We’re now a month into the integration of Blackboard and ANGEL and a lot’s been going on since my last milestone update at the two week mark. One of the items we’ve focused on in these first 30 days, and the subject of today’s update, is bringing the two teams together. Always a tough job with mixed emotions, but one that also comes with anticipation and hope about what’s possible when you put talented groups of people together in new ways.
All of the above has been true in this case. But I think we’ve ended up with the right approach that’s mindful of lessons learned and honors the commitments we made to you at the outset of this process. And I’m pleased to confirm that while we’ve been at this integration work, product support service levels have remained consistent and we’ve undertaken the significantly increased investment in product maintenance we promised for Fall.
Here’s the summary of where we’ve landed on bringing the ANGEL and Blackboard teams together. We’ve made limited changes, which I’ll describe below, in areas most directly related to your client experience such as Support, Hosting and Product Development. We’ve made more significant changes in Sales, Marketing and other corporate functions where you’d expect the most overlap (both from ANGEL and Blackboard). A bit more detail about the areas closest to your client experience:
· The Executive and Leadership Team: As you know, I’ll be staying on as President of Blackboard Learn, and it’s my responsibility to ensure that the benefits of combining the organizations are realized. Some of my colleagues on the ANGEL executive and leadership teams have already chosen to move on. I’m also glad to report that, as you’ll see in some examples below, key leaders of the ANGEL organization are staying onboard and are excited about carrying our traditions and leadership into the future of the combined organization.
· The Support & Hosting Organizations: Both teams will be largely unchanged and continue to operate out of Indianapolis. On the familiar leadership faces point I noted above, I’m pleased to share that Lynn Zingraf has been promoted to Sr. Director of ANGEL Support and will lead our combined support efforts in Indianapolis. Jason O’Brien has been promoted to Director of ANGEL Managed Hosting and will continue to lead our Indianapolis Hosting operation.
· Products Team and Professional Services: Beyond a handful of people changes, the primary adjustments for these teams will be some shifts in their balance of objectives – between product quality, new feature development, and our long term effort on a combined platform. From among a number of role and project changes for individuals within these teams, I’m pleased to call out that Tim Tomlinson has been promoted to Sr. Director of Software Development. He’ll continue to oversee our Indianapolis team and will now broaden his influence to include other important platform components within Blackboard.
Perspective and Humanity: In this note, I wanted first to be clear about how we approached this effort and what it means for you. I also think it’s important though to share the figures with you for perspective. This week we notified affected staff in Indianapolis, primarily in the corporate functions I mentioned above, that they’d be leaving the company as a result of role overlap, etc. In addition, because of both the merger and some organizational changes within Blackboard we’ve taken a similar step in recent weeks with positions in that part of the organization. All told about 40 positions were impacted, with roughly an even split between ANGEL and Blackboard staff. This still leaves our combined company with over 1,100 employees dedicated to developing and supporting educational technologies.
The individuals who leave us do so with our deep gratitude. And I am personally sad to see them move on, with departure timelines ranging from now to end of year. But they’ve made major contributions to the teaching and learning success of our clients and thus to our vitality as a participant in the eLearning community. Contributions we’re recognizing with generous financial consideration both as a result of proceeds from the combination and in the form of severance benefits.
In closing, I realize that today’s news is hard. But I hope you’ll find some reassurance in it in two areas. First, the elements of the organization that are required to sustain a strong platform and preserve your positive support experience remain strong. We can never take for granted that doing so will be easy but I’m confident that the teams we’ve maintained can produce a very good result. Second, we’ve continued our ongoing commitment to remain transparent. This is precisely the kind of information I think many feared would be suppressed. I hope that it’s counted as another deed in this regard.
If you have specific questions about the contents of this message please feel free to contact me about it.