Fantasy CEO – Round 7 Annual Report

Filthy LucreFantasy going-to-work

I was chatting with someone who would be an ideal candidate to team up for Fantasy CEO next year, if the Times run it next year. He turned me down saying “fantasy football I can understand, but fantasy going to work?” Which is a fair point well made.

If you consider Fantasy CEO as a free training course, then the poor administration and lack of communication about the scoring would be just about ok. (I think there may be players who have no idea that you get your results on each round from three separate places, two published on Monday and the third on Thursday). The low numbers tell you that although it’s free it’s also exclusive.

Making a good thing even better

However, if you swing it through 90 degrees and consider it as a computer game, then there’s a lot that the Times could do better if they consider it worth doing again.

In no particular order:

  1. Provide a forum or community space for players to ask questions of each other and discuss the game
  2. Provide links in the same place on the page of every editorial piece – one to the league table and another to the data about personal results
  3. Provide information before the close of Round 1 about the format of the scores and how to find them
  4. Publish the league table in a simple, consistent and clearly explained format
  5. Publish the league table on the same day as the personal scores
  6. Simplify the players’ journey through the instructions – similar information was published in three different formats (a pdf file, a mini website and little movies demonstrating how to use the spreadsheet) – however each format included information not available in the others
  7. Set expectations more clearly – particularly expectations about the time required to learn the game
  8. Offer an optional Round 0 – to give people the chance to practice with the tool and to understand the scoring

In other words, take the players’ experience seriously, they aren’t passive readers or click-and-run commentators, they – we – will spend a minimum of 10 hours and more like 20 or more on the game by the time we’ve finished. Those hours can be impoverished by isolation and a lack of transparency, or they can be enriched by openness and the chance to compare notes.

An Online Community

I realised the other day that I’m not going to do Fantasy CEO again next year unless I can either find a partner to do it with or unless there’s a forum to discuss it in. After a while it becomes just too sterile an exercise, played in a vacuum.

The challenge of course, and I feel stupid not to have thought of it, is that The Times is too rich and gooey a target for opportunistic law suits for them to take the risk of running an open and unmoderated forum, and moderation is expensive. On t’other hand, the forum could be closed to anyone who was not a participant in the game, and of course the Times could accept comments at any time, but only publish them – say – twice a day. It can do anything it likes, really.

The big benefits of a dedicated forum – even one limited to players of the game – is that we could learn from each other. I’ve no idea if I am tumbling down the rankings because I’ve chosen a strategy which means that I will inevitably tumble down the rankings about now, or if there’s nothing wrong with the strategy and the problem is how I’m implementing it. I bet that some of my fellow players could tell me though. Likewise those who understand how balanced scorecards work, or the relationship between market cap and share value, or whatever, could share that knowledge with those of us who don’t. And no harm with diverting off onto conversations about the inherent conflict of interest between shareholders and corporate executives. The side issues discussed here have been one of the benefits to me of running this series of posts.

So I think that the Times could manage the risk of litigation fairly easily, and that it would be worth doing if only to find out if running a forum reduces the attrition rate.

Full marks to the organisers for some things though

First of all the simulation itself is excellent – the tool is good – the world it defines is elegant, comprehensible but nuanced. The tool appears robust. There is an abundance of help online, and the help desk are fabulous. If there’s a market for these things, then the Times done well when choosing which one to use.

Secondly, full marks to the Times for attitude.

It has been interesting and informative to have a different, themed story each week. As one of the commentators here has said, if the journalist was also a player then the stories would have been richer, but full marks for having them and including so many interviews.

The Times also wants to be transparent with the scores, and full marks for that. The mechanics were under-rehearsed, but the intention was there.

The reason I’ve been so hard on the Times is because it’s been such a good game. I’d love to see it run again next year, and the niggles listed above are easily sorted and would make a real difference – particularly a forum.

Aphra Inc’s results

My results for Round 6 were pretty disappointing, but I did much better in Round 7. The aggregate scores are only in for Round 6 so far, and I’ve fallen from being among the top 20% to within the top 25% and now to within the top 30%. This is not simply a result of the attrition rate: the absolute values of my scores mean I’ve slid from the second page to the third. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not entirely sure if this is because I am badly implementing a good strategy, or if it’s because I’ve got a bad strategy in the first place. I’ll admit that tumbling down the rankings has disenchanted me slightly with the game altogether. I remain determined to see this through to the end, but I am glad that the end is in sight.

23 responses to “Fantasy CEO – Round 7 Annual Report

  1. I agree the simulation itself is superb, the documention is good but like you say is a bit disjointed. I play Fantasy fooball on the Telegraph site too if the supporting forum was as good as that it would be a very good experience. I only found out last week that there was a table of results i was trying to login to the right section but the userid is case sensitive there but not case sensitive to get in to my results, i’m sure if they run it again they’ll sort out these niggles and it’ll mature. Everyone i’ve mentioned it to says they wish they were playing.
    I’ve only just discovered above that the tables are published monday, where?

