2022 has not been a straightforward year. A war in Ukraine has seen the world divided and global energy and food supplies disrupted. International tensions between China and Taiwan have reared their heads again. Recession is looming in many parts of the world, and whilst it makes less headlines, Covid is still very much a part of our lives.
But organisations exist to solve problems and provide solutions. So, to mark the end of a rollercoaster year, we're pulling together leaders from three organisations to talk about the challenges they've faced this year, and how they are moving forward into 2023.
Why isn't talking tech as simple, quick, and agile as its innovations promise to be?
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Join your host Michael Bird as he untangles innovation through a series of interviews, stories, and analyses with some of the industry's brightest brains. No marketing speak, no unnecessary jargon. This is real tech talk from the people who know it inside and out.
Discover which tools and systems are revolutionising the way we do business, what's up next on the endless innovation agenda, and, most importantly, how you can future-proof and get ahead of the curve.
The trap that I've seen is that people treat disruptions binary. It's either the business has been disrupted or it hasn't been disrupted. And what we've seen is that there are varying degrees of disruption.
So that was 2022, and it's fair to say it's not been a straightforward year. Most notably, there's a war in Europe, which has seen both enormous human suffering, catastrophic economic impacts, and growing threats of escalation.
In turn, that's been at least a partial player in high inflation, seen in many countries already, and a risk of sliding into recession in many parts of the world.
It's been a year of record breaking extremes for the climate too with hotter days, bigger and later storm seasons, and severe flooding in many parts of the world.
So you'd be forgiven for thinking that 2022 has been, well, a bit shambolic, but this is Technology Untangled and we only look back at the past to show how it's shaping the future. So rather than look back with our heads and our hands at the year just gone, we are here to look at the way global organizations have ridden out the challenges of 2022 and are looking ahead to 2023.
You're listening to Technology Untangled, a show which looks at the rapid evolution of technology and unravels the way it's changing our world.
I'm your host, Michael Bird.
2022 was, in many ways, the year the globalized world became a bit more divided. Russia's invasion of Ukraine back in February saw the world's ninth largest economy have heavy sanctions imposed against them from the EU, UK, USA, and many others.
The result of this created stress and strain on the global energy market, which shifted the balance of power in the world and highlighted just how divided our governments can be.
That being said, global organizations are still, well, global, even if the countries they are based in are not the best of friends at the moment. In some cases, that's causing a unique coming together of minds across borders for common purpose.
Hi, I'm Bobby Ford, Chief Security Officer for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
It's always been a habit of mine when I start at a place to reach out to the CISO at our peer and our competitor organizations. I've always done that; peers and competitors.
And the reason why is because we're not competing. We're competing against the adversary. And the adversary are those that would do us harm, right? Anyone that would degrade, destroy, or disrupt our data. So that's who we're competing against.
And so the reason why I say I think it happens at a people level is because once you understand that there are hands behind the keyboards, there are hands behind the controls, then it's like, "all right, who's on my team? regardless of where they sit geographically, who's on my team?" And you connect with those individuals.
And so I have counterparts and I'm part of networks with individuals who are CISOs in geographies that the geography I live in isn't necessarily aligned with. And it's because it gives me a different set of information. It gives me a different perspective, a different vantage point.
And it's not just in the world of cybersecurity that people have been brought together over the course of the last year.
One of the world's fastest growing sports in terms of spectator numbers and revenue is eSports, which has seen an 11% rise in revenue over the course of the last two or three years. And that's despite the sport taking a massive revenue hit during COVID.
And it truly is an international sport. Whilst the biggest nations in the sport are China and the US, they are closely followed by South Korea, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, France, Brazil, Germany, Canada, and the UK.
And the players are a truly global bunch as well. Going on average earnings per player, the most successful eSports nations in the world are Jordan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Though a few very successful players in each country do raise their average quite significantly.
So as you can see, it's a pretty effective way of bridging borders, even if those borders are getting harder to cross.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
Hi. I'm Nicole LaPointe Jameson, and I am the CEO of Evil Geniuses, which is a Seattle headquartered eSports organization, but we have a global footprint and offices as well in Los Angeles, as well as Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Evil Geniuses, though, is one of actually the oldest eSports organizations in the world. We were founded in '99 as a Quake clan, which is a very old video game maybe some of our audience listeners are familiar with.
