Opinion by Thought Leaders
Read the latest opinions from tech & business pros across the globe.

Here's Why eSports Revenues are Trumping Traditional Sports

 

Traditional sports are getting a beating by eSports and the answer for why will surprise you. Before we get into that, let's define what eSports means. Basically it describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming, whereby competitors from different leagues or teams all over the country and indeed the globe face off in all the games popular with at-home gamers, from Fortnite and League of Legends to Call of Duty and Madden NFL. Millions of fans all over the world tune in to watch these gamers, who treat eSports like it's their day job (in fact, for many, it is their day job). That's because it's a pretty lucrative industry, pulling in billions of dollars a year (yes, that's billion with a "b").

A Look at the Numbers

Whether gamers and viewers attend live events, tune in on TV or online, or use streaming services like Twitch, it's all happening in real time, a platform that allows the most popular gamers to build up their fandoms to fever-pitch levels. According to a recent report, 380 million people worldwide are estimated to watch eSports this year, including 165 million eSports enthusiasts (A.K.A., frequent viewers), with the bulk of them watching from North America, China and South Korea.    Tournaments and other events bring in viewing crowds rivaling most traditional professional sports outings, surpassing such events as the World Cup and the World Series. To illustrate this, the 2017 League of Legends World Championship brought in 80 million viewers, the most ever for a competition in the history of the industry. Consider that the current World Series is the lowest rated and least-watched World Series game since 2014, according to Sports Media Watch.  According to Statista, the global eSports market revenue was valued at nearly 865 million U.S. dollars in 2018, expected to reach 1.79 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. The majority of this revenue stems from sponsorship and advertisements, followed by betting, prize pools, merchandise, tournaments, and ticket sales.

A Look at the Why

So why is eSports smashing new records every day? Why is it overtaking the collective consciousness of kids and adults alike at such a break-neck speed? Why is it raking in money by the bucket? Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why eSports is so popular and is surpassing traditional sports is that it doesn't discriminate. You can be virtually any age, from any background, from any athletic or academic level, from any region on the planet, and you can make out big time with eSports. Take a look at the 16-year-old from Pennsylvania who just won $3 million from Fortnite to become its first-ever solo world champion. Or check out the latest Wall Street Journal article that explores why the next generation of competitive gamers is over the age of 60. This is pretty interesting, considering the eSports industry has always been largely young and male. 

A big shot in the arm for the eSports industry is how it's attracting big celebrities to get in on the game, including basketball legend Michael Jordan (a traditional sports powerhouse dabbling in both realms!) and investors like Mark Cuban who also has a lot at stake in eSports-related entities. Even the New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft paid $20 million to buy the Boston-based team in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League.

eSports vs. Traditional

Whitman reports the U.S. will have more viewers than every professional sports league except the NFL by 2021, projecting there will be 84 million viewers of eSports by then. This is higher than the 79 million MLB viewers or the 63 million NBA viewers for traditional TV sports. The only number eSports can't touch -- yet -- is the viewership for the NFL's Superbowl at 141 million viewers. 

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Is Your Digital Transformation Strategy for Real?

 

Digital transformation is a good thing and it's been talked about the last several years as CIOs, CEOs, and other execs look to make a move. However, lately it's just become a "buzzword," generating a lot of hype. How can you ensure you have a solid digital transformation strategy?   Many businesses, large and small, are attempting to transform their processes using digital tools. Many cases of transformation have been successful, creating solutions that enhance problem solving while driving efficiency and bottom line gains, says Forbes. Digital transformations are even tougher than traditional change efforts to make work. However, the most effective transformations usually rely on certain factors for success. Here are some things you should be doing.

1. Secure Strong Leaders

Digital transformations demand change at all levels of your organization, particularly from key decision makers and tech-savvy leaders. Research has shown that companies that engage a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to be a supportive force behind their transformations are nearly two times more likely to have a successful digital transformation than those that do not. When people in leadership roles are heavily involved and invested in the planning and execution, the transformation is far more likely to succeed.

