Telstra appoints former Nokia CEO Elop to head up tech strategy

Australian telco Telstra has created the new role of Group Executive Technology, Innovation and Strategy in a bid ‘to become a world class technology company’, and has put Stephen Elop in charge.

The new position encompasses the Chief Technology Office, Chief Scientist, Telstra Software Group and Corporate Strategy with strong links into product development functions. Presumably this means the likes of Hugh Bradlow will now report into Elop, who in turn will report directly to CEO Andrew Penn.

“Stephen will immediately add major firepower to our team with his extensive and deep technology experience and an innate sense of customer expectations,” said Penn. “He is a recognised international technology leader and strategist from across a range of global organisations.”

While Elop does indeed have a rich and varied CV, it’s intriguing to see him held up as an exemplary strategist given the fate of Nokia during his tenure as CEO from 2010 to 2013. In that time Nokia went from being the world’s dominant mobile handset company to selling off the entire devices operation to Microsoft – Elop’s former employer – for $7.2 billion. Elop then went back to Microsoft just long enough to oversee the write-off of the entire acquisition, before being shown the door.

“I have long recognised the Telstra team as one of the most innovative and insightful in the telecommunications industry,” said Elop. “Telstra has a strong focus on its customers, and a willingness to invest in advanced products and services to best serve those customers. I am excited to be joining the team at a particularly unique moment of opportunity for Telstra.”

Telstra has offered few specifics on what this strategic shift entails. Elop’s appointment and the use of the term ‘technology’ rather than ‘telecoms’ implies a diversification of its product offering, possibly including devices, cloud services, content, etc. The company must be assuming Elop has learned some hard lessons from his Nokia experience, which will help him to avoid a repeat performance.

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