  2. I have been following the comments contained in this blog for a number of weeks now. I suspect that I am not the only one that has taken heart from the comments of those of you that have found it hard to get to grips with the intricacies of the game. Although like me they have not commented.
    For those of us who have not worked in Finance, Marketing or Sales, or for that matter have a degree, the game has been a nice insight into some of the connections made throughout a business. True it has been fairly tortuous trying to work out how to run a ‘business’ whilst learning how to ‘play a game’ but the experience has been relatively enlightening.
    My one complaint is the lack of information on how we were doing up until round 3 (apparantly I was in 35th place, didn’t realise, tried to go for the big one, ended up with a £31m loan, went right down the rankings, felt very silly) and then the lack of preperation in how the ranking tables would be constructed and communicated (which actually means I was never 35th but apparantly 39th although the scoring shouldn’t have affected my position according to the later explanation of the issue!!!). Now that we are approaching the last round I cannot find out where I am. I was trying so hard to get into the top 100 but don’t know whether to play safe or go for the big one again. Pretty much like life I suppose.
    Now that I have studied business and started to get to grips with being a CEO (very tongue in cheek comment) I either want the real thing or at least another go at the same simulation or something like it.
    Here is my pitch, we should lobby the times to let us have another go but this time without the glitches. Sure the Mrs will annoyed with me spending time smoking cigars and drinking champagne whilst on the computer but what the hell, I’m hooked….!!!!!

  3. Hi, I only seem to be able to see results up to Round 6 following the link above? Am I missing something? Am eager to know Round 7 results!

  4. Shah – the Times seem to update the league table every Thursday or so, but that said, they haven’t updated it yet this week.

    The link’s here, Jeremy:

    Mark – I’m with you – it would be very cool if the Times ran it again next year with the glitches ironed out. Here’s hoping.


  5. I’m hooked too – good idea Mark – let’s all get onto The Times as soon as the competition os over demanding a repeat competition! I’ve managed to fight my way up the rankings and am aiming to finish around the top 25 with a bit of luck, but am still mystified as to how the superior guys at the top managed to make SO much profit … I want another go!

  6. Hi,

    Has anybody contacted The organiser to find out when the table will be published? I just sent an email and received a standard reply that they will revert in a couple of days.
    I have found the game to be quite fun and I am doing OK (Top ten) so I am interested where I stand after round 7 as indeed a lot of other players are I am sure.
    I really cannot believe how poor the communicaton has been.

  7. The league table seemed to go up on Thursday or so, and I emailed them yesterday to ask when it would be put up. I got a reply late this afternoon saying that my email had been forwarded to the appropriate department, and that they would respond within two working days. I’m afraid at that point I got very very polite.

    I’m very disappointed that the Round 7 scores have not been posted.


  8. I emailed about the missing results on Wednesday and got the same reply as AB by Thursday lunchtime. Having worked my way up from mid-league in Round 1 into the top 30 by Round 6 – my CEO reports: “Excellent strategic progress towards our corporate goals … ” – it is frustrating that I don’t know where I stand going into the final round.

    I’ll readily accept I have no chance of winning; I was too cautious in the earlier rounds. The possibility of strikes and credit crunches figured in my decisions – none of which materialised.

    However, for those still in the top 10 (and how would they know?), the live competitors’ results are crucial. Do they go for broke or play it cautious to hang onto their position?

    As in real life, there are no prizes for coming second. I’m surprised The Times has allowed so many flaws in the administration of a competition with such a valuable prize.

  9. AJN – I’m with you, about geeting onto the Times for a repeat… Alas, I’m not with you in my ranking according to round 6. Mind you, if I take my position now as a proportion of those that signed up at the beginning I’m doing rather well (ha ha..!!).

    Steve – Well done mate.. Truly, you must be really pleased with yourself. No wonder your frustrated at not knowing how you’ve done in relation to the others within the top 10. FOR ANYONE FROM THE TIMES READING THIS BLOG – GIVE THE TOP 10 A COMPETETIVE CHANCE TO PIT THEIR WITS AGAINST EACH OTHER, PUT PRESSURE ON THE GAME PLANNERS TO RELEASE THE SCORES NOW. After all wasn’t this competition meant to attract those with potential within the business arena to show-case their skills. Or was it just a little bit of fun for the masses. Mmmmm… not sure myself now.

    All – May I ask what people do for a living. Forgive me if it seems nosey but I am genuinely interested in what gives you the ability to be where you are. I’ll start I am a Quality Manager in the automotive industry.

    Aphra – Thank you for all of the pressure you have exerted during the competition on our behalf I am very grateful.

  10. Well having just completed my final round of fantasy CEO I am eager to find out if I have managed to claw my way into the top 100. I didn’t have as much time to dedicate to learning as I would have liked and feel my scores have suffered (last round especially). Fingers crossed I have got a few key things ironed out for the final round but I have to admit if the game were extended for another week my company might be in dire straits.
    I made the decision to sell of a bit of capacity in order to improve my days of working capital and also allow me to give shareholders a healthy dividend. I can’t help but feel that it could all go terribly wrong!

