Three Key Contributions from an Active Project Sponsor

Every project has a project sponsor. Even the projects that don’t necessarily name a sponsor by role always have a sponsor. The Project Sponsor is responsible for authorizing the project work, the budget and the schedule. Internally based projects in project-immature organizations probably have very little visibility to the actual role of a project sponsor. In other vendor/customer structured projects, project sponsors are usually very visible (at least at the outset of the project). But what about as the project goes on? What value can a project sponsor provide through the life of the project? Here are three key items that a project sponsor can bring to a project that will help the project team with a successful project delivery.

Guidance, Oversight and Feedback

A Project Sponsor is responsible for driving home the understanding of the business value of a project and ultimately communicating that to the project team (both internal and external). This is typically communicated by the sponsor at the project kickoff meeting. There are (unfortunately) many times that project sponsors fade off into the background, leaving the project manager accountable for those very items that a project sponsor should be accountable for. In these situations, if and when things go awry with the project, and the sponsor is brought in to help address issues pertaining to subjects such as budget and schedule, it’s often too late to put a solution in place to mitigate the issue(s). By having your project sponsor constantly looped in, the project team can receive constant guidance on project activities as well as feedback on ways to address issues as they come up (and they will come up). At the end of the day, this project is for the sponsor so it is in their best interests to keep as informed as possible.

Setting the Tone on Budget and Schedule

Often times with projects there are certain constraints from a financial or schedule perspective. These constraints should be made known to the project team at the commencement of the project so that proper risk mitigation can be put into place. Active project sponsors will keep a close eye on schedule and budget (usually via formal status reports) and provided they are being given timely and accurate information, should be able to provide commentary to the project manager on concerns regarding either. Good project managers will also ensure that as there are visible threats to either schedule or budget, that those threats are clearly communicated to project sponsorship for further guidance.

Active Change Management Participant

Nothing will slow down a well running project better than a bottleneck for getting a change request signed. Project sponsors need to be an active participant in the change management process. As scope issues arise, it is the job of the project manager to ensure that the project sponsor has all the information necessary to make a decision on scope inclusion (i.e. impacts from budget, schedule, risk and quality perspectives). However if a project sponsor cannot provide timely decisions regarding change management, there can be major implications to schedule, budget and scope of the project.

Project sponsors are ultimately the recipients of the delivered project. They are the ones responsible for striking the project in the first place and while the project team is responsible for delivering on time and on budget, it is the project sponsor who is ultimately accountable to their organization for a project meeting its expectations. By having a project sponsor actively participate in your project, your project team is already being set up for success.

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