O' Nortel, O' RIM, and O'Canada

| Contact Center/CRM Views and Analysis

O' Nortel, O' RIM, and O'Canada

Yes, I am a Canadian, having been born and having a spent most of my adulthood in my 'Home and Native Land'. I admit it, which is how Canadians tend to look at their nationality rather than the chest-beating of Americans at theirs. Which I also am, and a Brit too through as the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado put it "a set of curious chances."

So it is with the viewpoint as a Canadian as well as biz/tech journalist that I have been following and writing about the Nortel corporate tragedy: of engineering genius destroyed by criminal-bordering senior management corporate greed, incompetence, and stupidity right down to the final acts.

If one were to apply The Mikado's creed of "making the punishment fit the crime" I would ship/export the usual and known suspects in the barred-windowed buses to Federal Prison Industries a.k.a. UNICOR sites to handle telemarketing calls, recycle e-waste, and make electrical goods for the rest of their miserable lives.

Yes, I know Americans don't like receiving Canadian trash and I don't blame them (having once lived on Staten Island, home of the now closed infamous Fresh Kills Landfill) but hey some of this was chucked on American soil harming American Nortel employees and families so justice is fitting.

That's neither here nor there. Once the guilty parties have been duly punished now what?

Yes Ericsson says it is likely to keep many of the jobs in Canada. Yet the hard reality is that despite so-called 'globalization' the good stuff goes and stays home. Only when the labor arbitrage is such that it pays to go outside i.e. India does any of it really stay abroad.

I happen to like RIM co-chair Jim Balsillie's play for Nortel. I can understand why he didn't want to go along with the wireless auction because it would shut RIM from getting its paws on Nortel's other assets, namely its enterprise division.

Imagine a RIM with integrated business communications/UC/wireless offerings and you have seen the future realizable around the corner. IOW RIM would quickly become what Microsoft rapidly became 25 years ago.

Wireless is the future now in business/customer interactions. More homes are pulling out their landlines and going wire-free. And RIM would corner the market, doing to Apple now what Microsoft had done to it a generation ago.

In most any other countries: the U.S., U.K., and France (and probably Sweden), the home teams like RIM and its co-chief a national hero would be applauded and politicians leaping backward to make its squeeze play happen. But not in the polite, cloistered small town clubby business/government world of Canada, whose culture is reflected in the National Hockey League that Balsillie also attempted equally unsuccessfully to stickhandle to bring the Coyotes back home.

Indeed the reaction, other than recession-kicked Ontario that is the country's man/tech/services heartland has been muted slaps on RIM's hands for not playing by the rules.

For in Canada the dominant mindset is Main Street, not Wall Street (or Bay Street): a country that had started to be and had always thinks itself as resource-based, from furs and fish to rocks, logs, and oil and gas. 'Somebody else' preferably foreigners invested, took risks, and manufactured, while the good burghers made money in safe--and ensured it that way--financial services and real estate.

Which was why there has been hand-wringing--even seeming applause from the economists and the business community let alone no decisive action--over the rising Canadian dollar from rising, which has been hurting exports from manufacturing to contact center services. And why Nortel was allowed to destroy itself instead of staging an intervention.

Much like this club yawned when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker abruptly cancelled the CF-105 Avro Arrow--a jet fighter so advanced it took years for the Americans and Russians to catch up--and which decimated the Canadian aerotech industry. Some of those engineers went to work for NASA, and helped put a man--an American--on the moon 40 years ago.

(I was at a dinner on Parliament Hill in 1978 with Mr. Diefenbaker as guest of honor when someone asked him about the Arrow. As his handlers and other guests groaned and prayed to be teleported he replied in an undecipherable shakes of his jowls so violently I thought he was going to go out like an afterburner bang).

Pity. Canada has, and has had more than its share of brilliant thinkers, doers, achievers, and yes entrepreneurs. It needs Nortels (the best of breed) and RIMs, and yes other firms like Mitels and Maximizers.

Yet until Canada's business/government culture changes, encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship and innovation and making the country more competitive there will be more sad stories like Nortel, and the Arrow--and more leaders who have and can make a difference shut out--resulting in fewer, highly-trained and paid workers that should be the bedrock of its economy. Workers who can devise and deliver products and services that can be world-beaters than in turn benefits businesses and consumers worldwide.

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