (FYI, standard metrics in marketing estimates that the cost for customer conquest is 10X the cost of loyal customer renew).
    Dices had rolled: loyalists weren't aboard.

    They knew it won't be a success.

    So what could they do ?
    Going "all in" and burn their cash treasure to force promote devices they knew very hard to sell and won't provide enough cash back ?
    Gimme a rope ...

    Emergency stop.
    We've been discussing about the lack of promotion (some called it marketing), that weird campaign during Super Bowl with zero following, the Alicia Keys mystery and so on, for thousands posts over the Internet.
    We've been questioning about the lack of financial communication (this is marketing too, to the highest point) and how they possibly stand silent while the whole Street was killing the stock with a mix of crazy and founded rumors/leaks.

    "Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
    1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
    2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
    3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
    4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
    5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign."
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    It was all about the ugly word for some, the wise for many (me included) : retreat.

    So, they knew they couldn't make it with current devices and must rush out the next-gen.

    Where to cut ? PlayBook was obvious, but - again - they had to sell those they had already built.
    Unfair ? Yes. And they paid (and still pay) a high price for that: customers perception. It'll take years to reverse and - while it is basic knowledge no one can ignore - they knew about it. But they couldn't afford to maintain it: downsizing BB10 for PlayBook (which sales were poor to say the least) would imply (shortcut here) two different "branches" of BB10 : a massive waste of time and counter-proof of the "bottom up unified mobile platform" paradigm: it was just impossible. End of story.

    In the meantime, restructuring process implied numerous bottlenecks; they had to deal with employees morale, define news processes, hire and comply new external resources ... and $pay for the whole.

    "Do not burn all cash"; round one failed: they must stand above the waterline. Because no one will trust nor loan a sinking company.
    BES in free testing, not enough sales, lost of BIS revenues, Venezuela defection, restructuring costs ... holly crap, what a hazardous situation.
    The Street nailed it. Instantly. Welcome submarine, bye-bye roller-coaster. No matter the perspectives, no matter the current $2Bil+ cash: we're in a millisecond scale here. And their financial factual situation made all the trading models blink red. The stock became toxic to computers: take your loss and fly away. That's hundred of millions shares moving around. And then came what I name the Capitalism disgusting aberration : shorting to kill. How to survive this spiral ?

    Shut the **** up.
    Playing the turtle (not the ostrich) is the only way.
    Only communicate among those that remain supportive ("the social loyalists"), do not unveil your "plan". Because the plan is now in "agile" mode, adapting weeks after weeks. And there's no way you can communicate about it, besides general statements like the "3 phases plan". No figures, no guidance, no answer. At this point, you know any single information you disclose have - by nature - 50% chances to be proven false, both on its funding and realization.
    So ... you bite your tongue and prepare for bashing avalanche.

    People: humans, after all
    Let's rewind to the pre-Heins period, Mike and Jim.
    What killed them (and, obviously, the company) ?
    Just remind their words (PlayBook times) : "leapfrogging the competition" and convert it in two words : arrogance - blindness (choose one or add them).

    That's where Heins and Boulben started from.
    One can ask why they didn't resign nor get evicted by the BOD , stated they all knew first round won't be victory ?
    Because they were there on purpose.
    Everybody seems to forget that Heins was an "Interim CEO" whose mission was to restructure the company and push BlackBerry10 and BES10 in the wild.
    By then, he was perceived as the "cold German" and no one expected him to become as demonstrative as Jobs or Balmer. More, his "discreet profile" was pointed out as an advantage, given the previous co-CEO communication Armageddon. He did try, and improved his communication skills ... but you cannot turn a cart horse (the heavy duty) into race horse (the showman). Again, anybody at a CxO level knows that.
    I believe M. Heins did the most part of his duty.
    [My personal "thank you" goes here, Mister Heins.]

    "I didn't know Thorsten, but I met him and I like him. Thorsten was dealt a hand and he played it out. He brought the BlackBerry 10 devices out, which was very important. The company wouldn't be there today if not for the BlackBerry 10 devices."

    Prem Watsa to The Globe and Mail Monday, Nov. 11 2013

    Now, Frank Boulben.
    There were so many unattended events, so many sudden brake - and finally hand brake - that I'm not sure anyone (including me) can judge him. As of date, he's still aboard and have not been evicted.
    My perception is that BOD/Heins clearly "retained the horse" because nor the timing than cash in hands were appropriate for the one shot only big circus to launch. Unless I lost anything marketing, the Super Bowl add couldn't be anything but a starting point. By no means this could have been a standalone one shot ad. No.way. We'll see in the near future who/what will be unleashed. But for now, the "massive investment promoting BB10 in FY 2014" words (approx. quote) we've heard in Heins' mouth during Q1 E.R stands unheeded: Emergency stop.

    Bottom line

    I believe the hardest part has been achieved: stay alive and "give time to time". And this is the exact opposite to "falling knife".
    Nothing was set ready when Mike Lazaridis and Jim Basillie resigned.

    I believe the check list below is now in working order or ready to launch :
    - A mature OS
    - A mature device (Z30)
    - A feature enhanced back-end (BES10.1.2 edited 2013-11-21: BES 10.2 is now gold candidate)

    I believe we'll see - very soon - announcements both on the company and product/services that all could be as of many "secret weapons" :
    - Partnership/alliance/co-branding/Patent licensing
    - 10.2.2.xxxx and Android Market (may instantly wipe "app gap") (edited 12-11-2013 as BlackBerry denied officially today they'll support google play)
    - New devices, comparing or superior to Z30 (which is, IMHO, the FIRST 100% BB10 device)

    I believe the "committee-FairFax-Heins(departure)" weeks have been set a long time ago and are the psychological signal of a drastic turnaround.

    I believe we'll enjoy the communication "big circus" pretty soon. I even believe a large part of the FF&co $1Billion has been reserved for that.

    Let's check this again ...

    "Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
    1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
    2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
    3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. <=
    4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
    5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign."
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    (Last minute edit) Despite I can feel right now a new wind of papers, that will draw the interest to whether Prem Watsa & co-investors is a legit action and all the usual matching catching eyes stories about M. Chen's ...

    I support BlackBerry and I bought BBRY shares.
    And I'm long holding, more than ever.

    Disclosure: I am long BBRY.

    Additional disclosure: I'm a CrackBerrian. I'm French (sorry for approx. English)

    Nov 11 10:15 AM | Link | 7 Comments
Full index of posts »
Latest Followers

Latest Comments

Most Commented
Posts by Themes
Instablogs are Seeking Alpha's free blogging platform customized for finance, with instant set up and exposure to millions of readers interested in the financial markets. Publish your own instablog in minutes.