More often than not, a project sponsor is thought of somebody whose responsibility is to secure project funds and participate in the victory lap after project completion. But an “engaged” project sponsor with vested business interests and involvement in the project from the project kickoff to the project closure can mean the difference between a project success or a project failure.
One of the reasons why projects fall short is the lack of executive sponsorship and executive management buy-in.
Some key responsibilities of a sponsor include:
- Defining the project; Securing an executive buy-in on the project
- Providing a clear direction for the project and ensuring it links with the organization’s strategic objectives
- Developing the initial scope and charter
- Securing the project resources viz. human capital, project funding, etc.
- Ensuring the project is running on time, within budget and within scope
- Providing feedback on status reports and making sure they reach key stakeholders via an appropriate communication channel
- Championing the project at all times
- Taking diverse and often competing stakeholder interests and negotiating a common ground that all stakeholders agree on and collaborate to deliver
- Delivering maximum possible value to the investor
The Project Sponsor vs. The Project Manager
The single most important thing project sponsors must understand is that they are not project managers. This means the project sponsors should let the project managers manage the project and create an environment that allows them to do that.
Project Managers should be encouraged to make many of the day-to-day decisions on their own. Project Sponsors should not babysit the project manager at any given point in time, a sponsor who micro manages the project and gets involved in the details of the daily execution of the project makes it difficult for the project manager to fulfill their role.
More than one person/entity running the project creates confusion for everyone and jeopardizes the project.
For any project to be successful, it is imperative the project sponsor and the project manager work closely from start to finish and have one vision. They must see themselves as compatible members of a project team. A project sponsor authorizes the project and a project manager executes the project.
Some expectations a sponsor may have from a manager:
- Full-Time commitment on the project
- Producing frequent project reports
- Ensuring friction-less execution of the project
- Dealing with problems, resolving problems and escalating appropriate problems to the sponsor
- Maintaining a clear communication channel at all times etc
Good project sponsors:
- Make themselves available to the project manager
- Encourage communication whether the news is good or bad
- Strike a delicate balance of involvement and trust in the project team
- Effectively communicate the organization’s vision, goals and expectations to the project team throughout the project life cycle
- Resist from micromanaging the project team
- Cultivate a positive working environment
- Constantly let people know why the project is important to the rest of the organization
The role of a sponsor is a difficult one, but one that can ultimately lead to the success or failure of a project.