Don’t stop believing

Not to worry, I’m not going to launch into Journey’s power ballad….

It appears that the negative coverage is now increasing on my old friends in Windows Phone.  I joined the BlackBerry team just over a year ago, and in that time one skill I’ve “exercised” is to read the recent coverage of BlackBerry, process that information and to simply continue executing on the path we’d already charted.  This is something that a good Evangelist needs to do, believe in your own technology.  In the face of such constant, negative and well, sometimes actually quite amusing coverage, how do you keep the team moving forward?

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t control.

It’s easy to get caught up and react to negativity.   So, early last year we learned that we had to carry our message out to developers ourselves.  This lead us to launch our now infamous 44 city BlackBerry Jam World Tour.  We could control our own messaging only if we could deliver it directly to developers without someone else’s spin or agenda.  We counted on this core of developers to carry our unfiltered message out to their community.  It seemed like a good idea and really was the best option available.  So we did, simple as that.

Another example was fighting the “vaporware” problem.  Being a former Microsoft Technical Evangelist, having to manage an Ecosystem to a new set of target dates was something I, er, was used to doing?  Anyways, we couldn’t control the speculation about “if BlackBerry 10 would ever ship” but what we decided to do is let developers experience it first hand.  We launched the biggest seeding program of it’s type in the industry.  Developers could monitor our progress build to build, SDK release to SDK release and see that BlackBerry 10 was real.

When you’re facing a situation like we’ve faced at BlackBerry, set realistic expectations with your team and management &  know it always takes longer than you think for your message to carry.   But the most important thing is to actively go out into the Ecosystem, tell your story and watch something great happen.

Old School Rules!

Hal Berenson, former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer, writes an amazing  blog about his insights into past and present goings on at our former employer, but in this post he drills into what’s gone wrong with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 evangelism.  I have to say, I totally agree with Hal, the WP8 evangelism approach of Apple-like secrecy was plain wrong, and ignored all the hard won lessons of the MS Evangelism Playbook.

As one of Microsoft’s original Evangelists and co-originators of the PDC and founder of WinHEC, the former Windows software and hardware ecosystem conferences now defunct, sharing as much technical information as early as we could was instrumental to building support for each release of Windows I worked on. I talked about this in an earlier post, how evangelizing products early paid off for Microsoft and now BlackBerry.  Hal focuses on the feedback angle, realize at Microsoft we had smaller and NDA only feedback sessions sometimes years in advance of the PDC to fully brief and gather feedback from the ISV community.  These were the little known Microsoft Systems Design Review series and more granular feature level design reviews we convened with key technical leaders in the industry.

At BlackBerry being open and working with the app development community early as possible has already paid dividends for BlackBerry 10 with record early support.  We see no reason to change our approach, if the rest of the industry continues down the secrecy path, so be it.  I’m happy to run this key tool from the old evangelism playbook, time tested with proven efficacy.

Fun with statistics

In the run up to our launch in the USA, I suspect discussion of  the number of Android titles in BlackBerry World will again surface.  First a bit of history to frame my thoughts here.

Historically platform changes have always been a high risk/reward proposition, and the industry continues to exhibit behavior described by Geoffrey Moore in his classic Crossing the Chasm.   Using Moore’s terms, to encourage  “pragmatists” to adopt lead to creation of a  two part platform introduction strategy.  First, focus all evangelism on the new platform to attract the “early adopters” and secondly supply tools or a porting layer to enable a move from the incumbent platform to the new target to decrease risk for the “pragmatists”.

Does this work?  Yes, over the many platform changes I’ve overseen on the PC use of porting tools/layers have been effective tactic, but I’ve not seen as an effective implementation and execution as we’ve done at BlackBerry.  While the speculated number of Android ported apps in BlackBerry World grossly overshoots the actual numbers, what’s important is the number of “pragmatist” partners who used the porting layer to ship a BlackBerry 10 app for launch with minimal risk.  Based on observed BB10 results/downloads these partners are now working on native BlackBerry 10 Cascades apps that fully integrate with the BlackBerry Hub, for them, the porting layer served it’s purpose.  This is a textbook example of the platform change strategy in execution and over the coming months we’ll all enjoy this second wave of  native BlackBerry 10 apps.