Always Have a Technology Backup

It’s hard not to feel sorry for BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion. The company’s products have been slipping ever since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. And the situation brings up an important point for those with information technology degrees: always have a backup technology at hand, just in case.

The BlackBerry has been a favorite of corporations for many years because of its wealth of enterprise-level software, email integration, and security. But then came first the iPhone and then Google’s Android. Suddenly, BlackBerrys started to look tired and behind the times. Executives at RIM kept assuring their customers that all was well as the company was working on new versions of product and, after all, how could anyone else satisfy the needs of the enterprise?

Unfortunately, there were two problems with that theory. One was that RIM kept slipping — is still slipping — on new versions of its products. The other was that top executives didn’t care. They wanted the newer smartphones and tablets as well, leading to the trend called the consumerization of IT.

Over time, people simply demanded that IT departments support the new products that had the capabilities they needed for work. It took a few years, but finally, the consequences of market changes and a lack of execution to keep pace caught up with RIM. The company recently posted a $518 million quarterly loss, announced 5,000 job cuts, and mentioned that the new products that were supposed to save the company now won’t be out until early in 2013.

To top it all, carriers, aware of the company’s weak position in negotiations, want to reduce how much money they pay RIM. Now back to IT departments. This is a great example of how technology can come and go. RIM isn’t a unique example. There was a time that Wang was a big presence in corporations as a word processor provider. Many mainframe companies found difficulties as more corporations moved to client-server models of computing with less expensive servers.

Novell was once huge in corporate networking, until standard Ethernet helped push it out of the business. Even when products don’t face an immediate exit from the market because of problems or obsolescence, there are always acquisitions and mergers that consolidate markets and reduce the number of offerings that IT personnel previously had. You can never count on any specific technology, product, or company. If you have a information management degree, realize that knowing what seems to be the best choices in technology for your company is not enough. You have to look ahead and plan an escape route for the day that some trusted piece of the puzzle will no longer do the job — or no longer be available.

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