Digital Business Transformation: Where Should You Begin?

Digital business transformation is a huge and confusing topic, making it very difficult to know where to begin. The Open ROADS Community has created the Digital Mastermind to answer this question and guide your entire transformation journey. The essence of this method, which we call “Digital Thinking” is to “Identify a Scenario, then Start Small, Think Big, and Align Business & IT to Scale Fast”. This is encapsulated in the figure below.

To put this into practice, a dedicated transformation team should focus on the transformation activities on the right of the figure: Supporting the organisation to benchmark current digital maturity, defining a direction for the transformation, and then handling the change management and progress tracking. The will enable the business team, in parallel, to adopt Digital Thinking through the approach on the left, moving to become an increasingly digital business.

Of course, like every journey, you need to know where you are before you can set off. In this case, the first step in your digital business transformation should be to get an understanding and benchmark of your business’s current digital maturity level.

 With multi-million dollar investments at stake, it is imperative that a comprehensive digital maturity assessment be conducted, using a sophisticated digital maturity model, and driven by subject matter experts. That said, recent research by the Open ROADS Community has shown that even a cursory evaluation of a business’s digital maturity can give sufficient insight to determine a general way forward for the transformation, and thereby stimulate business leadership to sign-off on a full digital maturity assessment.

By deploying a 10-minute digital maturity self-survey, comprising of 18 questions which span strategy, customer experience, culture, service innovation, data, and technology, it has been possible to obtain some useful insights into the current state of digital maturity across industry. As an example, the finding from a recent survey of 15 distinct digital businesses is shown below:

All the responding organisations revealed opportunities to improve their digital business maturity, and tended to fall into one of three distinct groups as indicated:

Beginning, ready to transform

Typified by low levels of maturity across all areas, these organisations have not yet made significant progress on any aspect of digital transformation. In this situation the organisation should initially focus on technology investments to make itself more efficient through increased digitisation. This will drive down operating costs, while enabling subsequent digital initiatives to be adopted.

Progressing, with high digitisation

Typified by relatively higher levels of maturity towards the right, technology, side of the model, these organisations have already achieved a good level of efficiency through digitisation. They should now look to exploit this to gain new revenue through the introduction of digital initiatives to increase customer experience and deliver new services.

Experimenting, but needs delivery focus

Typified by relatively higher levels of maturity in most areas apart from Innovation and Lean Delivery, these organisations have achieved a good level of efficiency through digitisation, and are now actively delivering a good level of customer experience. However, they now need to further develop their operating model, adopting lean principles with continuous delivery to seize the additional revenue available from more rapid service development and deployment. In fact, careful manipulation of the data can reveal further insights, including whether inter-departmental cooperation is strong enough to allow customer experience and efficiency to develop in parallel.

You can hear more about the Digital Mastermind by attending my talk at TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia in Kuala Lumpur from 13-15th November. You can also discover more here. Finally, if you’d like to get an idea of your own organisation’s digital business maturity, you can try the 10-minute survey for yourself here. You will immediately get a personalised result, which can be anonymous if you wish. Aggregated results will be shared at TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia.

Italians clearly aren’t that suspicious of Huawei

Despite governments around the world turning against Chinese vendors, Telecom Italia has agreed a new partnership with Huawei based on Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology.

As part of a strategy aimed at evolving TIM’s network solutions for business customers, Huawei’s SD-WAN technology will be incorporated to create a new TIM service model which will allow customers companies to manage their networks through a single console.

“Today, more than ever, companies need networks that can adapt to different business needs over time, in particular to enable Cloud and VoIP services,” said Luigi Zabatta, Head of Fixed Offer for TIM Chief Business & Top Clients Office. “Thanks to the most advanced technologies available, these networks can be managed both jointly and by customers themselves through simple tools.

“The partnership with Huawei allows us to expand our value proposition for companies and to enrich our offer through the adoption of a technological model that is increasingly and rapidly emerging in the ICT industry.”

