Feb 11: Stephen Elop's Nokia revolution; what we should expect?

I’m hearing from a few of my sources that Nokia is readying a major restructuring that will be announced to the company on Feb. 11th. Analysts might already be getting briefed on the changes. I haven’t heard specifics yet, most employees, even executives, haven’t heard either other than they know something is up.

Which leaves us to speculate and guess what’s up.

As you know I’m no friend of Nokia’s lately. Been really bashing them, like in my note to Tomi Ahonen.

My bashing has largely been proven right. Nokia’s “head” has been cut off by Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android and now the world can see the evidence with layoffs and lower profits announced since I wrote that note to Tomi.

But a new sheriff is in town. Stephen Elop, who arrived from Microsoft.

The big question is still unanswered: can he get Nokia back into the super smartphone race that’s so dominated by Apple and Google?

Well, I’ve been talking to folks inside Nokia and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. He must flatten the structure at Nokia. One employee told me that the folks who do the work are seven to 10 layers of management from Stephen’s office. Funny, all Elop has to do is look to another Steven back at Microsoft to see what needs to be done. Steve Sinofsky, who runs the Windows team, flattened Microsoft’s structure from about eight levels to about four, which greatly improved morale and ability to get stuff done.

2. He needs to bet the company on a new OS. The folks I’ve been talking with inside the company are praying that Elop dumps Symbian and either picks the newer Meego OS, which is largely unproven and behind schedule in many places, or just goes and makes a deal with Microsoft and chooses the Windows Phone 7 OS.

3. He needs a team to work with developers. I’ve been hearing Microsoft has been very tough to deal with. Heck, Angry Birds is still not available on Windows Phone 7, which says volumes about how Microsoft has been executing on getting apps developed for Windows Phone 7. Elop needs to make Nokia execute way better than Microsoft in the app development space.

4. He needs to pull out all the stops on a cool showcase piece of hardware. Nokia still has great hardware developers. Get them to build the best hardware they’ve ever built and get them to ship it on time. That will help Nokia excite developers (aka my point #3).

5. He needs to simplify the product line so that everyone in the world can explain Nokia’s products to other people. Right now I’ve lost track of how many different devices Nokia sells and how they connect with each other.

6. He needs a developer tools division. See point #3. What will the folks working with developers need? Simple development tools for delivering ultra high quality apps. Meego or Windows Phone 7 OS-based tools will be fine, although I’m hearing from developers that Microsoft’s tools are more mature.

7. He needs a world-wide marketing message around Nokia’s top-of-the-line phone, which will communicate Nokia’s strategy and vision.

8. He needs to ensure that Nokia’s famous distribution system is reenergized and remains best in the business.

That already is a HUGE amount of work to do, is Elop up to the job? We’ll find out shortly after Feb. 11th.

What do you think? Can Elop and his team at Nokia make the sizeable organizational shifts, which probably include more layoffs (which are difficult to implement under Finnish employment law) in order to make this happen?

I actually am hoping they can. The more competitors that Apple and Google have the better off we all are, even those of us who probably will stick with either Apple or Google products.

Not to mention that Nokia owns a great deal of services, like Navteq, which just bought my favorite Trapster (lets you see where cops are hanging out on freeways).

Good luck to Elop, we’re cheering you on!