Digital transformation – jigsaw, tapestry or artwork?

Image credit: Tithi Luadthong |

It was no surprise to see the massive presence of Huawei at this year’s MWC19 in Barcelona, but it did come as a surprise to see just how much the company had to offer, not only in products, but also in services.

In the lower level of the Renaissance Hotel just outside the main event was a VIP showcase with a mission to show Huawei takes transformation into practice and how it escorts its customers through the transformation to help them achieve digital transformation (DX) success. It highlighted associated digital technology to support the transformation and a plethora of highly qualified specialists that seemed able to answer any query that I could come up, even the most oblique. This year their goal is helping operators accelerate transformation.

In the time I was there a steady stream of recognisable C-levels and senior managers from telecoms operators around the globe were finding out what makes for a successful digital transformation supported by use cases and visual presentations of how the digital jigsaw fits together.

CIOs and CXOs surveyed have not always agreed on which path DX should take yet such an overarching and comprehensive initiative requires the alignment of CEO, CIO, and CXP of each business unit to a shared goal and common understanding of what actions need to be taken. In other words, they need to align objectives, ideas, and actions.

Not surprising that this showcase was so popular when you take into account IDC findings that more than 40% of organizations are still in the initial stage of digital transformation, and one can only guess what percentage have not found the process easy or have made expensive mistakes from failed projects. IDC also found it takes three years to fully integrate new digital technologies with business and the technical complexity involved in DX increases exponentially when there are more than 10 new technologies from third-party platforms.

The core of this showcase, for me at least, was Huawei’s concept of a digital platform and how it brought together multiple technologies from multiple partners to supplement its inhouse technology. The word ‘ecosystem’ is often used to describe this, but I much prefer the word platform because it is more like a launching site for new services that utilize existing IT systems and applications and also bring them to the newer digital world.

Of course, this is no easy feat, but it is made easier when operators are able to utilize what others have already developed and tested rather than reinventing the wheel themselves. This way, the associated time and cost savings are substantial.

The stated objectives of Huawei’s Digital Platform are to be compatible with existing IT systems and support smooth evolution to the new, to connect all enterprise applications and data to generate new capabilities and to seamlessly solve customer issues and create new business value.

I learnt that this encompasses four basic elements:

  • Data convergence – integrating heterogeneous data from multiple sources to form unified data standard;
  • Business Collaboration – streamlining applications for enterprise connectivity and collaboration across business systems, regions, and clouds;
  • Agile Innovation – introducing innovative applications for common use and by integrating, optimizing and sharing partner applications;
  • Inclusive AI and Security – utilising AI to defend against attacks and eliminate threats, ensuring reliability and security – even in multi-cloud environments.

What the showcase managed to do so well, with the help of experts and interactive audio-visuals was to take the attendee seamlessly through the DX journey – stage by stage. If any part was of no interest it was simply a matter of moving in to an area that was – similar to the process that enterprises go through internally. The big difference here was that they would be able to get expert advice and hear about user experiences from people that have done it before.

As Huawei pointed out – the process of digital transformation isn’t easy, it is a gradual process rather than something that can be achieved in one jump. Pick a scenario, start small, and think big to achieve transforming successfully. I was surprised how well the showcase prepared different scenarios based on operators’ requirements, as well commercial success for the 5G era. 

In my opening I referred to DX as a jigsaw, but that assumes that every piece must be fitted in its exact place. I now realise that DX is more like a unique tapestry created by components that work together to form a big picture. However, Huawei takes it further – more like a plug-and-play artwork masterpiece – and that must be a big advantage for any business grappling with DX.

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