Is Stephen Elop The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Nokia [After 1100]?

Call him the Trojan Horse that simply entered Nokia’s kingdom and ‘sold’ the Microsoft dream, but if you look at the Microkia deal in hindsight, Stephen Elop is probably the best thing that ever800px-Stephen_elop happened to Nokia.

I take a step back and reproduce from what I experienced in Yahoo:

The thing about Yahoo is that nobody owns the product – there are too many teams having a stake in the product and what you see is an experiment that is launched before appraisal cycle and is phased out later, citing ‘we had a good learning from this experiment’ reasons. This is what the ‘peanut butter’ email was all about.

..You need a hard hand to drive business plus product decisions. Somebody just needs to be the bad guy (or girl). Yahoo needs one. Right now .

..Get rid of all those who have stayed in the company for more than 7 years – they are a liability as they live in a ‘know it all’ state and are anti-change. You need fresh blood.

Ofocurse, Nokia too needed the hard hand.

Nokia Market Share - The Writing is on the Wall
Nokia Market Share - The Writing is on the Wall

The Dancing Elephant

Not all elephants can dance and if you are a large organization, it takes you a while to realize

a. that you are an elephant.

b. that you are an elephant and you cannot dance (note: dance equates nimbleness/agility of a firm).

If you look at Nokia, apart from external market changes, Nokia’s challenges were/are more internal in nature – i.e. bureaucracy,anti-change environment (Nokia India Head did admit that they just let the dual sim handset market slip off).

In short, the company was turning out to be another Yahoo in making. They were/are the top sellers of handsets, but lost mindshare when it comes to smartphone (which are future of mobile phones) and in some cases, were found dozing [e.g.: dual SIM handsets].

Here is where Stephen Elop made the contribution.

1. Outsider Perspective

Stephen Elop brought an outsider plus completely unemotional (i.e. detached) perspective to Nokia. The decision to move to WP7 wouldn’t have been possible with a Finland CEO on the helm.

2. Finland

Nokia needs to move out of Finland. Frog in the Finland well hadn’t helped much. Nokia has not been able to make a dent in North American market. The company needs to be more globally local and importantly, do something beyond the norm to reach out to NA market in the long run (hiring Pamela Anderson to promote N8 should be treated as a one time activity).

3. Back to Basics: Newton’s First Law of Motion

“Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion (constant velocity) unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force.”

External Unbalanced Force” – that’s what Elop brings to the table.

Till few weeks back, there was no direction to Nokia’s strategic plans/future roadmap, but now you know a certain direction – i.e. Nokia is embracing Windows Phone 7 OS, less emphasis on Meego, Symbian etc etc.

Hate them for embracing WP7 (vs. Android), but the important part is that the Nokia vehicle is moving and is moving in a certain direction (and as an app developer, it’s up to you to align to those directions).

Recap a little bit and answer why Carol Bartz (Yahoo CEO) failed to make any significant impact to Yahoo (even now, the company’s directions aren’t known)?

The thing is that if you stay too long, you will exactly know why certain things cannot happen, i.e. you tend to embrace organization’s DNA, eat what is fed by senior managers and dodge difficult decisions.

Unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force.

Given that Stephen Elop is completely new to Nokia (joined October 2010), his timeline to make those changes came with an expiry date of first few months only – maybe this is why he was hired for, i.e. change the organization drastically, shake things up, move employees out of their comfort zone.

Most importantly, Piracy and fighting low cost products is something Elop has done most of his life – in China and India – where two most promising markets for Nokia are.

Too early to say whether Nokia’ decision will have a positive impact on company’s brand, but the good news is that company now has something new to work on. It’s as good as Nokia transitioning back to being a startup (with a certain baggage and lots of expectation).

What’s your opinion? If you are a Nokia employee, what’s your view on the entire MS partnership? [anonymous comments welcome].
[Contributed by Ashish and Pratyush]

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