How to design a Fantastic business process
There is an abundance of literature on guidelines, notations and tools for process modeling. These are comprehensive and the large overlap between different sources indicates that the core elements are generally understood. While these comprehensive resources are useful, seeing elegant process design in action is worth more than a 1000 words of literature. A great ‘in-situ’ example is the Fantasy Premier League which provides a great case study on the key elements of a well-designed business process.
The concept is of fantasy league is simple: participants select a team of players every gameweek and based on their selected players’ actual game performance, participants accumulate points. It is played via a purpose built website. The ‘process’ of playing fantasy league can be visualized as value chain “Selection to Standings”. The players in the fantasy team gain points based on how the actually performed and correspondingly, the participants move up or down standings on the strength of their gameweek ‘picks’. The link is clear — selections drive standings. In similar fashion, good processes are discernible, have a clear trigger followed by a set of ‘transformation’ activities that result in a discrete outcome.
Use the Power Mix
In Fantasy League, there are a number of well-defined rules that govern selection rules, playing and scoring. In similar fashion, good processes are grounded in well-defined business rules. Business rules provide clarity for decision-making. When clear definitions of roles & responsibilities, and streamlined workflows are added to this mix, we have the three critical building blocks of good process design.
Design for Scale
Fantasy League can be played as an individual but also with friends through a series of private & public leagues. And like all good games, you can spend as little or as much time on it as you want. In similar fashion, good business processes scale efficiently and effectively to match operational requirements.
Fantasy League is all about numbers & information — budget allocation, performance indices, injury lists etc. Statistics are provided in abundance but importantly, they are displayed in different ‘views’ ensuring that the different facets of information are there to support decision-making. For example the transfers page has more detailed statistics than the selection page as more analysis is required in deciding whom to bring in/out as opposed to simply picking the starting XI from the squad of XV. The statistics provided are routinely factored into selection decisions. In similar fashion, good process design associates itself with metrics and strives to provide users with relevant information within context to improve the quality of their decision-making.
Fantasy League offers real time scoring and uses official match-day statistics to update tables for assists, fouls, bonus points etc. Data is the currency of fantasy league and it would most likely be aggregated by a ‘data provider’ who supplies the information (e.g. Opta). In similar fashion, good process design integrates with suppliers/partners in terms of information and/or material flow. We have already seen numerous examples where tight supply chain interaction has led to remarkable process and business transformation.
Fantasy League is played through a website which uses system controls to enforce the playing rules. For example, if the allocated budget of £100m is exceeded, a warning appears. In similar fashion, good process design judiciously utilizes system-based and other controls to enforce key rules, ensure compliance with policies and to prevent errors.
So there we are. I’ve read many books and articles on process design and have also designed a number of business processes. While these have provided a baseline theoretical understanding and practical ‘field’ experience, playing Fantasy League somehow just crystallized all these key principles.