The partnership is a major win for Huawei considering the pressure the firm must be feeling over suspicions being peaked around the world. Just as more countries are clamping down on the ability for Huawei to do business, TIM has offered a windfall.

Aside from the on-going Chinese witch hunt over in the US, the Australians have banned Huawei from participating in the 5G bonanza and Korean telcos have left the vendor off preferred supplier lists. Just to add more misery, the UK is seemingly joining in on the trends.

In recent weeks, a letter was sent out from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the National Cyber Security Centre, warning telcos of potential impacts to the 5G supply chain from the Future Telecom Infrastructure Review. China was not mentioned specifically, and neither was Huawei, but sceptical individuals might suggest China would be most squeezed by a security and resilience review.

The rest of the world might be tip-toeing around the big question of China, but this partnership suggests TIM doesn’t have the same reservations.

Smartphone market continues to plunge, with Samsung worst hit

Samsung’s smartphone shipments have declined for the past four quarters and the overall market has followed.

At the same time Huawei continues to go from strength to strength. Annual smartphone shipment growth of 41% allowed Huawei to take second place in the global rankings last quarter and 32% growth this quarter was enough to keep Apple at bay once more. Samsung’s shipments declined by 13% this quarter and if these trends keep up Huawei could grab the top spot before long – a previously unthinkable event.

“Global smartphone shipments tumbled 8 percent annually from 393.1 million units in Q3 2017 to 360.0 million in Q3 2018,” said Linda Sui of analyst firm Strategy Analytics. “The global smartphone market has now declined for four consecutive quarters and is effectively in a recession. The smartphone industry is struggling to come to terms with heavily diminished carrier subsidies, longer replacement rates, inventory buildup in several regions, and a lack of exciting hardware design innovation.”

“Samsung is losing ground to Huawei, Xiaomi and other Chinese rivals in the huge China and India markets,” said Neil Mawston of SA. “Samsung must solve its China and India problems before it is too late. Huawei remains the world’s second largest smartphone vendor with 14 percent share. Huawei has little presence in the valuable North America market, but its Android models are wildly popular in most of the rest of the world, particularly Asia and Europe.”

One interesting twist to the numbers was Apple’s decision to stop reporting shipment numbers from next quarter onwards. Since this is always its strongest quarter you have to wonder what Apple is playing at. “Starting with the December quarter, we will no longer be providing unit sales data for iPhone, iPad and Mac,” said Apple CFO Luca Maestri on the earnings call. “As we have stated many times, our objective is to make great products and services that enrich people’s lives, and to provide an unparalleled customer experience so that our users are highly satisfied, loyal and engaged.

“As we accomplish these objectives, strong financial results follow. As demonstrated by our financial performance in recent years, the number of units sold in any 90-day period is not necessarily representative of the underlying strength of our business. Furthermore, a unit of sale is less relevant for us today than it was in the past, given the breadth of our portfolio and the wider sales price dispersion within any given product line.”

Fair enough but the market will be the judge of how relevant Apple’s unit shipment numbers are. Companies like Strategy Analytics will still publish estimates and journalists will still write about them. Apple was one of the few smartphone vendors that still published its numbers so maybe it has decided, as has LG, to get in line with its competitors on this, with the overall declines in the smartphone market possibly contributing to that decision. But the weak reasoning offered above will leave many unanswered questions in the minds of investors.

Smartphones Q3 2018

Huawei’s SmartWi-Fi Solution Enables Batelco to Achieve Premium Home Wi-Fi Coverage

[Bahrain, October 23, 2018] Batelco announced that it will adopt Huawei’s SmartWi-Fi solution to provide customers with intelligent and seamless high-speed Wi-Fi coverage, and enhance users’ home broadband experience through remote cloud management and intelligent troubleshooting systems.