Yeah, you know what? Funny you say Quake. Quake and Age of Empires were the two games that we played in the computer lab at school-
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
... Rather than doing any work. So yeah, good times with Quake.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
It's an interesting space to be in, because I would say it's probably the best kept secret from people above the age of 40. League of Legends, as a fun fact, is one of the most popular franchise sports for people under the age of 25. And that's something that youth culture I think is aware of.
And the understanding of gaming being niche, being nerdy, being awkward kids in a basement, as that continues to generationally phase out and be proven untrue, the rise of eSports as a ubiquitous and universal entertainment and sport product continues to grow.
And you see this, especially, in the APAC region and Asia. EU is pretty popular. LATAM is huge, especially Brazil, with eSports. And the US is getting there and coming along in its own way.
And it's huge. Huge, huge, huge. We hit millions in a month just on owned-and-operated channels.
And forgive my question, but do they fill stadiums or is it all just you watch it online?
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
Yes. Very much fill stadiums.
The beauty of the sport is we've grown up pretty digitally native, so the watching online is a key component.
Well, then you look at Micro Scales, for example, League of Legends, right now happening currently in the US roadshow; sold out Hulu theater at Madison Square Garden. You go back two years to TI in 2019 for Dota; sold out Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
These are real stadiums, real arenas.
I'm guessing there's quite a lot of international travel if there are competitions around the world.
So how have you as an organization dealt with the problems of travel and I guess shifting global tensions over the last few years?
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
I don't know if many other startup CEOs have their insurance agent's phone number in their cell phone. Because it varies so often. We're like, "Hey, we're traveling to this place. Can you update our ransom insurance?"
Just the nuances and the locations that we go to, the spread is incredible. So it requires a bit of precision.
And so when we travel to places, especially areas of geopolitical risk, or given we're a US country, and depending on the President, US foreign country relations tend to vary, the finesse and management there requires professionalism and precision that you just don't find in other spaces. And making sure our players feel supported and safe in that is important.
Planning for the worst and maintaining your brand values in the face of international tensions is an area Bobby Ford is very familiar with.
As leader of Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Business Resilience Team, planning for real world disruption, be that war, political division, legal wrangling, natural disasters, or even just the discontinuation of a popular gaming title, in Evil Genius's case, is something that tech organizations are having to very much plan for.
The old saying goes that, "To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail." And as organizations get more interconnected and more global, the number of potential failure points grows and grows.
You've worked against quite major cybersecurity threats to firms. How do you deal with more tangible threats, like sanctions or supply chain issues, or anything to do with international tensions, particularly the stuff that's been happening I guess in the last three or four years?
The first thing you have to do is you have to make sure that you have a robust business resilience plan in place.
I'm fortunate enough to be able to lead our Business Resilience Team, and it starts with business resilience. And whether it's a disruption that's caused by some weather event, if it's a disruption that's caused by a cyber event, or if it's a disruption caused by some geopolitical event, or if it's a disruption caused by some type of, and I've seen this, regulatory event, it's making sure that you have the right team in place in order to respond to that.
And the trap that I've seen, and it's one of the things that we're dealing with now, Michael, is that people treat disruptions binary. It's either the business has been disrupted or it hasn't been disrupted. And what we've seen is that there are varying degrees of disruption.
Even if you just take the COVID crisis, there were varying degrees of disruption before it was an all out, "Hey, we're completely disrupted." And what we're doing at HPE is we're doing better drills of scenario planning, looking at varying degrees of disruption so that it isn't so binary.
And it starts with sometimes the disruption could be sanctions, right? Moving from there to sometimes the disruption could be an exit of employees. And then those sanctions can escalate and they could cause varying degrees of disruption.
So it's looking at it from that standpoint and that vantage point, making sure that you're not treating business resilience sort of binary.
Planning and strategizing for disasters, shortages and international tension is one thing, but there's one particular industry where decisions aren't just work-shopped and strategized months in advance. Instead, it's days, hours, minutes, or even seconds ahead of time.
