Friday, February 17, 2012

Choosing your Project Sponsor

Ensuring you have an appropriate project sponsor is one of the best ways of getting some focus on a project and making sure the project gets delivered. It is often the mistake in many organisations to assume that the project manager is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project when this does in fact come down to the project sponsor. After all if a project manager has no authority to sign off on the costs and benefits of a project then how can they be expected to be ultimately responsible for it?

So what should you look for in a project sponsor, to make sure things go smoothly? Well first of all we should weigh up the different personalities who will naturally be involved in any project.
  • Users: on this side are the people who want everything and they want it now (incidentally there’s nothing wrong with this, but its why they’re balanced by…)
  • Suppliers: the suppliers want to be able to deliver a simple, focused solution that can be delivered easily, quickly and cheaply.
There two sides are generally represented in a project environment by two individuals called the “senior user” and “senior supplier” respectively. The job of the sponsor therefore is to arbitate between these two characters to ensure that a middle balance is struck which is in the best interests of the organisation involved (company, charity, programme, strategy, event etc dependant on the context of this project).

An effective project sponsor will therefore have the following traits;
  • Pragmatic: the sponsor should not be predisposed to either the user or suppliers arguments they should make pragmatic decisions based upon the needs of the organisation;
  • Natural communicator: the sponsor will need to be able to communicate and arbitrate between the opposing perspectives of the project, as such they will need to be comfortable listening to and weighing up arguments;
  • Organisational power: even with the two traits above without some organisational power your sponsor may fall down on two counts.
    • First they must be able to overrule the senior user and supplier, after all the sponsor has the final say on all project decisions;
    • Secondly your sponsor should have the power to drive things forward when the momentum begins to wane, they should be able to get people into rooms and they shouldn’t have to wait for decisions.
Article posted in PM Coup:

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