RIM’s biggest failing during last week’s BlackBerry outage was its lack of clear communications. That’s the verdict of several UK CIOs, polled as part of silicon.com’s recent CIO Jury on the BlackBerry outage.

BlackBerry Bold 9780

Communication breakdown: RIM should have been able to keep customers informed – and by failing to do so they made a bad situation worse, say UK CIOsPhoto: RIM

“The lack of communication from RIM until day four of the incident was clearly a mistake,” said Martin Shaw, director of IT at debt collector the TDX Group.

“Their management of comms to their customers could have been better,” added Gavin Megnauth, director of operations and group IT at recruitment company Morgan Hunt.

Last Thursday, during a media conference call on the fourth day of service problems, RIM’s co-CEOs implied they had been too busy trying to fix the problems to clearly explain what was going on to customers – with Jim Balsillie noting: “Nobody’s gone home since Monday.”

But the TDX Group’s Shaw said RIM should have been able to keep customers informed – and by failing to do this they made a bad situation worse. “Whilst the given excuse that everyone was busy trying to find root cause may have been true, we all know how frustrating a lack of communication is to users,” he said.

Linda Webster, head of IT at law firm Wedlake Bell, also criticised RIM for failing to keep its customers in the loop.

“The lack of clear communication was a big mistake,” she said. “The situation made the headlines and the lack of information led to rumours and speculation. This was hardly a small problem that we weren’t going to notice – this was a great big Titanic-sized problem.”

“I’m disappointed because I’m a BlackBerry fan,” she added.

While the TDX Group’s Shaw reckons RIM’s reputation among business users has been damaged by last week’s outages, he said he believes it is not beyond repair – provided RIM improves its comms. “Communication is key,” he said. “In order to restore confidence, RIM needs to focus on communicating how the failure occurred and what changes they will be making to ensure there will be no future occurrences.”

Other UK CIOs said the prolonged BlackBerry service disruptions will have raised doubts about the reliability of RIM’s network architecture.

Derrick Wood, CIO at energy services company Wood Group Production Facilities, said his company already had its doubts about RIM’s architecture, following a previous BlackBerry outage.

“We were already looking for good reasons to support the introduction of iPhones and other smartphones with OWA [Outlook Web Apps] for remote corporate email users,” he said. “This latest incident, on the back of the outage in southern US in December 2009, does bring in to question the balance of pros/cons of RIM architecture, in a corporate global world that requires 100 per cent uptime.”

Morgan Hunt’s Megnauth added: “Suggesting [the outage was caused by] a network switch which was a single point of failure doesn’t inspire confidence in their infrastructure design!”