Going for gold: Turning in a winning performance in IT projects

The final instalment in our conversation with former Paralympian Andrew Haley is like an IT pro’s guide to owning the podium in UC deployments

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Welcome to the final post in our three-part series, Haley’s Comet, where we lead up to the Pan Am/ParaPan Am Games by drawing on the lessons learned from former Paralympian Andrew Haley’s journey to greatness as a world-champion swimmer. From a two-time cancer survivor to a global swimming phenom, his story will inspire IT leaders and offer practical tips and strategies for overcoming hurdles in the race toward the finish line of complex IT projects. Read part one: Reframe challenges to move projects to the finish line and part two: How coaching can make the difference between IT pros who sink or swim.

Andrew Haley knows the sweet taste of success. Throughout his career, the Paralympic swimmer has set Canadian and World records, and collected a lot of hardware in the process. At the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C., Haley took home the gold, a first for a disabled Canadian athlete. He also earned first-place finishes at the World Championships in 1998 and 2002 and at the Paralympic Games in 2000 – and did so in World Record time.

Failure a bitter pill to swallow

But the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, as the saying goes. And Haley has known his share of challenges and outright failures. Before the age of nine, he battled cancer twice and lost part of his right leg to the disease. He’s also turned in disappointing performances in events he expected to win. But rather than wallow in defeat, Haley chose to see his setbacks as essential steps on the road to success.

“Failure is crucial, in life and in sport,” says Haley. “I got disqualified at the 200-metre medley in Atlanta, but I used that as a positive. My 50-meter butterfly in that race was really good. I used that as motivation to help me with the 100-meter butterfly where I won a medal.”

Haley’s positive spin on failure has something to teach network administrators as they grapple with large, complex IT projects.  In unified communications deployments, for example, failures are still far more common than successes. The systems either don’t deliver the expected productivity benefits or users snub their noses at the prospect of using tools they didn’t ask for and don’t see value in.

Turn flops into victories

Learning from the mistakes of others is a critical step for IT pros looking to achieve victory in their UC projects, says one expert.

“Businesses frequently begin the implementation with deployment in the back office and the contact centre and end with other (business) roles,” says John Leonard, research editor at Incisive Media in the U.K. “However, what works in the back office will not necessarily work elsewhere, leading to rejection of the new system by users.”

Getting to know users

In a Gartner research report produced last year, analysts Jay Lassman and Bill Pray note that UC has the ability to transform the way organizations interact and perform, but only if the system is designed to suit business users’ needs.

“Identify the communication requirements of user segments,” advise Lassman and Pray. “Lay out business cases for high-value projects.”

In other words, consult with business users across departments to understand the communications roadblocks that stand between them and higher levels of productivity.

It’s a departure from business as usual for IT pros, but a new approach can pay dividends. Employees who are actively consulted in UC rollouts are almost 20 percent more likely to feel the new tools make them more productive, according to a study conducted by Softchoice. On the flip side, when users don’t have an opportunity to provide input, they are twice as likely to be dissatisfied at work and three times more likely to see their current employer as short-term.

Haley’s advice?

“Take the training wheels off and get outside your comfort zone. Approach the challenge from a different angle and see what happens.”

Andrew Haley is a former world class and world record-setting Paralympic swimmer who has won gold medals at the 1998 World Championships and the 2000 Paralympic games. A recognized leader in Paralympic sport, Andrew was recently inducted into Swimming Canada’s Hall of Fame and has served as his swim team’s captain and is a recognized leader in Paralympic sport. After a successful swimming career, Andrew now works in sales for the Toronto Blue Jays and is a professional motivational speaker on achieving peak performance. If you are interested in contacting Andrew to speak to your group please contact The Sweeney AgencyFind Andrew on twitter @ahaleyca

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