As a major digital communications service provider, Batelco is dedicated to innovating and evolving home network solutions. It has released 500 Mbit/s ultra-broadband (UBB) and video services including Batelco TV to continuously enhance broadband service experience for the people of Bahrain. The improvement on broadband quality will also help realize Bahrain’s economic vision for 2030. In Bahrain, most people live in apartments and villas with thick walls. In cross-floor or cross-room scenarios, Wi-Fi performance is poor due to insufficient coverage, and users’ service experience is significantly affected. Building ultra-high-speed home Wi-Fi networks without dead zones is the key for Batelco to provide users with home broadband services such as high-speed Internet (HSI), multi-screen interaction, and ultra-high definition (UHD) videos.

Considering the characteristics of households in Bahrain and the broadband service requirements of their residents, Huawei is going to provide Batelco with the SmartWi-Fi solution based on high-end gateways and access points (APs). High-performance tri-band Wi-Fi APs and Huawei’s high-end gateways on the live network support plug and play (PnP), zero-configuration deployment, and seamless roaming. In addition, mesh Wi-Fi technologies are also used to achieve intelligent and full Wi-Fi coverage at home and supporting the bearing of multi-channel HD videos across floors. Previously, Wi-Fi experience was poor, APs and gateways failed to achieve synergy, severe attenuation was incurred when Wi-Fi signals were transmitted across floors, and network cables could not be connected between rooms to carry videos. Huawei’s solution solves all these problems and can bear UHD videos. The SmartWi-Fi solution also integrates a Wi-Fi cloud O&M system to remotely manage home Wi-Fi networks, helping operators reduce costs by eliminating the need of home visits in response to frequently reported Wi-Fi faults.

Batelco’s Chief Marketing Officer Abderrahmane Mounir stated, “Huawei’s SmartWi-Fi solution has great advantages in Wi-Fi performance, service experience, and uniform O&M. This solution will help Batelco carry out the ‘Home Wi-Fi Plan’ and promote value-added services such as HSI, multi-screen interaction, and video on demand (VoD). In the future, we plan to apply this solution in more households to provide users with better quality services.”

John Lv Yuedong, CEO of Huawei Bahrain, said, “We are pleased to join forces with Batelco to bring this cutting edge new Wi-Fi service to Bahrain. ­At Huawei, we aim to accelerate Bahrain’s digital transformation by bringing our most advanced, and secure global, products and solutions to the Kingdom, and this is another successful example of a partnership that will help us to achieve this goal.”

Huawei, a leading UBB solutions provider, continues to lead the development of the UBB industry. At present, Huawei has delivered over 350 million access network fixed terminals, and they have been deployed in more than 100 countries and regions. Huawei’s SmartWi-Fi solution has gradually been adopted by mainstream operators in Europe, the Middle East, China mainland, and China Hong Kong, providing home users with premium broadband experience and services.

Huawei’s search for smartphone differentiation yields rewards

The smartphone market is a very difficult one in which to create any form of differentiation, but Huawei has done a pretty good job with the launch of its new Mate 20 series.

While Samsung and Apple are now leaning towards brand identity and story-telling to attract new customers, a strategy the iLeader is a master of, Huawei is continuing to search for differentiation on the product side. The launch was glitzy, packed to the rafters and full of new features, some of which were genuinely appealing.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer business group. “The Huawei Mate 20 series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance”

Looking at the features, the devices will be powered by Huawei’s AI chip, the Kirin 980, which incorporates the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU. The promise is a smoother and more powerful experience compared to competitors, with Huawei claiming the CPU is up to 58% more efficient, GPU up 178% more efficient, and the NPU 182%. The devices also includes a 4200mAh battery, with Yu promising 11.21 hours of battery life for heavy users, and the ability to recharge the device to 70% within 30 minutes.

On the camera side, this is an area which will form one of the central marketing pillars for the device and was a big deal in the eyes of Yu. With the incorporation of a 16mm Leica Ultra-wide Angle Lens, the team are boasting about superior wide angle shots, but also numerous other advantages including crisp images of objects that are placed as close as 2.5cm from the lens and AI Portrait Colour video mode. This was a massive deal during the launch so expect photography to feature very heavily in marketing efforts over the coming months.

