\u201cThe operational teams who were focused on creating a great fan experience\u2014they are the unsung heroes of the NBA.\u201d\nThat\u2019s Krishna Bhagavathula, the National Basketball Association\u2019s chief technology officer, speaking of the back-office warriors who brought basketball back to fans in the midst of a pandemic.\nWhen the Covid-19 crisis arrived and disrupted nearly every business around the world, few industries were as hard-hit as live events\u2014concerts, conventions, sports. As many leagues struggled to adapt, the NBA looked for ways to restart its own season.\nTheir solution? Play on in isolation.\nAt a reported cost of $190 million, the NBA\u2019s custom-built isolation zone, just outside of Orlando, Florida, welcomed 22 of the NBA\u2019s 30 teams. There, in July, they resumed training and ultimately played in a safe, Covid-19-free environment.\nBut before fans could watch the first tip-off, the NBA needed to invent an entirely new workflow to facilitate campus onboarding and oversight\u2014one that left no room for error when it came to Covid-19 infections.\n\u201cTheir existing systems weren't designed for this new reality,\u201d says Mike Rich, SVP at ServiceNow, the NBA's official workflow partner. \u201cThey needed to find ways to keep their personnel, their players and everybody else safe and get back to the business of having games.\u201d\nWhen the season ended on October 11, Bhagavathula says, \u201cwe demonstrated that a safe, careful return to sports was possible with the right tools and protocols in place.\u201d\n\u201cThe NBA did an incredible job,\u201d says Len Couture, principal executive strategist at ServiceNow. \u201cMore than any other league, they ensured that nobody tested positive.\u201d\nTo learn what challenges the NBA overcame as it scored big with its restarted season, we spoke with Bhagavathula, Couture and Rich about the partnership that made it possible.\nChallenge #1: Reinventing workflows\nTo meet its self-imposed zero-Covid-19 policy, the NBA needed to screen thousands of staff, players, vendors, family members and other guests\u2014and tens of thousands of documents\u2014as they entered and exited the facility.\u00a0\nIt quickly became clear that the NBA\u2019s existing workflow, running almost entirely on standalone, disconnected apps, was ill-equipped to meet this challenge. \u201cThey had legacy solutions, cobbled together, that couldn\u2019t handle such an ambitious safety program,\u201d says ServiceNow\u2019s Rich. \u201cThey needed more automation.\u201d\nThe stakes were high: even a simple, everyday onboarding mishap falling through the cracks\u2014an employee arriving at the facility with incomplete paperwork; a requisition misplaced in a busy HR office\u2014could threaten the health of the entire NBA campus.\nSo Bhagavathula and ServiceNow raced to design and deploy an omnichannel, platform-based onboarding and oversight workflow that could handle complex safety demands.\nEveryone who was screened used a single, common access portal, but behind the scenes, it wasn\u2019t one-size-fits-all. All 2,600 visitors came with their own particular needs and concerns. Using ServiceNow\u2019s workflow automation tools, Bhagavathula\u2019s team developed nine unique workflows customized to specific personas mapped onto attendee profiles, each featuring a number of conditional forks related to that person\u2019s status upon arrival and throughout their stay.\n\u201cAt a very basic level,\u201d Bhagavathula explains, \u201canyone who needed to enter filled out a questionnaire about their health. Based on their responses, they were prompted to the next step, which might mean getting testing; getting access to hotels; or being routed to medical or legal staff who, in turn, approved for them to access certain parts of the campus.\u201d\nBecause every point along the path from application to approval to follow-up was automated and tracked on the platform, approvers didn\u2019t have to manually monitor user progress or worry about missing a step.\nIt worked. On July 30, 2020, the NBA opened its Orlando campus and successfully launched the sporting world\u2019s most effective Covid-19 screening program.\n\u201cIt was a matter of days and weeks to get the right digital workflows and experiences implemented, delivered and put into production,\u201d Rich says. \u201cKudos to the NBA.\u201d\nChallenge #2: Simplification\nArchitecting a workflow that united 2,600 applicants on a single platform and accounted for their various needs was a feat.\nBut a workflow is only successful if people can use it successfully, and there was no time to train thousands. The key to ensuring cooperation was designing a user experience that anyone could follow.\nFrom the user\u2019s perspective, it was simple. People entering the campus didn\u2019t have to know which of nine workflow paths they should follow or whom to contact with questions. They were automatically prompted to complete items on their to-do lists and guided seamlessly through the process, with up-to-date approval status and other relevant information available in a single location.\n\u201cYou hide all of that complexity for end users,\u201d says Rich. \u201cWe've got their names and credentials and their roles and responsibility. When they arrive at the facility, they see what they need to see, and they don't see what they shouldn't see. It's all role-based.\u201d\nAn intuitive user experience is essential to any successful workflow, Rich adds.\n\u201cThey don\u2019t want to have to learn how to use a system to get what they need. They just want an easy, consumerized experience. They want to use their thumbs.\u201d\nAt the same time, transparently communicating to users what measures have been taken to ensure their safety is almost as important as implementing those measures. Otherwise, who would risk entering the campus? The Now Platform enables that visibility, keeping users apprised of updates relevant to the entire community.\nFor example, says Rich, \u201cYou can see: Has all the testing happened? What were the results?\u201d\nVisibility also helps users trust the NBA to \u201csafely collect personal health information and potentially sensitive documents [and ensure they] reach the right people for approvals,\u201d says Bhagavathula.\n\u201cIt really goes back to the core fundamental strength of the Now Platform, and that is a single system of record with workflow, reporting and ease of integration with other systems,\u201d says Rich.\nThe results speak for themselves. By the end of the season, the NBA had preserved a reported $1.5 billion in revenue while reporting zero infections from the Orlando campus.\nFor more information, visit: https:\/\/www.servicenow.com\/now-platform.html\nExplore the new world of work. Visit servicenow.com.\u00a0\nThis article originally appeared on Forbes BrandVoice.