Maslo’s professional experience —in companies such as Cisco, AWS or Citrix— has always been linked to technology and digitization, both in on-premise and cloud models. For just over a year he has been the technical director of the Enterprise Business Group, an area connected to the R&D teams that develop Huawei technologies, products and solutions for this market. His responsibility is to listen to the needs and requirements of companies to facilitate their digital transformation.
Digitization is deeply rooted in large companies. Does the same happen in SMEs?
From our experience, small and medium businesses need to be much quicker than the rest, because they don’t have a lot of time to change themselves, and need to really go hard into the transformation. And that’s why they react much quicker adopting new technologies and leveraging or testing new operation models as well. Generally, we see that they are very eager to use them.
We also see very good progress regarding digitalization in SMB companies all over Europe. Spain, for instance, is a good example. In fact, it’s actually across all sectors starting with the local governments and the small administration. They understand that they need to have new technologies implemented. The same applies to different verticals from agriculture to hospitality or transportation. In fact, almost all sectors are doing really well in Spain.
SMEs understand that they need to leverage their data, but are unclear on how to get from where they are to where they need to be
On the other side, all these companies don’t have large IT teams to support or implement these technologies, and this is the main challenge for them. Most of them are looking to the digitalization path, but don’t have a clear strategy. And this is what is missing. Some may implement connectivity, others data analytics, and so on.
The most important thing is to really understand the digital strategy. Where are they now, what kind of data will help them to develop their business? And what would the steps to get to the result that they are aiming for be? Right now, there are a lot of buzzes on the market: “artificial intelligence”, “automation”, “cloud” and so on. But the problem is that many companies go into some technologies without a clear understanding of how they will suit them.
They understand that they need to leverage data. They understand that it will open new opportunities for them. But how to get from the point where they are today, to the final destination is not necessarily clear. There are still many misconceptions of what technology can do and what it cannot do for them.
What do they need to take the final step?
We bring our expertise from all over the world to the table, as we serve thousands of companies. We can really show the prospective customer what we have done in some specific sector. With concrete examples of what technologies can do, and what they have brought to the customer. The real outcome, so to speak.
Broadband connectivity, for example, is very important. And I must again say that Spain is doing very well. Recently we were at the FTTH forum and there was a statement that in Spain 87% of the households and companies are already connected to the fiber optics broadband. That is really great if we compare it to Germany, for instance, with only 23%. It is clear that it is the enabler to implement new services like digital operations, start experimenting with the metaverse, or e-commerce. That is where we need more bandwidth or real time Internet services. So broadband is definitely an enabler.
From Huawei we are making a great effort in the implementation of 5G. On the one hand, supporting the operators and, on the other, showing the possibilities offered to companies in their operations or in the management of their IT infrastructure.
How can you help SMEs in their digital transformation?
In first place we try to understand what a customer needs, what the customer’s view is. We’re not trying just to come and sell the latest and greatest, but we try to understand where the customer is right now. For example, going back to the previous question, if they don’t have the appropriate connectivity, it makes no sense to tell them, for instance, about cloud services.
The great advantage of Huawei is that we are very open to customization, even at the R&D level
After that, we tailor the solution to their operations model. So we really spend time understanding the operations model of the customer and only after that we enter the discussions on where to go. It may even happen that we first need to optimize the facilities and, for example, build a new data center. In this case another Huawei group comes into play first. After that, we can start talking about storage or data processing, analytics and so on. So it never is a “one fits all”.
Is there no specific preconfigured solution?
We do have best practices, and we try to out some bundles for our partners, for instance, for schools or hospitals or for some specific vertical where we can implement best practices and recommend them to our customers.
But at the same time, we see that in many cases this does not suit everyone and we really need to customize a lot. The big advantage of Huawei is that we are very open to go for customization even on the R&D level. This is not only combining different products in one solution, but really to implement the changes in products, based on the customer needs.
We try to help them by building an infrastructure capable of working with the exponential amount of data that they are going to have to handle and, for example, making the most of it with different analysis tools to obtain useful information. Tools that are also available in the cloud.
In addition, and this is important, they also need to know the level of disruption to expect, as well as the benefits and value they will receive in the end.
Can you give an example of this type of project?
