Blackboard Changes Underway: Jay Bhatt Interview and Management Changes

There is an interesting article today from Bill Flook , who has covered Blackboard as a business, including the story of Michael Chasen’s departure in late 2012 along with two rounds of layoffs.

Blackboard Inc. has been a company in transition long before CEO Michael Chasen announced his upcoming departure.

In fact, the presence of Blackboard’s longtime chief has been its most visible constant. So the big question coming out of Monday’s news is this: What will the ed-tech behemoth look like, sans Chasen? [snip]

If anything, it’s surprising that Chasen stayed on so long after the private equity buyout. He and Providence had “mutually sat down and worked out the right time frame for there to be a transition,” Chasen said in an interview Monday afternoon. “I’ve been here 15 years,” he said. “While I love Blackboard, and I think there is huge opportunity in front of us, I’ve been doing this since I was 25 years old and looking for there to be a good time for me to phase out.”

Today we are starting to get more insight into the changes, based on Bill’s interview with Jay Bhatt, Blackboard’s new CEO, and coverage of management changes at the company.

What hasn’t changed are the external pressures. Competitors in the core learning management system (LMS) market like Instructure and Desire2Learn are eating into Blackboard’s once-dominant market share. Open source is challenging the traditional licensed software model, just as mobile and cloud-based services challenge native desktop software. Blackboard is an internationally recognizable brand, with a broad array of products and a powerful private equity player behind it. It is, however, still seen as the legacy player.

In his first in-depth interview since joining Blackboard, Bhatt laid out his vision for navigating those challenges. And with less than half a year in the role, he’s marked off two key areas of investment: the online program management market, and international.

Bhatt emphasized the need to grow top-line revenue.

Bhatt was equally emphatic about what his mission at Blackboard isn’t.

“Make no mistake, our goal is to be a top-line growth company,” he said. “Obviously, we want to be profitable, and we want to generate the returns that our investors want. But we need to grow the top line. Software companies that grow the top line effectively are really adding value to their industry, they’re not just monetizing their industry.”

According to the article, there have been some significant management changes at Blackboard as well. Tim Hill (president of global marketing), Siegfried Behrens (president of global sales, recently hired from Microsoft) and David Mills (VP of R&D, formerly of ANGEL and MoodleRooms, key visionary behind xpLor) have all left the company in the past two weeks. Kayvon Beykpour (general manager of Blackboard Mobile and co-founder of TerriblyClever) is also on a leave of absence. Matthew Small has been promoted to president of international, and Jim Kelly from McGraw-Hill has been hired as VP of business development.

Bill indicates that he will have more information and insight on Blackboard’s future direction coming out soon. Read the whole article here.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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One Response to Blackboard Changes Underway: Jay Bhatt Interview and Management Changes

  1. Good POV, Phil et al…

    BB needs to grasp the core issue of their demise: dated, clumsy, software, period!

    Yes, it is the fault of leadership that “fiddles while Rome burns,” but, where is the vision to sustain an organization that slept while the market was awake and rocking with fresh, innovative ideas?

    To much short term-concern with quarterly earnings will ruin even the once best of class providers!

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