That's in the world of motors sport, and there can't be many people who understand that better than Oracle Red Bull Racing CEO and team principal Christian Horner.
He's fresh off a year of incredible highs on the track with the team winning their first Formula One Constructors' Championship since 2013, and driver Max Verstappen winning 15 out of 22 races in the season for his second consecutive driver's championship win.
But whilst the corks were being popped on the podium, behind the scenes, things have already been ramping up for 2023, and the challenges are coming thick and fast for the team.
Yep. My name's Christian Horner. I'm the CEO and team principal of Oracle Red Bull Racing Formula One team.
So 2022 has been quite a big year for change for the sport. Can you just talk me through what some of the big changes were?
Yeah, 2022 has been a massive change, both in regulations ... It was the biggest chassis change in the last 40 years-
... Going to ground effect cars. So a complete philosophy change. And it was a question of, how do you adapt to those rules and regulations?
Then behind the scenes, we've been building the Powertrains business, building a factory within 55 weeks, designing and firing up an engine in also just under a year.
It's been an incredible period for the company, for the team, whilst on track delivering the kind of results that we have been.
So yeah, it's been hugely challenging on and off track.
Can you talk about just those ground effect regulations? What's the impact been to the team in particular?
Well, it was very much a complete philosophy changer. Because 2021 was such an intense championship for us, it sucked us in much later than we wanted to be, probably longer than any other team.
So we were the last team to transition onto these very new regulations and therefore felt that we'd probably be on the back foot coming into the season.
But I have to say, the technical team did an unbelievable job, a wonderful job with the RB18, and produced a car that was quick from the first race. A little overweight, but as we were able to trim that out, the competitive just got stronger and stronger and stronger. And to win 17 of the 22 races was a phenomenal achievement by the entire team.
And of course, you start the season with one car, but you are constantly having to develop because your competitors are wanting to try and catch up with you.
Yeah. Well, it is a development race, but of course, you've got a cost cap that you're constrained. You can't just have freefall development. So it's strategically where do you apply your development and cost effectively and cost efficiently?
And of course, we're up against some mighty competitors. You can't back off for one moment, otherwise you're going backwards.
And it's not just regulatory changes that have proven difficult in 2022. Getting hold of vital tech has proven difficult as well, and companies are still being forced to do more with less.
The global chip shortage has continued in many sectors, as constant zero tolerance COVID lockdowns in China have continued to affect supply chains the world over.
Whilst in some areas, such as storage, there's now a better supply and prices are falling, in other areas, shortages continue to plague everything from data center providers to car manufacturers, both race cars and consumer vehicles.
There's been a global shortage of everything from graphics cards to musical instruments, and no one, no matter their clout, has been able to ignore it. And that has particularly affected eSports, an organization which relies very heavily on market leading computer tech.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
Supply chain and access, especially to graphic cards and chips, have been really difficult, just like the layperson. We're lucky in that we have some weight and prestige and access, but if it doesn't exist, it doesn't exist, and nowhere around the pecking chain, even if you're number one, changes that manufacturing supply chain.
So making sure we've not only been smart with upkeep and care, but also scrappy.
We actually have a good amount of community partners as well as on staff. If you want a custom PC built, you probably want to go to an eSports organization. They can probably build it in 20 minutes, and it's going to run like probably some of the most advanced computers that you'd find in the commercial market today.
Making sure we're thoughtful and keeping up to date on tech trends is critical.
And then of course, those partnerships where we get early access or R&D access is important, because if a player doesn't have their proper mouse for a tournament, rightfully or wrongfully, in their mind, they've lost that tournament, and when there's millions of dollars on the line, that's not really acceptable to us.
It's hard to imagine that a computer mouse could be the difference between winning and losing a multimillion pound tournament, but that possibility is all too real. And planning for the unexpected weeks and months ahead is a vital part of success on the day.
And speaking of challenges on the day, what happens when things don't really go to plan, even with the best preparation in the world?
I wanted to ask Christian how the team bakes its strategy into races and how they adapt on the fly.
Everybody has to know what their role and function is.
