What is a project sponsor

Projects are rarely a one-person job. While some small projects might involve only a handful of people, most projects depend on many people to get everything done. Not only are there employees who work on the project regularly, but there are stakeholders, executives, managers and other personnel who have their hand in the project some of the time. It might appear to be unnecessary to have so many individuals and roles involved in one project, but it’s actually incredibly important for completing projects.

Why You Need Different Project Personnel

In small organizations, it’s easy to manage projects, resources and priorities, but when organizations grow, plans become increasingly complex and difficult to manage. So much can fall through the cracks unless certain safety nets are put in place. Growing organizations must adopt processes and appoint certain roles to make sure everything runs smoothly and nothing is forgotten. This means that one project has many different types of personnel working on it in some capacity. One crucial yet widely misunderstood role is the project sponsor.

What Is a Project Sponsor?

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), the project sponsor is “a person or group who provides resources and support for the project, program or portfolio for enabling success.” More specifically, you can think of a project sponsor as the person who helps champion a project from its start to its completion. A project sponsor is responsible for the project’s success or failure and therefore has ultimate decision-making authority of the project.

What is a project sponsor

A project sponsor’s role can be broken down into three parts: maintaining the vision, governing the project and delivering value. To maintain the vision of a project, project sponsors will ensure the project is in line with the overall corporate strategy from its inception. They will also make sure the project is viable and will adjust the project as needed if corporate strategy changes. Governing a project is not about micromanaging project managers but organizing the project and creating necessary processes. A project sponsor will determine priority of tasks in a project, create processes for escalations, and serve as an escalation point if issues cannot be solved autonomously. Finally, project sponsors will manage the risks and changes in a project to ensure its benefits are obtained. This makes them responsible for deliverables, keeping up with project statuses, and identifying and responding to any changes or challenges.

How a Project Sponsor Can Help

Project sponsors are generally involved in every stage of a project, so they have the potential to greatly impact the success of a project.

Initiation Stage

Before a project gets approved, there are a lot of requirements and hoops it will have to go through. When a project sponsor is involved with a proposed project, they can help shape the project to be in line with the corporate strategy. The project sponsor will advocate for the approval of this project and can sometimes be responsible for convincing the decision-making body to approve the project.

Planning Stage

During the planning stage of a project, a project sponsor will set the project up for success by ensuring the project is realistic and feasible. By understanding what teams can actually deliver, a project sponsor can make sure a project doesn’t overpromise. They will also consider the project in context of the whole project portfolio. This helps prevent resource overallocations or bottlenecks that can slow down or effectively stop a project in its tracks.

Execution Stage

While much of the execution of the project will be done by project managers and their teams, the project sponsor still plays an important role during this stage. They will continuously evaluate the project’s progress to ensure it is on track. For projects that begin to deviate, they will provide feedback to the project manager and offer assistance to get the project back on track. In this stage, they empower teams to make decisions and solve problems, but if teams are unable to do this on their own, they step in to provide assistance.

Closing Stage

A project sponsor will take a very active role in closing up a project. They will evaluate the project to determine its success and share their findings with others. This can not only include team members who worked on the project, but other stakeholders across the organization. A project sponsor will also tie up any loose ends and ensure all documentation from the project is stored for future reference.

It Takes A Village (To Raise A Project Portfolio)

Creating a successful project portfolio will take the help of every employee in an organization. For projects to be executed well, team members, project managers, project sponsors and other personnel will need to work together. At Meisterplan, we understand the effort it takes to create and execute a successful project portfolio, so we’ve kept our project portfolio management software lean. This allows organizations to scale quickly while maintaining transparency across their portfolio. To see how Meisterplan can help your organization complete more projects, start a free 30 day trial today.