Audience

While this all sounds promising, this is nothing new compared to the devices of yesteryear, just an upgrade. We’re going to focus on two features which are genuinely interesting.

Looking at the battery, not only will the device introduce wireless charging to the Mate series, Yu introduced the concept of reverse charging. For those who have nervously looked at their devices lurking at 5%, while carefree others prance around north of 80% battery, this could be a very useful feature. Mate 20 devices will be able to act as an energy pack for devices which also support reverse charging. For the moment, we suspect there will be a very small number of compatible devices, but it is a very useful feature.

With the screen reaching the limits of how big it can be, performance speeds only incrementally improving and the camera on every device being top of the range, the battery is an aspect of the phone which could lead to future differentiation. Little progress has been made to improve the battery in recent years, at least little in comparison to other aspects, but the reverse charging feature is certainly a good start.

The second feature which caught our attention was the introduction of EMUI 9, a smart operating system based on Android P. Should it live up to the promise, EMUI 9 can optimise the performance of the phone to the user, introduces new gesture navigation and also unveils a number of new AI features. Some of these applications are quirky, such as the calorie counter, but the 3D Live Object Modelling is very cool.

Using the devices camera, users can scan an object in the digital world, a soft-toy panda was used during the demo, before a digital avatar is created on the device. The avatar can interact with the physical world and also new users which enter the screen. The video below was produced on-stage during the launch. It is genuine augmented reality, not the charlatan created by Pokémon Go. Once created, the avatar will be available to use in films created by the user.

The only downside to all of these wonderful new features is the price. Starting at €800 and heading north for the more advanced models, this is not a cheap device. The Huawei team has already seen what it competitors can get away with and it appears to be following suit. Despite the small mortgage required to purchase the device, this is a pretty good launch and a device which provides some genuine differentiation.

Huawei doubles, triples and quadruples down on AI

Huawei has stoked the artificial intelligence fire as the industry continues along the path towards the digital, data-orientated, economy.

It’s a full-stack, all-scenario AI portfolio according to Huawei. New services and new products, which happen to be built on-top of a new series of AI chips, known as Ascend. There’s more AI than you can shake your finger at and so much use of the word ‘Intelligence’ you have to wonder what the team is compensating for.

“Huawei’s AI strategy is to invest in basic research and talent development, build a full-stack, all-scenario AI portfolio, and foster an open global ecosystem,” said Eric Xu, the current Rotating CEO, during the keynote session at Huawei Connect in Shanghai.

“Within Huawei, we will continue exploring ways to improve management and efficiency with AI. In the telecom sector, we will adopt SoftCOM AI to make network O&M more efficient. In the consumer market, HiAI will bring true intelligence to our consumer devices, making them smarter than ever.

“Our Huawei EI public cloud services and FusionMind private cloud solutions will provide abundant and affordable computing power for all organizations – especially businesses and governments – and help them use AI with greater ease. Our portfolio will also include an AI acceleration card, AI server, AI appliance, and many other products.”

Looking at the new chips, Ascend 910 is aimed at data centres with Huawei claiming the chip can process more data, faster than its competitors and train networks in a matter of minutes, instead of weeks or months. Ascend 310 has been designed for internet-connected devices ranging from smartphones to IoT devices. While Huawei already has a presence in the AI chip market with its Kirin series (designed for smartphones), these devices seem geared more towards the enterprise business unit, the ugly duckling of the Huawei family.

The enterprise business completes the connectivity ecosystem which Huawei has been hoping to create, though success has not been on par with the industry-leading networking team, or the consumer unit. On the consumer side of things, Huawei recently overtook Apple as the number two smartphone brand worldwide. The Ascend series takes Huawei into the hardware segment of the enterprise world, supporting its software and services offerings.

