Project LeadershipProject Management

Four Tips to Enter the Project Sponsor Role

Project sponsors have the power, and they need to be able to find the right amount of involvement in the project to use that power responsibly. Be too involved and you’re micromanaging things within the project manager’s domain, but being too uninvolved will leave your project manager out to dry. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Susanne Madsen gives some tips on how to get started as a project sponsor:

  1. Take ownership of the business case.
  2. Support the project manager in defining the project.
  3. Engage other senior decision-makers.
  4. Ensure the benefits get realized.

And Now for Our Sponsors

As a sponsor you need to be able to identify what makes a project worthwhile in respect to your company, especially if those benefits can be expressed in a dollar value. If there are no direct financial benefits, then discuss the other sorts of value the project brings. You need to be able to express that the investment in the project will pay itself back into the firm.

Now that you’ve figured out how to “sell” this project, you must work with the project manager on the project. You need to be able to define the project and how it will be executed. But in addition to defining items such as the scope and constraints, you need to determine how you will be interacting with your project manager. Figure out how your project manager functions and use that to determine the best way for the two of you to go about business moving forward.

As the (probably) most important stakeholder on the project, you carry the weight of increasing support for the project among other stakeholders on the steering committee:

You, as the project sponsor, [are] the head of the steering committee, but you need other senior stakeholders to support you in making decisions. Choose the most powerful decision-makers who can actively help move the project forward to sit on the committee with you. What you want is a lean and pro-active steering committee of approximately five members.

Once the steering committee is established, arrange for it to meet on a regular basis to review the state of the project. You could, for instance, ask the project manager to present: progress since last meeting, financial status, risks and issues and change requests.

Once the project is completed, it then becomes your job to ensure that the deliverables actually get used and the full extent of their benefits are realized.

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