By Phil Hill
Bill Flook, who covers the DC technology scene for Business Journals, just interviewed Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt about last week’s layoff. The full article can be found here. From a quick read, it looks like Blackboard is executing on two key priorities:
- Trimming the fat caused by years of acquisitions and redundant operations; and
- Completing the acquisitions by centralizing core functions, particularly under new management.
From the article:
Blackboard Inc. carried out a round of layoffs last week as part of a broader reorganization by CEO Jay Bhatt, the latest in a string of actions aimed at revitalizing the 16-year-old ed-tech behemoth.
Bhatt, in an interview Tuesday evening, confirmed the job cuts, which he described as “a very small action we took to take some costs out of the business, primarily on things that don’t allow us to get where we need to go.” He declined to specify the number of layoffs.
As for the priority of trimming the fat, it is now fairly clear that Blackboard is not set to divest any major product lines, but rather will follow a path of centralization. The new management team is a key part of the reorganization plans.
The reorganization is, in many ways, the culmination of what Bhatt has been talking about for the past few months. Blackboard is a quilt of a company, the product of years of stitching together lines of business through acquisitions, some integrated more seamlessly than others.
Bhatt’s recent mission has been consolidation, which began with the realignment of product management and product development under two executives, Mark Strassman and Gary Lang, both former colleagues of Bhatt at 3D design firm Autodesk.
There’s more there in the full article.
Much of the reorganization and layoffs seem to reinforce the plans that both Michael and I recently described from interviews of Blackboard management. What is not clear, however, is whether there will be future layoffs and how the multiple cuts are affecting company morale. Corporate turn-arounds can be quite painful, and it is difficult during the transitions to avoid losing key people that were not part of the layoffs.
It will also be interesting to see if Blackboard’s renewed emphasis on the core learning management system, and de-emphasis of the multiple semi-independent product lines, will be part of their core message at the EDUCAUSE conference next month.