Leading by collaborating is key to project success

The winner of the IT Leader of the Year Award in the enterprise category at ComputerWorld Canada’s inaugural IT Leadership Awards last month recalls the exciting yet challenging role leading a globally dispersed development project to success—an end result for which she was nominated by peers.


“It is about relationships. It is about partners. It’s about motivating a group of people to achieve the same goal,” said Anne Naser, chief information officer of WorkSafeBC, the workers’ compensation board for British Columbia.


The claims management solution project she led at the Richmond, B.C.-based organization entailed the expertise of about 400 people globally toiling toward automating and bringing visibility to a manual claims process. “It was the biggest thing that our organization had every done,” said Naser.

But besides the challenge of seeking and managing global talent, Naser said WorkSafeBC’s lack of agility as an organization was an added problem for a project so large and complex. But it had to be done, said Naser: “We were operating in a world that was in the past and we knew that wasn’t sustainable moving forward.”

Ultimately, the project was a success and was implemented in 2009, allowing WorkSafeBC to move from a reactive process to one that was real-time and data-driven.

Naser was nominated for the award by colleague Todd Yule, director of workforce planning and strategic sourcing at WorkSafeBC. Yule, who has worked directly with Naser for five years, admires how she took charge of the complex project.

“It’s important to understand where you can let go, where you have to rein them in and set the direction for them,” said Yule. “And she really did a fabulous job.”

Yule thinks leadership is one of those things that often gets underestimated until a project of this caliber comes along and challenges an organization’s norms and processes. “(Leaders) set the stage, they set the tone for everything that goes on,” said Yule.

Having been at WorkSafeBC for 12 years and held positions ranging from data warehousing to development services to IT management investment planning, Naser’s educational background is surprisingly not purely technology focused. She did a double major in economics and IT at university. “I had a mixed education,” said Naser.

One job Naser held before WorkSafeBC taught her a lot about the value of building solid partnerships that aided her in leading the claims management project. As a consultant based in Australia, she was hired by a firm to act as liaison between the IT services and business groups and to iron out their relationship woes.

Fast forward to today, Naser said collaboration between IT and the business, or any dispersed group for that matter, still doesn’t come easy. “From that perspective, things don’t change a lot,” she said.

Often, hurdles are so great that projects don’t even make it to the implementation stage, let alone stabilization, said Naser. The beauty of the claims management project at WorkSafeBC is that it was a true team effort, she said. “The neat thing from a leadership perspective was how teams can solve problems and perform when they have a clear vision, goals and objectives they’re trying to achieve,” said Naser.

The awards were presented at a gala evening sponsored by IBM Canada.

Follow Kathleen on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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