Introduction

The Project Sponsor

An effective sponsor "owns" the project and has the ultimate responsibility for seeing that the intended benefits are realized to create the value forecast in the business case.

A good project sponsor will not interfere in the day-to-day running of the project -- that's the role of the project manager. But, the sponsor should help the project manager facilitate the necessary organizational support needed to make strategic decisions and create a successful project.

With respect to the project, effective sponsors should:

Create alignment. The sponsor helps keep the project aligned with business and cultural goals.

Communicate on behalf of the project, particularly with other stakeholder groups in senior management. The sponsor also communicates his or her personal commitment to the project's success on multiple occasions.

Gain commitment. The sponsor is a key advocate for the project. He or she "walks the talk" and gains commitment from other key stakeholders.

Arrange resources. The sponsor ensures the project's benefits are fully realized by arranging the resources necessary to initiate and sustain the change within the organization.

Facilitate problem solving. The sponsor ensures issues escalated from the project are solved effectively at the organizational level. This includes decisions on changes, risks, conflicting objectives and any other issue that is outside of the project manager's designated authority.

Support the project manager. The sponsor offers mentoring, coaching and leadership when dealing with business and operational matters.

Build durability. The sponsor ensures that the project's outputs will be sustained by ensuring that people and processes are in place to maintain it once the project completes its handover.

If you have a good sponsor, look after him or her. If your sponsor does not understand the role or is unwilling to fulfill the role, however, you need to speak up. Carrying on without an effective sponsor raises the probability of project failure and you as the project manager will be held accountable for that failing.

It's important to flag the lack of effective sponsorship as a key risk to the project. It may not make you popular, but you have an ethical responsibility to clearly define risks that need management attention.

Ultimately the organization's executive management is responsible for training and appointing effective sponsors. If this has not happened, as project managers, all we can do is help those sponsors who are willing to be helped and flag a risk or issue for those that are missing or unwilling to support "their project."

Role

The Project Sponsor is the individual (often a manager or executive) with overall accountability for the project.

The Project Sponsor is primarily concerned with ensuring that the project delivers the agreed business benefits.

The Project Sponsor acts as the representative of the organisation, and plays a vital leadership role through:

  • providing 'championship' for the project, selling and marketing the project throughout the organisation
  • providing business expertise and guidance to the Project Manager
  • acting as the link between the project, the business community and perhaps most importantly, management decision making groups
  • acting as an arbitrator and making decisions that may be beyond the authority of the Project Manager
  • acting as chairperson of the Steering Committee.
  • Project Sponsors Responsibilities

    Typically the Project Sponsor will be responsible for:

    During the life of any project, business circumstances may change considerably, making it impossible for the Project Manager to carry out his/her job. Examples are such things as changes of policy, adverse business conditions, etc.  In such cases the Project Sponsor is responsible for recognising and reacting to any such circumstances.

     

    The main differences between the Project Sponsor and the Project Champion are:

    The Project Sponsor is considered to be the Project Owner, while the Project Champion is considered be to the Project Advocate.

    The Project Sponsor has a formal role in an organization, while the Project Champion has an informal role.

    A Project can have many Project Champions, but can only have one Project Sponsor.

    Note that some prominent Project Managers argue that the Project Champion role is embodied by the Project Sponsor.

    It is also worthy to note that the term “Project Champion” does not appear anywhere in the PMBOK, whereas the term Project Sponsor is used prominently.

    © 2009 Project Management Learning