2. Take Inventory

Once your key decision-makers have committed to making a digital transformation strategy work, it's time to take stock of your company's tech stack, including competencies and gaps, as part of your email marketing, CRM and internal collaboration systems so you can better streamline your processes. Often times, digital transformations stem from a desperate need to re-platform. Maybe your current system is obsolete or maybe your existing system just isn't working for your employees and users any longer. Whatever the case, changing your technologies can reawaken your whole business.


3. Craft a Digital Roadmap

Creating a vision to strive for is important because digital transformation isn't just about implementing new technologies and stopping there. Rather, it's a systemic grassroots effort that needs to be fueled by a well-thought-out vision. Know how you will leverage your digital tools as part of a detailed plan for execution across your whole company.


4. Reiterate Your Goals

Take another look at your goals, going over your digital transformation agenda over and over, making sure you have included:

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Creating Highly Successful Habits

 

We look at them with envy. We want what they have: that charisma, that business success, that certain something that makes them stand out from a crowd. They are highly successful people, and they are envied. What do they have that you don't? Turns out, they have dedication and an unflagging sense of persistence. That's not all. They have a laser beam focus on the end game and the best path to get there. They don't let distractions get in the way, they broaden their minds every single day, they put their health first and they have a PLAN. Not just for tomorrow but for a decade, two, three from now.

Creating highly successful habits in your own personal and professional life doesn't take an MBA. It doesn't even take a lot of cash. Here are some habits of successful people and how they view life just a little bit differently from the rest of us.

Talk to Yourself

Even at the top of your game, even when you're bringing in the numbers that make everyone else jealous, there's another level that goes beyond honing skills to be even technically better. It involves perfecting your internal dialogue. Research suggests that talking to yourself like you would to someone else in your same situation can help you better handle stressful experiences, says Business Insider.

Make a Plan

Many people wait till the morning when they get behind their desk to make a plan for the upcoming eight hours. Successful people are one step ahead -- they do it the night before. Getting off track is easy when you don't have a plan. It's even easier when you wait till the last minute to make that plan. Without looking ahead as early as the night before, you won't really know what you want to accomplish and how to get there. By the time you make a plan in the morning, already an hour has gone by and you've wasted critical energy that could be better spent on productivity. Give yourself clear goals the night before your day and you'll be able to wake up and hit the ground running, advises Success.

Eliminate the Negatives

The secret to planning, then, is to begin with the negatives and systematically eliminate them from your path to success, advises Early to Rise. First, identify the obstacles in your path. It can be something as simple as hitting snooze five times in the morning or as complex as not hitting your sales goals for the quarter. Isolate the obstacle, then develop two solutions for each, as having both a Plan A and a Plan B virtually guarantees you will stay focused.

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What Young Adults Want in Their Careers

 

There is no doubt that the generation that comprises the group of people known as millennials is unlike any generation encountered in the past. Including people born from the early 1980s through the mid 1990s, millennials are unique in numerous aspects, ranging from the technology available during childhood and today, the relationship with parents, economic and educational prospects, and overall culture. Generation Z, which is also known as the post-millennial generation or the iGeneration is equally as unique, and as these young people transition into adulthood, there are numerous questions about what the future will look like.

But while millennial and generation Z culture may be something that those of other generations are neither able to relate to nor understand, when it comes to the workforce, what young adults want from their careers may more closely resemble the desires of other generations than one would think.

What Young Adults Want in Their Careers - The Similarities and Differences

There are a number of things that young adults today want in their careers that are very different from what young adults from generations past wanted. These differences are based, in large part, due to technology and opportunity. For example, working remotely was hardly an option for generations past, but with the proliferation of wi-fi, there are many jobs that can be performed from anywhere in the world.

When polled, young people are also much more likely than older Americans to say that a top priority in finding a new job is that the job is enjoyable and provides the individual with a feeling of “making a difference.” Older Americans, on the other hand, are likely to prioritize salary.

