Nokia CIO Aims for Enterprise Web 2.0 Balance

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As Nokia's CIO, John Clarke faces a balancing act that is increasingly common among enterprise IT leaders: making Web 2.0 technologies available to employees without compromising security, data integrity and legal obligations.

Since joining the mobile giant in 2005, Clarke finds himself playing the dual role of facilitating the use of blogs, wikis, hosted applications and social networks among staffers, while also making people aware of the problems that make many of those products unsuitable for workplace use.

"I've always been realistic about Web 2.0 products. When I first joined, we had an injection of speed ensuring that we could offer these services internally, and people could use them without feeling they were breaking the rules," Clarke said in an interview after giving a keynote speech at Accenture's Global Convergence Forum on Monday in Miami Beach.

"But equally I'm still cautious about security, which most people don't want to talk about, but that's part of my duty. We're not a small seven-man company. Some people can be a bit naíve, in my opinion, about these applications, like with the sharing of data, saying 'it's only data, who cares?' Well, I care," he added.

Regarding hosted applications, Clarke is taking what he calls "a fairly cautious view" while exploring some large opportunities. Part of the process has involved seeking guidance from Nokia's legal team.

"The legal process around [software as a service] is still immature, so I spend a lot of time right now with lawyers going through that," Clarke said. Specifically, he wants to understand, at a very detailed level, to what extent vendors assume liability for protecting the data that's stored in their servers via the use of these applications.

Use and testing of Web 2.0 technologies is "still very active," and the objective behind exposing employees to these products remains unchanged: to help people experience different ways to engage with technology, in particular in areas of collaboration and communication. This is also important to help spark innovative ideas. "That's still a key part of my role to do that bit," Clarke said.

However, he's not in the camp of those crying out for a radical Web 2.0 revolution in the enterprise, which critics often accuse Web 2.0 vendors of doing. In particular, for Web 2.0 wares to fit into the enterprise, they need to have strong IT management features, according to Clarke, and overlooking this is at best naíve.

"It does matter in the real world. Those things are very important to us. That's why companies don't use Facebook as their corporate phone directory," he said. "[Many Web 2.0 services] are good from a consumer point of view, but don't lend themselves to corporate demands and rigor. If they were, why didn't Microsoft and SAP go out of business overnight?"

Beyond Web 2.0 explorations, he and his team are involved in a very large initiative to expand the company's insight into consumers. This project revolves around sharpening Nokia's customer data management and analysis. "It's about how to turn all this data we have into something very meaningful and how to do the analytics around it," Clarke said.

Enhancing its understanding of customer data collected in a variety of ways -- surveys, transactions and observations -- will allow Nokia to improve its operations and products, making the company more in sync with people's mobile needs, likes and dislikes, he said.

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