Project Sponsorship: How to Effectively Champion a Project

The Project Sponsor is more than a figurehead. It is a vital role on a Project and an effective Sponsor can be the difference between success and failure.

To sponsor a project means more than simply putting a name on the business case and turning up to the occasional meeting. Sponsorhip is a fundamental activity and plays a critical role in the eventual success or failure of the project. Many sponsors make the mistake of believing that they don’t need to get involved; that the project shouldn’t take up too much of their time. In fact, the most successful projects have sponsors that understand the importance of their involvement.

The Project Driver

The sponsor of the project is the driver who will push the project forward in the organisation. If the sponsor isn’t active then the project will fail to gather momentum and its priority will begin to slip against other, more important projects. Without support a project will not get the necessary resources; be that time, people or money.

It is the sponsor’s role to foster support for the project within the senior management levels of the organisation. The sponsor should be demonstrating both public and private support and helping all staff understand why this project is so important.

The Project Champion

The sponsor can articulate the business purpose for the project in a few succinct sentences – that’s how well they understand the project! They ensure that the project remains aligned to the strategic goals of the organisation, and through timely involvement ensure that key decisions are made. A project manager is responsible for the running of the project, but ultimately it is the project sponsor who has more power and influence in the organisation and can make things happen.

It is the sponsor who is accountable for the success or failure of the project. This means that the project sponsor will have to make the key project decisions, which are outside the approved boundaries for the project manager. Through an effective working partnership, the project manager supports the project sponsor, ensuring he or she is aware of the key issues on the project and providing them with possible alternatives.

Project Leadership

During times of change, staff look to management for direction, particularly their own manager and also senior managers. The sponsor has the important task of communicating the business purpose for the project and ensuring that the benefits are understood across the organisation.

The project sponsor is a vital role on a project and can make the difference between benefits that are fully realised and benefits that are only partly achieved. Projects need support and must be driven within an organisation. There will always be an extensive portfolio of projects and only those that are most critical will survive. Therefore, it’s is ultimately up to the project sponsor to ensure that the project is given the backing it needs.