Huawei Connect 2017: Four Things CFOs Can Learn From a Technology Event

“Broken from the inside, an egg brings life; broken from the outside, an egg gets fried,” says Guo Ping, Deputy Chairman of the Board and Rotating CEO at Huawei, a Chinese company that claims its telecom gear serves half the world’s population. Translation: An organization that willingly transforms from the inside is more likely to find success than if it has to be forcibly changed by competitive, technology and regulatory trends outside its control

Guo was speaking in Shanghai last week at one of China’s largest technology conferences, Huawei Connect 2017: Grow With the Cloud. It was a vendor event, and so it is best to resist accepting everything at face value. But there are useful nuggets from the observations, trend reports, user cases and even assertions made by Huawei and its partners, including ABB, CERN, DHL, Orange Business Services and Schindler.

Advances in analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other fields are conferring new competitiveness to companies that leverage the cloud not just for process optimization

Among the insights for CFOs:

  • Cloud-enabled technologies have gotten more advanced than you might think
  • Cloud options are expanding and consolidating, and now include telecom cloud resources
  • Integration issues around various public and private clouds are more important than ever
  • The growing pervasiveness of the Internet of Things raises security, privacy and other concerns about the cloud

Analytics, AI and machine learning are already here

So are robotics, the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet, instant analysis of millions of high-resolution security camera images and videos, face recognition . . . all the hyped up technology advances we’ve been hearing about.

That’s an issue in Asia. From a series of roundtable discussions that CFO Innovation held this year, we found that most companies across the region are still operating on non-cloud, on-premise platforms and dependent on spreadsheets and manual processes.

And the relatively few CFOs (mainly in Singapore and Hong Kong) that have embarked on what Huawei refers to rather inelegantly as “cloudification” are doing so primarily to optimize internal business processes. That’s a noteworthy aim. Consolidating, streamlining, standardizing and automating processes can enhance efficiency and productivity, and free human resources from grunt work to focus on higher value activities.

However, according to the technologists at the three-day Huawei conference, advances in analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other fields are conferring new competitiveness to companies that leverage the cloud not just for process optimization – part of breaking the egg from within to bring forth new life, as it were.

Among the fast developing fields are image recognition and behavior analysis, made possible by high definition security and other cameras and high-speed, high capacity servers operating within a cloud environment. Huawei’s Guo proudly recounted the case of a three-year-old boy who disappeared in Longgang district in Shenzhen and found in another place just 15 hours later, after software, running on the cloud, analyzed millions of security-camera images.

Cate Xie, co-founder and CEO of start-up SkyREC, spoke about work her company is doing with retailer Marks & Spencer in China. Software running on the cloud analyzed video images of consumer behavior – what sections of the store they head to the most, where they go next, which items they touch and examine, what they say and so on. SkyREC then made recommendations such as which products should be grouped together and what promotions to run. The outcome: a 15% boost to store sales.

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