Because of course, you can't necessarily ... You don't know what those strategy calls are going to be, for example. But is there a lot of just practice and rehearsal of like, "Okay, if it's going to be this, this is what we do; if it's going to be this, this is what we do?"
Yeah. I mean, you talk about all the possibilities prior to a Grand Prix, and of course you can't cover all of them, and that's where sometimes you have to believe in the tools, sometimes you have to use the breadth of experience that you have to draw on, and sometimes it's just instinct.
And how often do you get involved in those big strategy calls? Is it usually, "This is what we're going to be doing, Christian?" Or is it, "Christian, we think-"
Well, we have a military type operation, where during a Grand Prix, the strategist will be working, reporting directly to myself where they'll present the options and I'll basically sign off on those options with a chain of command that we operate.
And I've got the opportunity to challenge those options as well and to ask to look at different scenarios and to look at things from a tactical point of view, from a team perspective.
So it's a very involved process during a Grand Prix. It goes incredibly quickly, working very, very closely with the strategy engineers.
Because it sounds like that could take a while, but I guess that's something that is quite a quick process.
Very much so. And it flies by very, very quickly. So the strategists are constantly putting in front of you a plot of their perceived options to the end of a Grand Prix, and we're constantly debating, "Okay, if a safety car comes out now, what are we going to do?"
But of course, the more data you have, the more informed you can be in order to make that decision.
We take great pride in working with technical partners that actually are involved in the output of our Grand Prix, and whether that's the software that we use, whether that's the data analysis tools that we use, whether it's the connectivity that we use, they are key factors and play a key role in the output and the success of any individual race.
Data is our lifeblood. I mean, without data we're not going anywhere. And also how we manage that data, how we translate that data, it's crucial. And we generate so much data off these cars-
... That at any point in time that they're running or operating, there's just gigabytes of data that are there to be looked at and analyzed.
Using data to inform strategies and decisions is something which Formula One has undoubtedly pioneered, but it's quickly being adopted in other segments, including eSports. In fact, it had a direct impact on the Nicole LaPointe Jameson and the team at Evil Genius.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
I was very privileged. And so this isn't a shameless plug, this truly helped shape some of our strategy this year. But HPE brought me out to Formula One in Miami. I left with pages of notes that I called my data team in the airport on the flight home, going, "We have to be more like Formula One in this area."
Because historically, we just take player feedback, but making sure we have an empirical hardware understanding as well ...
Even now we've integrated basic, basic biometrics, eye tracking and movement, visibility, depth perception, things like this, to help us get smarter on not only how to increase the longevity of our players and athletes, but also find markers for good ones. Very much an area of open opportunity that we are excited to tackle and challenge.
Even natural language processing of communications. I actually think some of our data science interns are doing a capstone on that right now.
Finding opportunities to just continue to get smarter in purposeful ways. We don't have the funding to be an endless R&D exercise, but making sure we have good thesis that we test and try out and then roll into practice, that is entirely opportunities that we are exploring and always open to get smarter with.
So I guess this is also now a plug for any good engineering talent that want to come into eSports.
Running a major international organization in 2022 is a plate spinning exercise, particularly in the sporting world. Balancing regulations, shortages, international tensions and the like can be a huge undertaking. Getting people and equipment where it needs to be is draining. And global events can change things for businesses in a real way, for example, the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix following the start of the war in Ukraine.
And whilst big names like Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez in Formula One, and Evil Genius' top earning player, Sumail Hassan, get the glory on the day, keeping those big names winning and therefore keeping the business going is a 365 days a year challenge for their huge support teams, as Nicole was keen to point out.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
The player admins are the secret super men and women of our teams.
Because first of all, this job requires a very special finesse person. They of course have to understand, in a bag of mice, whose mice goes where, how do they want it plugged in, what angle do they like their keyboard set at for optimal movement?
But then of course, they need to remember, this player wants sparkling water; this player wants caffeinated blue 5 Gum every game; this player should have had two bananas an hour before the game, otherwise they will not perform.
And again, just like any probably celebrity or sports athlete, they have rituals, and making sure our admins know to remove all obstacles to support oftentimes groups of five or six players' rituals is their job.
