Sponsors, like Relatives, you are stuck with what you get

Critical to any projects success is having a good project sponsor, but, like the saying goes 'you can pick your friends but you can't pick your relatives' and the same is true of project sponsors.

So what makes a good project sponsor and how do you deal with the one you have just inherited for your project?

The Project Sponsor is the key stakeholder representative for the project and provides the necessary support for the Project Manager with the primary responsibility of achievement of the project objectives and benefits. An inappropriate choice of Project Sponsor can seriously impact the possibility of success of the project and provide you, the project manager, with an unwanted additional overhead.

Now you can't practically ask a sponsor for their CV and put them through a formal interview process, nice as it would be sometimes to utter the phrase 'I'm sorry but I just don't think that this is the job for you right now'. But you should evaluate the sponsor you have and complete, in a subtle way of course, a 'Strengths and Weaknesses 'assessment so that you can adapt your project approach and communication methods to maximise their sponsorship support for the project that you now manage.

You can also openly discuss your intended plans for project management and communication to ensure that they fully buy-in to what you intend and how you intend to achieve it.

Responsibilities for project sponsors typically include:

  • Providing direction and guidance for strategies and initiatives
  • Negotiate funding for the project
  • Actively participating in the initial project planning
  • Identifying project Steering Committee members
  • Working with the Project Manager to develop the Project Charter
  • Identifying and quantifying business benefits to be achieved by successful implementation of the project
  • Reviewing and approving changes to plans, priorities, deliverables, schedule, etc.
  • Gaining agreement amongst the stakeholders when differences of opinion occur
  • Assisting the project when required (especially in an 'out-of-control' situation) by exerting their organizational authority and ability to influence
  • Assisting with the resolution of inter-project boundary issues
  • Chairing the Project Steering Committee
  •  Supporting the Project Manager in conflict resolution
  • Make the project visible in the organisation
  • Encouraging stakeholder involvement and building and maintaining their ongoing commitment through effective communication strategies
  • Advising the Project Manager of protocols, political issues, potential sensitivities, etc.
  • Evaluating the project's success on completion.

The Project Sponsor should be a senior manager having the financial and organisational power to act quickly and decisively in the overall governance of the project. It is an active, hands-on role, requiring a supportive working relationship with the Project Manager and effective communication with major stakeholders. The Project Sponsor should have a broad knowledge of the business including experience and expertise in the functional areas addressed by the project.


And check out my new book 'Strategies for Project Sponsorship' here www.strategies4sponsorship.com