Of course, this is only one aspect of the overarching AI strategy which has more of a brand-marketing feel. The whole Huawei brand is being positioned as smarter and more proactive than competitors. The full-stack AI portfolio is one aspect of this strategy, though the team also promises to introduce an AI mindset and techniques into existing products and solutions to create greater value. AI is more than a service or product to Huawei, the concept of AI has been elevated to brand and corporate level.

Huawei Helps CMHK Build a 5G-ready Comprehensive Transport Network

HONG KONG — Recently, China Mobile Hong Kong Company Limited (CMHK) announced that it will partner with Huawei to build a 5G-ready comprehensive transport network covering 5G transport, enterprise private lines, and home broadband. This project marks CMHK’s transformation from providing pure mobile services to fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) services, and strengthens the strategic partnership between Huawei and CMHK over network construction.

CMHK is a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Mobile Limited. During its transformation to an FMC service provider, CMHK has joined hands with Huawei to explore network construction strategies and research network architecture and technology evolution for 5G.

With the Intent-Driven Network (IDN) architecture and uNetBuilder digital platform, Huawei’s 5G-ready comprehensive transport network solution provides FlexE, Ethernet Virtual Private Network (EVPN), Segment Routing, PAM4-based 50GE, 96-wavelength 200G OTN system, and other new functions and technologies. Leveraging the Network Cloud Engine (NCE) that implements end-to-end, unified control and management and intelligent O&M, Huawei is able to help CMHK effectively build a 5G-ready comprehensive transport network covering private line and home broadband services at the optimal TCO. In a series of key technical standard and functional tests organized by CMHK, Huawei has demonstrated excellent performance and passed all the tests successfully, finally winning this project.

5G is now, transport first. CMHK’s cooperation with Huawei to build a 5G-ready comprehensive transport network marks a new step forward in their transport network construction. Drawing on comprehensive experience in 5G transport network construction and advanced technologies, Huawei will help CMHK build a high-standard, best-experience comprehensive transport network and develop multiple services to achieve business success.

Cisco and Huawei inch up the Interbrand top 100

Brand consultancy Interbrand has published its latest ranking of the world’s strongest brands and given Cisco and Huawei minor promotions.

In last year’s assessment Cisco had the 16th most valuable brand, while Huawei came in at number 70. In the intervening 12 months Cisco’s brand value has increased by 8% to $34.5 billion, taking it to 15th place ahead of a waning GE. Meanwhile Huawei’s brand has apparently become 14% more valuable and now contributes $7.5 billion to its success.

Huawei was so happy about this that it issued a press release. “In the next industry cycle, technologies like AI, 5G, IoT, and cloud computing will become more and more important,” said Zhang Hongxi, Huawei’s Corporate Marketing President. “Huawei delivers more value and creates a better experience for customers by integrating AI, smart devices, networks, and the cloud.” Cisco didn’t bother.

Measuring brand value must be a tricky business since brand an inherently emotive, instinctive concept. A summary of Interbrand’s methodology can be seen below. It combines financial data, which is easy to measure, with an index that claims to measure the portion of purchasing decisions attributable directly to brand and another that attempts to quantify brand loyalty.

Interbrand methodology

In essence it seems to get the raw financial data and then tweak them up or down according to how Interbrand perceives the value of the respective brands. The resulting ranking seems to correlate much more closely with market value than it does revenues or even profitability, which stands to reason since share price is heavily influenced by investor belief in the company’s ongoing performance and growth.

Once more there’s no sign of Nokia or Ericsson on the list, which makes you wonder how much of Huawei’s brand value is derived from its consumer devices business. Apple has been at the top of the list since it launched the iPhone and Google is consistently second. Amazon’s brand value has apparently increased by 56% since last year, allowing it to overtake Microsoft and Coca Cola for third place. There are no operator brands in the top 100 despite Verizon and AT&T making vast profits.