Digital Transformation: It’s Time to Move from Strategy to Execution


    Feb 04, 2022

    Most people would agree that digital technologies have played a critical role in keeping society functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This step-change in the use of digital tools and services also appears to be pervasive and permanent. A greatly enhanced digital acceleration of our economies is clearly underway, quicker even than the most optimistic of pre-crisis forecasts.

    The increased use of digital solutions by both businesses and consumers has brought society to the threshold of the ‘Smart Economy’. Recognising this new paradigm, several enlightened governments have put the digital sector at the core of their macroeconomic recovery plans. South Korea for example, announced its Digital New-Deal in May 2020 – an ambitious plan to move the country from a follower digital nation to a pacesetter, through substantial investments in 5G, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the Internet of Things.

    Germany’s current fiscal stimulus plan proposes €4.4 billion to fund extra artificial intelligence investments and to invest in quantum computing and 5G and 6G technologies. It also includes an additional €6.1bn of proposed funding to promote the digitalization of public services and smart city innovations. Japan’s government has provided a raft of initiatives to provide tax cuts and tax credits to support 5G roll-out and associated applications such as smart manufacturing. Other countries have pledged similar priorities or are swiftly realizing the benefits of doing so.

    First mover nations

    These national investments in digital infrastructure and digital ecosystems will undoubtedly help foster these countries’ resilience to COVID-19 and boost their economic recoveries into 2022. But for governments to maximize digital dividends for their societies, ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent, and provide first-mover advantage to their national digital ecosystems, the supporting policy environment and other factors will also play a crucial role.

    With this in mind, Huawei has produced a new report titled Digital Transformation: From Strategy to Execution to help companies, governments and individuals go beyond the strategic assessment of digital transformation to executing actual projects and programmes, learning from the best examples around the world.

    Figure 1 – National digital transformation evaluation mode

    Our team of researchers and technology experts have analysed data from more than 100 countries and real-world digital transformation projects.

    The research covers six perspectives

    • person
    • home
    • enterprise
    • city
    • industry
    • nation

    at four levels

    • nation
    • city
    • industry
    • enterprise

    and four stages

    • basic digitalization
    • digital applications
    • systematic digitalization
    • smart ecosystem.

    It interprets the framework of digital transformation and provides insights, use cases, and deployment strategies relating to digital infrastructure at different stages of digital transformation and the quantitative impact on the digital economy.

    At a national level, we propose a new evaluation model for forecasting success in terms of the execution of national digital transformation strategies. It is based on 12 thematic categories of crucial importance, composed of 29 detailed cross-country comparable metrics (see figure 1).

    Based on our calculations, we are able to map individual countries in terms of their current digital transformation stage and success to date. Countries like Singapore, Germany, the UK and France epitomize our group of “excellent practice” and are on the cusp or approaching the smart ecosystem stage of digital development. These tend to be high-income countries however. Other middle-income countries such as China, Malaysia, Estonia and Thailand also serve to provide excellent case studies (see figure 2) at lower levels of economic development.

    Figure 2 – Assessing likelihood of successful execution

    Five capabilities

    For the best execution of national digital transformation, our research proposes the maximization of five key capabilities.

    These are organizational, funding, talent, regulation, and finally ecosystem.
    Singapore is our exemplar for Organization. We establish that a vital driver of success nationally for digital transformation is the patronage and support from the very top of government. Here the Prime Minister’s office is actively involved in overseeing Singapore’s Smart National and Digital Government Group. It has the right of supervision and jurisdiction over other government departments in pushing through digital development.

    For Funding, the aim is to nurture and support a capable investing and financing environment and provide preferential policies to encourage the digital capital investments of commercial enterprises. In China, the CAICT and CNCERT/CC founded the Chinese Digital Economy Investment and Financing Alliance to improve the matchmaking efficiency of investment and financing in the digital economy. In Germany, the Digital Strategy 2025 proposed to invest €1bn in a fund to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) undertake digital transformation. The 2020 new investment subsidy plan Digital Jetz will continue to the end of 2023 with a total support fund of €203 million.

    In supporting Talent, the United Arab Emirates have launched a virtual academy plan to develop digital capabilities in the workforce. The program of teaching first identifies individuals according to their needs, be they digital beginners, intermediates or advanced. All training is provided for free to students including technology, business, network security and soft skills. The courses are provided by the government in cooperation with technical enterprises such as Huawei, Microsoft and SAP and professional enterprises such as the national computer organisation NCC and UAE Social Development Association.

    In terms of best practice in Regulation and the needs of the near future, France has created the French National Commission of Digital Ethics. The organization aims to encourage public discourse and provide advice and factual information. It works in cooperation with the national Commission of Information and Liberty as well as the Academy of Sciences of France as well as communicating closely with other foreign digital ethics organisations. So far, the pilot scheme focuses on the fields of artificial intelligence ethics in chatbot applications, autonomous vehicles and medical diagnostics.

    Finally, best practice examples of Digital Ecosystem development include Malaysia and its Multimedia Super Corridor project. The aim is to create a large-scale information corridor in the country. Currently over 4,000 enterprises have committed to participation. The government is helping to accelerate its development by means of tax exemptions and financial subsidies.

    The report also includes a myriad of examples of successful execution as you drill-down from the national level to the city level, industry digitalization and even to the individual enterprise. We hope that the research can be useful to practitioners in identifying successful real-world case studies to inspire their own successful digital transformations.

    Download the report Digital Transformation: From Strategy to Execution.

    Further Reading

    Read more about some of the key technologies and solutions powering digital transformation for organizations that can in turn lay the foundation for national digital transformation.

    Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.


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