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10 Practical Ways Sponsors Can Boost Their Project Success

Every sponsor’s contribution, like a signature, is engraved in the edifice of the completed project. Some signatures are quick and sloppy. Some are elegant, bold, and well-placed. Project sponsors are dealing with a full workload, handling an average of three projects on top of their normal responsibilities. At his blog, Harry Hall advises sponsors on how they can increase project success despite all the hustle.

What the Sponsor Can Do

  1. Clarify and communicate the vision.
  2. Fund the projects.
  3. Engage high-powered/high-interest stakeholders.
  4. Understand the sponsor’s role.
  5. Ensure that the project manager has the right resources.
  6. Run interference and clear the way.
  7. Create an environment where project managers can talk openly about risks.
  8. Remain engaged with the project manager and the team.
  9. Respond promptly.
  10. Reward and recognize the team.

It all starts with a clear vision. As Joel A. Barker said, “Action without vision just passes time” – and that’s exactly what your team will be doing in the absence of a clearly communicated goal. You’ll also need to ensure that the manifest vision is within cost constraints, something a business analyst can help with.

Are there stakeholders you fear will try to resist or derail the project along the way? By inviting them to collaborate around the formation of the project charter, you’ll be preempting such issues and building the appropriate risk tolerance at an early stage. Additionally, remember that your role as a project sponsor is to stay out of the nuts and bolts of the project in progress. Leave those toils to the PM. As a sponsor, you’re needed at the top – rallying support from and communicating with senior management, and removing road blocks along the way.

As far as the project manager is concerned, you’re a source of resources. You’re there for support when the PM is given less than their full share of knowledge and skills. As sponsor, you can also play the PR game for the project. By heading off negative reactions / criticisms or distractions, you’re their biggest champion and protector. As the link between stakeholders and the PM, you’re charged with the task of intercepting incoming issues and risks from the front lines of the project, so create an environment of trust to allow full disclosure from the PM and team members.

Lastly, stick with the team until the end. Although you may not be the one steering the ship, your role is in the crow’s nest. Your absence could spell certain disaster. An issue may be escalated from the project management level, and it’s your job to receive it with a helping hand. Sponsors are motivational. Take the time to meet your team, and to congratulate accomplishments and milestones.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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