The Project Sponsor and Project Success – Part 1

the project sponsor and project successJust who exactly is the project sponsor on our projects? The definition of the project sponsor is a senior executive in a corporation (often at or just below board level) who is responsible to the business for the success of the project. So while the project sponsor is senior and may be a figurehead on some projects… on others, they will play a key interactive role and participate daily in the activities of the project.

Key responsibilities of the project sponsor:

  • Provides leadership on culture and values
  • Owns the business case
  • Keeps project aligned with organization’s strategy and portfolio direction
  • Governs project risk
  • Works with other sponsors
  • Focuses on realization of benefits
  • Recommends opportunities to optimize cost/benefits
  • Ensures continuity of sponsorship
  • Provides assurance
  • Provides feedback and lessons learned

Beyond that, Wikipedia identifies these activities as taking place between the project sponsor and the project manager:

  • Provides timely decisions
  • Clarifies decision making framework
  • Clarifies business priorities and strategy
  • Communicates business issues
  • Provides resources
  • Engenders trust
  • Manages relationships
  • Supports the PM role
  • Promotes ethical working

Basically, these bullets above define what a project sponsor does. What does the project manager do for the project sponsor? When considering overall project success, where does the project sponsor fit in? Is that person key, peripheral, or not a consideration? Ok, ok…that last one was an obvious one…the project manager who thinks that his project sponsor doesn’t fit into consideration on the overall success of the project probably hasn’t experienced very many project ‘successes.’

I have always maintained that there are three general determiners of project success. These are:

  • On time project delivery
  • On budget project delivery
  • Customer satisfaction

So, where does the project sponsor fit in to project success in my three bullets? That third bullet is entirely the project sponsor. Well, maybe not entirely… end users and subject matter experts (SMEs), other customer project team members, maybe even the customer-side CEO all play a role in that overall customer satisfaction. Now, remember the beginning of this article…the definition of a project sponsor. They are a senior executive who is responsible to the business for the success of the project. They are, so to speak, the straw that stirs the drink. Make that individual happy and you’ve probably made everyone on that side of the project happy as well. You’ve ‘delivered’ to the person who needs ‘delivered’ to. You’ve satisfied the right person…win!

In Part 2 of this two part series on who the project sponsor is, what they do, and how you satisfy their needs in order to realize project success, we’ll look at some of these key areas where you can help ensure project sponsor satisfaction and, therefore (hopefully), project success.

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Noteworthy accomplishments:
*20 year provider of successful technical project management leadership for clients across nearly every industry imaginable
*Author of more than 4,000 expert professional project management and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos over the past decade
*Articles/professional content receives over 40,000 page views monthly
*Named #1 in the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management
*Named a Top 10 Project Management Influencer to Follow in 2016
*The most read author of expert project management content on Project Times/BA Times for 2015
*Named most prolific provider of project management content over the past 5 years
*Noted for successful project management and financial oversight for $50 million Dept. of Education financial contract/program
*Chosen by the Dept of Defense as a subject matter expert (SME) to help select IWMS software provider for the largest IWMS implementation ever awarded

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