Nokia’s Loss May Be Accenture’s Gain

As rumours started to emerge from Finland last night that employee meetings were planned across Nokia’s operations in Europe, it was clear that today’s job cuts were imminent.

For the 4,000 people who will leave Nokia, it’s undoubtedly a personal tragedy.

For the 3,000 employees working on Symbian, a transition to Accenture will come as an unexpected development. This was the part of the announcement that caught me by surprise and my initial reaction is that this is a smart move by Nokia. Running internal development teams concurrently for Symbian and Windows Phone was always going to be a challenge. There would be little incentive for the Symbian teams to put their hearts and souls into their work. Nokia’s management team has made it clear the future lies with Windows Phone and it clearly wants this to be the primary focus internally.

For Accenture, the acquisition of 3,000 Symbian staff carries some element of risk. Symbian now has a limited life span and I find it inconceivable that Accenture would be able to persuade anyone else to licence it. That said, long-time Psion and Symbian guru, David Wood (no relation), has been working at Accenture since June 2010 and he’s likely to have offered some good insights into the task ahead.

I’d also bet that Accenture sees this as an opportunity not only to get some near-term revenue from Nokia but to grab a slice of the Windows Phone development pie as Nokia scrambles to get products out the door. Whether it plans a bigger, more ambitious strategy to use its new resources to develop a mobile practice to rival companies such as Teleca and Tieto remains to be seen, but given that good mobile software engineers are a rare commodity, it might have a chance.

Looking at the bigger picture, the key question is whether these cuts go deep enough. Nokia currently employs over 130,000 people. Admittedly this figure includes those within Nokia Siemens Networks and Navteq, but I had expected something more dramatic. Nokia has stated that it has “no further cuts planned for the foreseeable future”, but I can’t help wondering whether this is just the start of a long and painful journey as Nokia reshapes itself for life in the post-iPhone world.