Collaboration Is Crucial: Nokia, Mirum And Acquia Take On Open-Source

by Gillian Ingram Figaro Digital

Figaro Digital caught up with Robin Bade, regional director and founding partner, Mirum Europe, and Sarah Knight, senior UK marketing manager, Acquia, on the creation of Nokia’s new virtual collaboration platform. Always top of the agenda for digital transformation, we discussed the challenges of old talent versus new innovation, and why open-source is the marketing currency of the future.

Nokia’s virtual collaboration platform, created via a partnership between agencies Mirum and Acquia, is a huge departure from the sturdy and reliable mobile phones that put the brand on the map. The Open Ecosystem Network is described as a “multi-sided, open, co-creation platform”, allowing developers, suppliers and subject matter experts to collaboratively create bespoke digital solutions, using Nokia’s arsenal of resources as a springboard to new possibilities.

Building Blindfolded

As the agency pairing charged with this huge undertaking, Mirum and Acquia had several challenges to contend with, as the Nokia brand moves from a well-established business model into a new, powerfully innovative space. “The biggest challenge we have faced was trying to come up with a plan and a technology position before actually knowing what the product is.” Says Bade. “We started crafting, or at least had a high-level idea of what we were actually setting out to do, but we didn’t know what shape the product or the service would actually take before pushing it live. That’s how the whole agile way of working works.” Agility is a vital characteristic of the Open Ecosystem Network, as it sits at the forefront of digital innovation, riding the crest of the digital transformation wave and looking out into the unknown, untapped potential of the future.

Start-Up Structure

Another challenge of this dedicated platform is the inevitability of “the long game”. The Open Ecosystem platform is a constantly evolving and changing model, and the goal posts are constantly being moved. While the platform facilitates this ongoing drive for new and improved digital opportunities and inventions, it must also endeavour to maintain its relevance in such a turbulent space. “The structure of the team needs to be built as if it was a start-up.” Says Bade. “Nokia obviously funded the build, but equally we know that the value of the outcome comes only when other partners and people and individuals and start-ups collaborate together.” The start-up mentality was something of a departure for Nokia, who have for a long time been a household name in the tech space. But the collaborative aspect provides the platform with the energy and adaptability required to remain competitive. “Part of the challenge has been how we can become flexible and maintain flexibility, while we actually still need to launch something all the time to test what the end users in the community want and like, and take off all the stuff that doesn’t work.”

Pick ‘N’ Mix Talents

In a massive creative effort, the huge teams of developers and programmers are vital to the platform’s success. The division of targets and functions also enabled the teams from both Mirum and Acquia to align their expertise. “The way Acquia offer our services has been described as the plumbing, all the infrastructure, effectively.” Says Knight. “We work with our professional services team and have teams who operate within our partner agencies, like we have here with Mirum. Our role is to put the walls up, to make it work properly and look pretty. It really is a massive group effort.” The platform saw the consolidation of new innovators with Nokia’s existing talent, in order to maximise the impact. “A cross-functional team is an efficient team,” continues Bade, “and equally a cross-knowledge team is most effective. We couldn’t do this unless we had the knowledge from Nokia, and it’s as much about the engineer’s knowledge of their subject matter as it is about the new start up knowledge, and knowing how to build stuff with rapid prototyping. Blending these capabilities together is what makes a good start up, what makes a good company.”

Tag Teams

In a true testament to the idea of collaboration as the fuel of the future, the Open Ecosystem Network is, as its name might suggest, open-source. This also features in the way that Acquia and Mirum have partnered in order to share the separate elements of the build. “The number one fact is that open-source is key.” Says Bade. “We built all of the other Nokia web assets on open-source, and they ran on the Acquia cloud […] Generally, of course, you need to craft what the service is before you build it, but this time we’ve done it at the same time. Then we have the developers and the technology team, in this case Acquia is an augmentation of that team, and as well as that we’ve had the marketing team, being responsible for crafting the branding of the server, pushing the message out to the community and the market that we exist.”

Maintaining Brand Identity

Perhaps Nokia’s platform and influx of dedicated creators is setting an example for digital transformation projects the world over? Bade reflects that “finding the balance that works for you is really hard. A lot of people come in and want to change everything, but that may not be right for the business, it’s about approaches that have a longer road map to them. We’ve talked about breaking stuff and trying new things, but it’s more about breaking stuff, and repairing it in a different form, then trying it out.” By streamlining the creative process in a way which allows the old and new talent to work in synchronisation, Nokia are able to push the boundaries of digital technology while remaining true to their hard-earned brand identity and heritage.

Organic Online Community

Measuring ROI is a challenge for Mirum and Acquia, since the platform is being developed and tested at the same time, and on such a large scale. But again, it’s Open Ecosystem’s network of collaborators that are responsible for overcoming this. “[…] in order for us to gain users, we need to serve them with interesting content, and interesting tools and assets.” Says Bade. “We believe we have a good start, but that’s where other partners are now being brought into the platform, so that we have more ingredients that people can test and ‘cook’ with.” Nokia hopes that the mutual benefits of the platform will lead to the creation of an organic open-source community, allowing for a diverse and dynamic sharing of ideas and opportunities. Bade suggests that the value of the platform only increases as more brands, teams and individuals come on board. “If you want to find incremental innovation, you might get that by reaching out to a community and paying them for new ideas, but that’s just scaling and augmenting your idea capabilities. In this case we’re actually inviting people to come and collaborate with us, build and fund with us, to create new companies with us. That requires a differently powered team, a more open-minded and empowered team […] if you want to get something, you need to give something as well. That’s the fundamental premise behind this platform.”

Embracing Change

As consumer expectations and technical capabilities increase, it’s clear that digital transformation is fast becoming a non-optional requirement for brands seeking to secure the highest possible engagement. Knight notes that “in order to harness the potential of digital disruption and digital transformation we do need to implement new ways of thinking.” As big brands like Nokia lead the way to becoming more transparent and open, the opportunities for brands to fuel their own success are huge. “Open-source isn’t something to be frightened of, it’s something to embrace and take your business forward. Yes we’re talking about Nokia and the connectivity they’ve created over the years. But it’s also about connecting people, and the human element of it […] Getting lots of people working together will allow us to accomplish so much more.”

Are you looking into open-source at your business? What does the Open Ecosystem Network mean for your team? Continue the conversation on Twitter at @Figaro_Digital.