By Kathy Gibson – Huawei is forging ahead with its vision of becoming the technology player behind connectedness around the world – and is using its own technology to digitally transform its business.

Last week, the company announced revenues of more than $100-billion.

“Behind that we are sticking to our company policy of re-investing 10% of global revenue – not profit – into R&D,” says Alex Du Min, MD of Huawei Enterprise South Africa. “In fact, in 2018, R&D spent almost 15% of the company’s revenue.”

Du Min was speaking at the Huawei Eco-Connect 2019 conference and exhibition held in Sandton.

During the year, Huawei engaged with more than 400 international standards organisations and put out more than 60 000 proposals.

The enterprise business has maintained its double-digit growth, which it expects to continue this year, says Du Min.

Behind the numbers are technologies that include the launch of Huawei’s full-stack AI solutions, its 5G advances and development of intelligent vehicles.

“5G is important in allowing ubiquitous connectivity to become a reality,” Du Min says.

In countries like South Africa with widely spread populations, 5G is an ideal solution for reaching more people.

He cites an example of 5G reach, with heart experts assisting in a remote operation just yesterday in China.

“We always talk about digital transformation, but we can be confident it is gaining momentum,” Du Min says.

Gartner tells us that 42% of CEOs are working on “digital first” or “digital to the core”, while 61% of CEOs plan to increase IT investment going forward.

“According to those CEOs, they also notice the digital transformation is not an easy thing to do,” Du Min adds. “Most companies that initiated digital transformation in the past failed – but they provided great experience and advice; and that will help us in moving our digital transformation to the next phase.”

He says the new focus for digital transformation involves shifting from IT efficiency and cost optimisation to business competitiveness using big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud.

For that, says Du, the key is combining operational technology with information technology to bring the physical world to digital.

Huawei’s own digital transformation journey has been rocky, according to Du Min.

As a massive company – 180 000 staff in 170 countries and 150 000 partners – Huawei was not a digtal-native company.

However, having successfully integrated OT and IT, it has seen how digital transformation has helped to fuel business growth while improving efficiency by 30%.

In addition, application rollout time has been reduced from six-to-nine months to one-to-four weeks. Inventory cycle time has been improved form seven days to less than two days.

“To do this we found that one platform was so important. So the silos will be resolved.”

The Huawei Digital Platform consists of three layers: it is based on the cloud; then orchestration of different applications and functions; then data convergence and service enablement.

AI and security are important elements across all the layers.

Huawei advocates an open multi-cloud environment. “Huawei practices a neutral, step-by-step cloud journey,” Du Min adds.

He says the three building blocks to enabling Huawei’s digital solutions are ubiquitous connectivity, the digital platform, plus pervasive intelligence.