Rebuilding Nokia from Within

19 Apr

Jay Montano | April 19, 2011 |

There’s a nice little read over at FT.COM, tweeted by @benwood. It’s written by Andrew Hill who discusses restructuring of policies and actions going on internally at Nokia.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9ec857b6-65f7-11e0-9d40-00144feab49a.html#axzz1JTfUGH6Y

A month ago in an interview, Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop said, “We are moving at a speed that is unparalleled for our company and I would argue that is on par with anyone else in the industry.”

As you know, Nokia was, and partly is like a pyramid. Each layer above is your boss and someone else to say no to your ideas. That’s to the point that well, it never actually reaches the people who can actually decide to make things happen. This results in delays. An inability to react. The ability (or inability) for Nokia to adapt quickly enough is what has caused Nokia to begin parting ways with our beloved Symbian, taking steps back from Maemo-MeeGo, and meekly embrace Windows Phone.

Jo Harlow tells Andrew that internally, a lot of anger has come from the fact that were Nokia able to transition more quickly they would not be in this position. In a recent post, Jo Harlow has said that it was now easier to Go Windows Phone than continue with Symbian.

In the world of consumer electronics, particularly mobile devices, swift and fast delivery is key. Whilst you wait to release your product, you’ve been leap-frogged 10 times over and it’s a downward spiral of catching up, unless what you are going to deliver is so huge and game changing. Too much thinking into the long term game, you fail to address the attack from underneath your feet that might prevent you from implementing those decisions years into the future.

Stripping Out Bureaucracy

Elop wants to make Nokia:

  • Faster
  • More Transparent
  • More accountable

resulting in hopefully restored (?) agility.  He ackowledges the challenge at the low end from the Chinese who are “cranking out handsets faster than Nokia can put together a presentation” (joked by a Nokia employee, not Elop).

An ex manager said that the Group Executive Board was a symbol of incompetence. These series of commitees and boards have been swept away.

“And the number of processes, of committees, agencies and boards, agencies and commissions – all these people spending time contemplating instead of aggressively moving forward is something we are already fundamentally changing”

-Elop

Apparently, too many things were coming through headquarters before going back out. Simple decisions could not be made, waiting on other people who have many bosses of their own. Now, decisions are pushed up to the appropriate leadership team, local and relevant to that market (Which may explain the Tseries for China)
Andrew notes that Nokia makes nearly 2/3 of its device and service sales outside of Europe and North America and that Elop knows they have ignored their ability to take advantage of their market share in developing markets. e.g. capturing the necessity for dual-sim in India.
Accountability

Mary McDowell, in charge of the Next Billion Force tells us of how Nokia’s efforts to speed up production is negated. Chipsets outsourced to speed up production was hampered by the fact they had not changed the way they work with the silicon. Whereas before, decisions would have been passed around by aforementioned committees and boards, McDoweel is now directly in charge and accountable. McDowell compares old Nokia to a ride where you could not deviate. Now its like a canoe, with rocks and white water but you’re in a bit more control. This is more like it. For such a big company it was understandable to have commitees and boards to make sure important decisions were safe and would lead to a prosperous company, not a mistake and its destruction. But the time wasted though indecision is in itself counter productive and as such, has put Nokia where it is now. And even then, they may not even result in the best decision taken. e.g. N97, ridiculous RAM, ROM, CPU, resistive display.
Elop says he has strong confidence in Nokia’s ability to change gears
“when you look at the things that slow you down – like length of decision-making, confused missions bet­ween teams – those are problems we can solve . . . We were in a leadership team meeting and someone said ‘OK, we’ve got this issue to deal with: what’s the expected date? 

And someone else said, ‘Well, that’s probably going to take three or four weeks’. It’s like ‘Hey, guys, we can’t take three or four weeks on this one. We need to be looking at it in seven days’ – so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Yes, yes and Yes. So many rants we’re posted longing for Nokia to do this, do that, maybe fix this, add that. We’ve seen in 2009 and 2010 that their separate devices had everything you could ever want to make the best smartphone but there was such an unwillingness to put all these great assets together in one device. It was crucial in such a time where software was no where near up to par, to prop it up with beastly hardware.
Top executives for the fist time know what goals and targets are to hit.  Staff are more aligned and arent doing contradictory things. That’s good to hear  – the giant that was Nokia apparently had much difficulty communicating between teams (when speaking to Nokia folk myself). People in Eseries didn’t work with Nseries and you’d be amazed to get a chat back between Symbian and Maemo folk. It was just too big. This maybe why they overlooked that combined effort, they could have created epic things. I think in another post, titled, “Why Nokia Failed” we learned that the culture of internal competition was encouraged within Nokia.
Restructuring post MS deal

Andrew writes that Elops reshuffle of the top execs was questioned as to whether he went far enough. Goldman Sachs analyst suggests “the new CEO is somewhat dependent on Nokia’s experienced executives to ensure that its final Symbian products are delivered”. Perhaps why then MeeGo VP, Alberto Torres had “stepped down”.
He had, according to Jorma Ollila, previous CEO and now Chariman of the board, had been given free reign to make decisions on who stays and who goes. Ha, imagine we had all ex MS execs.
A lot of our readers question whether Elop had really looked into all the possibilities, did he really understand what could have been achieved with a polished Symbian and Qt Development platform with MeeGo at the high end? Andrew notes of one Nokia developer that objected to the MS partnership had felt that there was no possibility of Elop making a misinformed decision after “asking good, detailed, techinical and operational questions showing that he understood” the situation.

The Microsoft deal is expected to be finalised by the end of the month. Nokia hasn’t just chosen Windows Phone, or chosen to let go of Symbian, they have taken the necessary steps within the company’s core that makes sure they are now going to be at a stage where they can react more quickly, deliver on promises. It’s going to be an extremely difficult task . Whilst the competition is merely doing finishing touches, Nokia is resetting the foundation, rebuilding the walls, placing the roof, ordering the tiles and paint etc.

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