You take that and then you take the fact that some of our teams are on the road traveling 250 days a year. And so who gets them from point A to point B? Those player admins.
And those are some of our hardiest, most flexible, most resilient ... Talk about grit; grittiest human beings.
Because imagine even when you're working in any relationship dynamics, how you balance being liked, being trusted and being respected, and they're the on-prem ambassador for the organization, for the players; and those sometimes can be competing interests.
I don't envy that job at all. Those are some of our hardiest and most wonderful humans at EG. And our player operations runs with a fine tooth comb.
Because there's also this nuance, with much love, that our players ... Some of our players are 30 and functional adults. They have a husband or a wife, or sometimes even kids or a dog. And then we have the 16 year olds who have never ... They don't have a credit card yet. And so the needs and spectrum of care can vary quite highly in how you make sure we're maintaining good humans and good brand face, and all of this.
It is no mean feat keeping a team of diverse personalities on the road and operating at their best, for sure. But that is taken to another level when you start to look at Formula One, who have to ship not just the cars, but multiple entire garage setups around the world, as well as having research and development teams at home, building and testing bits for this season, as well as working on next season's cars.
So not only are you trying to run a race car on the track, there's obviously you are here Monday to Friday, running a business, and you've got [inaudible 00:24:16] Powertrains, but there's obviously the logistics of getting a team, a car and everything else that goes with it to a track ... To 24 different races or 23?
23. [inaudible 00:24:25]
23 races, yeah.
How does that work?
I mean, operationally and logistically, it's a big challenge because we're approximately 100 to 120 people per Grand Prix with marketing and technicians and engineers and so on.
And so technically, we have five sets of what you see track side that are shipped around the world to different destinations, and they're constantly coming or going to and from those destinations, then the cars and the spare parts are flown from Grand Prix to Grand Prix.
So logistically, it's a big, big exercise.
Has there ever been a scenario where, I don't know, like a ship got delayed or a plane got delayed?
Yes. There was one earlier this year where thankfully we weren't team effected. But there was another team that missed running and testing at the beginning of the year because the shipping was delayed.
So are there any lessons from the way an F1 team prepare for seasons and races which you think other businesses can take away with them?
Well, look, I mean, how we prepare going into the season is we compile the best information that we can to come up with a starting point on the car, but then of course we have to develop that car and change that car throughout the year and only change if something needs changing for the better.
So preparation is everything going into a season; thinking about, what are the challenges ahead, what are going to be the potential scenarios? And I think that's probably something that you can apply into other businesses or sectors.
What's becoming clear is that, in today's international climate, it's vital that organizations stay one step ahead and plan for the worst so that, if it does happen, and in 2023 or 2024, it just might, they can adapt and work around the challenges that could otherwise scupper long-term goals.
Identifying trends, threats, and opportunities before they arise is a vital part of running a successful international business, as HP's Bobby Ford explains.
That's like the threat intelligence, right? It's that constant proactive looking for, where could the threat potentially come from?
Hmm-mm. I guess being proactive rather than reactive.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It goes back to my military days and you're constantly looking for, "Where's the threat? Where could the threat be in six months, 12 months, 18 months?" And so you're gathering that.
And then you're trying to marry that threat intelligence with the business intelligence, because if there's a threat that's brewing in a geography, but nowhere in your strategic roadmap is that geography there, you don't really care about it as much, right? You keep an eye on it, but it's not as critical as, "Hey, there's this threat that's brewing in this small geography, but we shouldn't really worry about it." "Well, we're actually planning a major launch in that geography in 12 months." "All right? Now I care more about it."
That's why I said it has to happen at the intersection of business intelligence and threat intelligence.
And if you don't make the time to prepare and adapt, well, you're only making life harder for yourself. There is no downtime in modern organizations. There's no quiet period; only times when you can be preparing for the next rush.
Take F1, for example. The season might be over, the champagne and rosewater has been uncorked, sprayed and drunk, trophies have been neatly put away, and last season's car is already being made ready for the display plinth. But that absolutely doesn't mean that the car parks at Red Bull racing in Milton Keynes are empty for the next few months. Far from it.