    Mark – I am an Industrial Designer for an OEM medical manufacturer. I would love to be a CEO one day myself but may aim more for partner in a design consultancy.

  11. Like fettling have just completed my final round. Not in the slightest bit confident that I’ll reach the top 100, more likely to have droped another few 10’s of positions. I think being a CEO is just a little out of reach for the next six months or so, I’m off to research and come back for the next game stronger and wiser, maybe / hopefully.

    Aphra – definately like the site. Will be following with interest. Hopefully I will be adding a few more comments before xmas, just to let people know if I have made it into the illustrious top 100. If not, may I wish you all a merry xmas shopping frenzy and an excellent and happy new year….. Mark

  12. Steve, and Kora team from a few weeks back, good luck with your grab at the £10k… Mark

  13. Cheers Mark but no chance of the 10k, I am just aiming for the highest share price.
    I have recently taken early retirement, previously mired in accountancy (Chemicals/Oils). I have suffered three visits from Big Al, shame on me, no points there then.

  14. I’ve logged on this morning (Monday) and the results for Round 7 are now there! It seems very unfair that those in the running for the £10K who have not had to submit their decision over the weekend, now have the benefit of knowing their position with certainty, whereas others will have had to work blind.

  15. … and it’s a breach of the Promoter’s Terms and conditions:

    10. Scoring Rules: Each week the software will calculate and award points to Entrants using a Balanced Scorecard … Entrants will be able to view their running total verses other Entrants via the Website … .

    12. Weekly Game Results: From 1900 each Monday Entrants will be able to download their spreadsheet and use the information to prepare the following Round’s decisions … A table of all total scores to date of all Entrants will be available through the Website. …

  16. When I was just about to upload my final decisions, decided to check the website and, finally, the results for last week are up there. My only comment goes in question form: What happened to Frank Zurstiege?
    I would’ve bet on him to take the first prize.

    Other than that, as I said before, the game completely lost momentum for me. According to the latest results I unexpectedly soared up the ranks, but I wonder how much of this is due to people dropping out.

  17. Well, that’s it – all over now!!

    I always appear to comment on Dar’s comment but I see it slightly differently.

    There’s an old adage in motor-racing ‘To finish first you first have to finish!’

    The fact that most of the entries either didn’t start or dropped detracts little from all those who went the distance – congratulations to all who did the eight!

    Thanks once again Aphra for the meeting point that you provided.

  18. Sorry, am studying for accountancy exams and am becoming scatterbrained. Was last week the last week? I was trying to download the excel ceo workbook just now and kept getting error messages? I was trying to print off my 11 sheets of results i.e. report? Came #65 last week and would seriously think it wicked to break into the top 50!

    Also what happened to the Frank zursteige guy who was leading all the way?


  19. Blimey – so many comments! Thanks everyone for dropping by and putting in your two cents’ worth. Let’s hope that it demonstrates the usefulness of having some kind of online forum to the Times. I’m certainly planning on dropping an email to the Times with constructive comments and feedback. I’d love them to run it again next year, and I’d hope for it to be even better.

    Fettling, Mark, did you guys make it into the top 100? Steve, did you get the shareprice rise you wanted?

    David, that’s a very interesting point about the T’s and Cs. I’m actually glad that I’m not in the top 10, because I’d get teribly het up about it if I were.

    Dar, I wouldn’t assume that your rise was due to people dropping out. I’ve stayed in much the same band throughout (apart from a couple of weeks when I dropped behind myself). Assume that it’s because of your own abilities and celebrate!

    Ron, you are right. We should acknowledge that we stayed the course. 2/3rds of the starters didn’t. I’m glad it’s over, and glad I stayed the course. And it’s been an absolute pleasure to provide a meeting point.

    Shah, the round ending at 5:00pm today was the last round. It no longer seems possible to get access via the spreadsheet, but the reporting on the website is there (log in on the right for your weekly summary and the FastTrack reports in web page format).

    Cheers all.


  20. Thanks Aphra – found the reports. Also, great having yer blog here, was good to see others’ comments and good luck with your efforts in haranguing the Times for better processes next time.


  21. Aphra,

    I have started off comments on your Round 8 feature.
    Yes I think I probably ended with the highest share price so I am quite happy.
    I have published my scores against round 8 for all those above me who may be looking over their shoulders (ha ha).
    No chance of the 10k unless 1 to 4 suddenly do a disappearing act.

  22. Aphra – alas after round 7 I had managed to move up to 131st. Not feeling very optimistic about where I’ll be after round 8 probably around about the same as I finished on 481 which is a little disapointing.
    See you all in the round 8 feature.

  23. My pleasure, Shah.

    Careful Steve, you’re sounding like the anti-hero of Kind Hearts and Coronets.

    Good luck, Mark.


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