BlackBerry hires sales chief from Sybase

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen is hiring another executive from the ranks of the previous U.S. technology company that he turned around.

Eric Johnson, formerly with SAP, will be president of global sales

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen is hiring another executive from the ranks of the previous U.S. technology company that he turned around.

Eric Johnson, who worked with Chen at California-based Sybase, will become BlackBerry's president of global sales.

Chen has already made dramatic changes to the senior management at BlackBerry, since he joined the smartphone maker in November as chairman of the board and interim CEO.

He has brought on no less than three other executives who worked with him over his 15 years at Sybase, which Chen led from 1998 until October 2012, two years after its sale to German software giant SAP for $5.8 billion US.

"The experience that the majority of the new leadership team has in working together previously will drive change within the organization at a faster pace," Chen said Monday in a release.

Johnson was most recently senior vice-president and general manager for SAP's global database unit. Before that, he served as SAP's senior vice-president and general manager of platform and analytics sales for North America.

At Sybase, Johnson held several positions in succession, including senior VP and general manager for North America.

Chen formerly managed Sybase

Chen has been credited with helping to grow Sybase into a profitable operation focused on mobile business technology.

At BlackBerry, he has remained steadfast on the smartphone company's intention to remain a device maker while making it profitable once again.

Last month, he announced a five-year partnership between the Waterloo, Ont.-based company and global manufacturing company Foxconn, which will manufacture new phones for BlackBerry.

Chen said last month he would hire an enterprise sales force that hits the ground running to keep BlackBerry on the radar of its biggest business customers.

A security technology centre in Washington, D.C., that opens this year will be part of those first steps. The centre will place BlackBerry in the backyard of some of its biggest U.S. government and military clients, he said in a recent interview.

BlackBerry shares up 30%

Shares of BlackBerry have risen more than 30 per cent since Chen was hired to lead the company.

Chen's appointment was announced at the same time BlackBerry announced it had stopped looking for buyers and that Fairfax Financial was no longer seeking to take the company private but would remain a significant shareholder and financial backer.

Last week, Fairfax increased its investment in BlackBerry, giving the stock a boost and RBC Capital Markets financial analyst Mark Sue upgraded the stock, saying he believes it will hit $10 US a share.

Sue said he believes the company’s new management team is moving quickly to “improve liquidity and strengthen the balance sheet.”

On Monday, the company's stock was down 45 cents, to $9.11 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Clay Christensen, one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth, said BlackBerry’s fall from leader in the smartphone market to a laggard with less than two per cent of the market in new phones is a story about how difficult it is to manage a company at the cutting edge of innovation.

Clay Christensen on BlackBerry

“Like everybody, when you’re successful you think there’s something about your own wisdom and insight that will allow you to be successful,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange.

Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation” is used to explain how firms can stay ahead of technological change.

“Everybody’s successful strategy is only temporarily successful ,” he said.

“At the beginning of an industry, the best products aren’t good enough for what customers need. Always to win, you need to have a proprietary, interdependent optimized architecture,” he added, pointing out that this is exactly what BlackBerry had.

“My research showed that ultimately in every market, the technology becomes good enough and then the architecture opens up. At that point, you need to be providing everybody else with the OS,” Christensen said.

The problem with managing a technology company is that if you wait until it’s clear which way the market will shift, you’ve left it too late, he said.

“You have to start the new when the old is still critical to success,” he added.

With files from CBC News


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