Well, it's a very hectic time off track, despite the fact that we've just finished racing. The factory is flat out producing the following year's car, there's commercial agreements that have to be renewed. There's an awful lot to do off track in the planning phase for the season ahead.
So it's actually the work that you do in this period that sets you up for the season ahead.
So if this part of the year doesn't go well, then [inaudible 00:28:38]
You're in for a tricky summer. Yeah.
So it's all the prep work that goes in at this time of year that tees up the season ahead.
So what can we learn from the ways that organizations are dealing with an uncertain world in 2022 and in 2023?
Well, for Bobby, it's about seeing a common purpose and defeating a common enemy.
Talking to a CISO in the US is one thing. Being able to reach out to a CISO in Russia is another. And being able to exchange text messages with them, WhatsApp messages with them, it gives you a different perspective.
We're more connected now than we've ever been before. When I think about geopolitical events, and when I think about any type of tension between nations, I think that private organizations have always felt the impact of that.
And we run in the same circles.
It's sort of like ... I don't know if you're an American football fan, but it's like, if we're both playing the position of quarterbacks, our teams may compete, but we both want to be really, really good quarterbacks, so we probably will go to some quarterback camps together, we may use similar trainers or similar dieticians, or the same trainers or the same dieticians. Because really, we're just trying to get better. We're on the same team.
For Nicole, it's about identifying opportunities to expand and grow the sport with new streams of revenue and new opportunities.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson:
If you think of our audience and our fans as concentric circles, the tiniest being eSports, the broader being gaming, and the biggest being pop culture, we've cemented our position in eSports, we've done a great job at gaming, and as we continue to want to build into, "How does Evil Geniuses show up in pop culture?", that's where our eyes are going forward.
Because our fans and community reflect the stratification and demographics of pop culture, and it's, how do we help push this narrative that is different than some of the other brands that have transcended to that space of why EG also matters [inaudible 00:30:48] of the game.
And that will continue to help us commercialize and bring in talent.
So that's kind of what I'll call our brand focus for next year, while not cannibalizing our competitive success or our cultural values.
Very pragmatically, and maybe ... Sorry, I got to put in more of my boring answers.
But we're also watching macro market movements. And gaming always behaves a little weird in bear markets, because ... COVID is a good example. You see people utilize this as an accessible escapist platform or technology. Game sales weren't really harmed.
How will game viewership participation sales and revenue be impacted? Making sure we're agile and thoughtful around how to pivot or fail fast and move on quickly.
I'll end with a spicy take.
I think these are probably some of the final years we will be having conversations around like, "Why eSports?", or, "What is eSports?" Because if you see, the generation of Pokemon trainer kids are now having kids and making more Pokemon trainers.
The multi-generationality of this sport is coming. I am excited for eSports to take its place.
And for Christian, it's about finally balancing the needs of the business today against the challenges you can foresee in the future.
We will be going to next year as the reigning world champions looking to defend those titles, and it will be, I'm sure, a very intense and competitive year. I've got no doubt about that, that we'll have a much harder run next year than we've had this year.
As somebody who's gone through [inaudible 00:32:24] winning multiple championships in a row, do you find the year after winning a championship or even two years after it, does it get harder and harder? Is that because of the pressure on you?
It never gets easier.
So there you have it. Make friends, prepare for the known and unknown, and win.
Whether it's challenges in international politics, challenges with logistics, or challenges in regulation, 2022 has been a tough year for organizations around the world.
But hey, we exist to tackle challenges and provide solutions. It's what organizations do. Because humans are stronger when we work together.
You've been listening to Technology Untangled. I'm your host, Michael Bird, and a huge thanks to Bobby Ford, Nicole LaPointe Jameson and Christian Horner.
You can find more information on today's episode in the show notes.
And this is the seventh episode of season three of Technology Untangled. We've got two more episodes to come, one about big data and one about ransomware. So keep your eye out for those before we return with an all new season four later in the spring.
Today's episode was written and produced by Sam Datter, and me, Michael Bird. Sound design and editing was by Alex Bennett with production support from Harry Morton, Alicia Kempson, Alison Paisley, Alex Podmore, and Ed Everston.
Technology Untangled is a Lower Street production for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.