Yes, we have recently had a very interesting project in Spain with a catalan agriculture company called bonÀrea Agrupa. The company is specialized on the whole cycle of production of agricultural products. They have a complete logistics network to bring the products directly to the consumer, without intermediaries. And they wanted to optimize their operations.
You can imagine that they have a great many different elements in their operation. There is a lot of data for each and every element: how how long it takes them to produce the products, the logistical system and so on. Currently they are using this data for analytics and to generate dashboards and help improve their operations further.
Reducing energy consumption or manufacturing more efficient products is essential to reduce costs and save money
What we’ve done is set up a fully software-defined data center, giving them the opportunity to deploy new applications or make whatever changes they need to their operations in a matter of minutes.
Prior to this project, each and every operation or application would take days or weeks to deploy new services. From this project they are prepared for the exponential growth of data that they are still experiencing and that will only increase. Network and storage solutions are really helping them get where they need to be.
How do you intend to expand your business at Huawei?
In general, we are working in two directions: Firstly, in the product line for the market; we try to make them more affordable and better adapted to the needs of SMEs. We also pay close attention to everything related to automation and the fact that the implementation of these new technologies does not have to be complex. Not even if our new ransomware and cybersecurity modules are included.
Especially at the beginning, these companies probably don’t need a lot of customization, they just want us to provide them with some products, connect them, and have the cloud recognize and provision it all. You have to remember that they don’t have twenty people in their IT departments just to kick off some simple projects to migrate or implement a new technology.
Besides this, we also want to reach out to more customers, because the SMB market is huge. And in order to reach the thousands of the companies we work together with our partners and channel partners. That is how we are trying to scale.
How long does it take to see the first results?
Well, it’s very dependent on the industry, the sector and the project, but generally we can see the first results from about a month, to a couple of months after the implementation. It all depends on the complexity of the company and the processes involved. Shortly after the deployment of the project, we can collect the first feedback from the customer, to see how it is going.
Sustainability is another key issue in this scenario
This is a very hot topic right now. Saving energy or making more energy efficient products is key, in order to reduce costs and save money. We in Huawei pay a lot of attention to this. And it is not a recent thing. We have been doing this for four years already across all of our portfolio. Starting from antennas to switches, to storage systems and so on, we are really trying to be very innovative on reducing all energy consumption and using proper materials.
We strive to gain experience in understanding local markets and tailor products to their needs
As I already mentioned, a big part of our business is digital energy. The teams who are producing batteries, cooling systems, UPS and everything energy related are getting this expertise, and we implement it in all our products. Our switches, for instance, use 15% less energy compared to all others.
We are achieving this with special designs, materials and cooling systems or fans inside our systems. Another example is the SFP modules that are used for optical connectivity. We have been innovating on the amount of the connections inside these modules, and that also reduces power consumption by 20% for instance.
For the last 10 years, we have been applying our business continuity strategy (BCM) on how we get materials, how we produce our products, and how we deliver them. This is, how we build our logistics. As you can imagine, we produce many different things from Smartphones and watches to 5G antennas, batteries or storage systems.
Of course, in a company of this scale like it’s very important to have a very stable production and continuously improve our own carbon footprint. And I must say that we are very successful in our optimization, by implementing the production systems and a very efficient logistical network all over the world.
For example, we have seen the recent chip shortage crisis that affected almost everybody. But Huawei was not affected by that. We were continuously delivering all our products, all over the world. In Europe, for instance, for Enterprise businesses we were capable to deliver just in two weeks most of our product portfolio.
How are they different from the competition?
The first thing that I would mention is our R&D. According to the latest financial report that we published in March, we are more than 200,000 Employees worldwide and of those 110,000 employees are working in R&D. Besides this, almost 25% of our revenue, is invested in R&D.
So you can imagine how innovative Huawei is all across the company. We are also trying to do a lot of localization in different countries. So, in Europe, for example, we have around 140 university programmess and collaborations for innovations with European Union Cities. On top of that, we also have around 13 R&D centers in Europe.
This means that we don’t only have our headquarters in China and are just trying to sell our products everywhere. We really try to gather expertise from the local markets, understand them and tailor the products for the local needs.
In Spain, for instance, we currently have around 800 Huawei employees working in Spain right now. This is continuously developing and helps us to be really very close to the customers. And, at the same time, to be very active and very quick on innovations worldwide.