In a world full of answers you start your journey by asking the right questions
When I read the piece I immediately thought of how much Nokia’s innovation strategy appears to be mirroring that IBM of circa the early 1990′s.
Read the press and the recent management upheavals read like an ongoing TV Soap Opera. Speculation over the fate of Symbian, Nokia’s inability to counter the global image of Apple’s innovative iPhone revolution and its ongoing profit downgrades all make for a troubled organisation. (See What ever happened to doing Business the Nokia Way?, A mobile lesson from the PC clone wars and While Nokia loses market share Apple chases profit share also TechCrunch’s As MeeGo VP Quits, Nokia CEO Taking Calls From Eric Schmidt, Will Microsoft And Nokia Team Up To Take On Apple, Google? and the comments on Nokia sells 260,000 smartphones a day)
IBM is remembered as the biggest loser of the PC wars of the 1990′s. OS2 failed to beat Windows and their Personal Computer business was decimated by the clone market. The early 1990′s were troubling times for Big Blue. With management upheavals, failed product launches and a lot of navel gazing about what business the company should be in.
Largely because of all this chaos IBM failed to make any impact on the world-wide web. There was no Internet Explorer or Google or Facebook equivalent to emerge from the IBM labs during the mid to late 1990′s – this was a company that gave the MobCon, and more importantly the “Freemium”, revolution a miss – and yet today IBM’s revenues still out perform all the winners of the internet revolution.
Even though it gave the MobCon a miss IBM remains an innovation leader. After all it was ranked 4th on Business Week’s Top 50 most innovative Companies earlier this year. (See Discovering the DNA of Apple’s Innovation Engine). So what is IBM doing right and what can it tell us about what Nokia may look like in the future?
If you track down a cursory list of their acquisitions over the past decade you’ll see a trend emerging and that trend is a focus on Consulting Services (Think: PWC Consulting) and Business Data and Intelligence (Think: Cognos, Netezza).
In the mid 1990′s IBM refocused its business by discovering new ways of making money out of helping others reshape their business to take advantage of the internet revolution. It moved out of the business of manufacturing low margin boxes and moved into the high value business of enterprise software and services. IBM became the flag bearers of the eBusiness revolution. While everybody else was busy chasing Freemium traffic IBM quietly moved into the business of profiting from providing the expertise to allow everybody to build their own online eBusiness.
Here then is a radical blueprint for Nokia. Forget about trying to become a media entertainment portal, forget about its mobile OS business, even put aside R&D in mobile devices – products not the technology patents – and leave Google and Apple to fight out the “Freemium” iClone wars. Then focus on restructuring the company so it become the market leader in assisting the rest of the global economy in its efforts make money out of the new mobile economy.
If it can do this then Nokia will evolve into the most important technology services company of the early 21st century.