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Core leadership failure at RIM



Research in Motion have finally acknowledged the reason for the near-global BlackBerry outage, now into its third day. But the fault goes deeper than the network alone, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Research in Motion (RIM) have blamed the near-global BlackBerry outage, now into its third day, on a core switch failure.

‚The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure.‚ it said in a statement released last night at 21:30 British Standard Time.

‚Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed.‚

It appears that for a system of this scale, with so many millions of customers, multiple core switches and multiple failover is needed but, due to RIM’s lack of transparency and availability, it is hard to tell whether their backup system is robust enough to handle a core failure. Speculation is rife, and it has also been reported that the databases handling the routing of traffic have become corrupted and need to be restored, hence the long delays. The most startling aspect of the crisis, however, is how RIM have treated it. They have not allowed local representatives to comment to media or customers, and all communication is managed from the United Kingdom. This communication, however, has so far comprised only brief statements in the three days of the outage. The three fundamental rules of crisis management are ‘communicate, communicate, communicate’, along with round-the-clock availability of executive leadership. This has been completely absent in RIM’s case, suggesting not a core switch failure, but a core leadership failure. Several South African companies have demonstrated powerfully the positive impact of communication and availability of top management, most notably Vodacom and Pick ‘n Pay, not to mention SEACOM (click here to read Tale of Two Outages).

Shareholders in RIM have already been baying for the blood of the joint-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, and their relationship with the media has become all but dysfunctional in the past year. Their lack of visibility during this crisis may well be the final straw for investors.

Related articles on the BlackBerry outage:

* Follow Arthur on Twitter on @art2gee

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