Now that it’s pretty clear that Nortel is gone, the inevitable “what went wrongs” are multiplying. We’ve heard they didn’t innovate, now we hear that they weren’t supposed to. In truth, you can never game the outcome of changes in behavior that it’s too late to make.
Any company, to be successful, has to make its customers successful. There are a lot of paths toward doing that; some rely on innovation and others on integration or being a cost leader. Any company can pick one, but that’s the rub. You can’t pick none, or pick them all. Nortel never had a strategy, it only had a set of tactics to address this or that silo. At a time when “convergence” is the byword of the market Nortel didn’t see its market as being converged, as having a single set of needs and as driven by a single set of conditions. It was, and so they missed the boat.
Cisco or Alcatel-Lucent, both cited by some as examples of what should have happened at Nortel, aren’t out of the woods yet either. The world of carrier and enterprise networking changed forever in 2008/2009 and the remaining players have yet to be tested against the new conditions. Good things, and bad things, are still to come.