But there are also a lot of similarities between what younger and older generations want in a career, too. Some of these similarities include:

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Why AI is Crucial to Cyber Security

 

When you think of AI (artificial intelligence), the first thought you may have is in regards to games, recreation, and futuristic robots. After all, AI is the next big thing in virtual video games, taking "reality" to a whole new level. However, AI is so much more than that. There has been a lot of hype about AI in the last couple of years. Again, most of it in the form of promises of faster answers, better outcomes, and improved productivity. From advanced machine learning and intelligent apps to digital twins and conversational systems, AI is just breaking out of an emerging state with substantial disruptive potential across all industries, says Gartner. Please don't misunderstand, there have been many examples of advancements in various industries with AI algorithms from predictive analytics in healthcare to cognitive science.

However, a lot of AI development is being spent in the cyber security space, as well it should with the advent of ransomware, sophisticated malware and the like. All the top technology companies are spending millions each year on AI and cyber security -- from Microsoft to Google, from Cisco to Symantec, including the big name anti-virus companies. However, in the last few years, there has been an increase in startups around security tools that tout machine learning and AI (Darktrace, Cylance, AlienVault, etc.). You can look at this trend by checking out Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, 2016, and 2015.


Robust security strategies are critical

While there is no "silver bullet" when it comes to protecting your company's network (at least not yet), it is important to have a robust, multi-layered security strategy. Unfortunately, those who are becoming most advanced when it comes to AI in terms of security are the ones on the offensive: cyber criminals, says Banking Technology. The way to combat these criminals is to escalate AI defenses. However, nothing is fool proof. There's not enough manpower in the world to make sure networks are 100% secure 100% of the time, especially with the prevalence of a cloud-based infrastructure.

Solid products, knowledgeable technical staff, and end-user training go hand-in-hand. This should include social engineering training and the use of AI/machine learning in your environment. As an example, on top of your traditional firewall and IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), add an industry-proven endpoint monitoring system, preferably one that uses machine learning to identify and prevent bad code from executing. Then, add a tool that gives you a holistic view of your entire network in real time that identifies advanced threats, including those stealthy, unconventional, silent attackers. Be sure that your end-user security training is inclusive, given regularly, and updated often as trends change around social engineering and phishing.


Additional risks in the healthcare realm

The risks with cyber security aren't just financial, although that aspect can certainly be devastating. We've all heard the stories of major retailers and credit card companies getting hacked for stolen account numbers and sensitive private information. However, the threat goes beyond that into the very realm of life and death. We're talking specifically about the healthcare industry. Whereas cyber attackers in years past have struck quickly and loudly as part of a virtual sneak attack, today's cyber criminals are taking it much more slowly and methodically. The focus now is not just on stealing the data, but altering that data without detection, according to CNBC.

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CIO value proposition: Negotiating key IT vendor contracts

 

While it's important for CIOs to provide a strategic advantage and to work on creating a partnership mentality, one area that needs to be smartly managed are those cumbersome and expensive vendor contracts.

We've talked about how CIOs can bring value to the organization through flexibility, business capability, strategic advantage and the development of a partnership mentality. Companies nowadays are measuring the value of their IT departments and their services, comparing their company's technology and capability to others' technology acumen and agility. Are they creating benchmarks as a result of those outcomes? While it's important for CIOs to provide a strategic advantage and to work on creating a partnership mentality, one area that needs to be smartly managed are those cumbersome and expensive vendor contracts.

Before you negotiate a key vendor contract, you need to have developed the right vendor management strategy; failure to do so can result in a dysfunctional relationship that can negatively impact your business, according to The Balance. While you need to be prepared to play hardball, you must also value your vendor and build a strategic partnership that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Although you want to be the hero and negotiate a rate that boosts the company's bottom line, you don't want to go too far and turn your vendor off. And you REALLY don't want to cut corners on service, which can hurt your business and cause an eventual breakdown of the relationship.

So, how can you negotiate key IT vendor agreements so as to benefit your company as well as preserve the vendor relationship?

Recognizing the value

In terms of IT buyers, strategic partners are vendors that have not only provided effective delivery of systems and services, they have gone one step further to become transparent, responsive and trusted collaborators for generating value for the enterprise -- consistently. Vendors who fail to achieve this competitive advantage will only have price to fall back on, bringing them too far down the competitive ladder. The "mutual win" can be put at risk if the most strategic vendor relationships are not pursued strongly.

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