Analyze Consulting's guide to being a great project sponsor
Would you believe that one of the top reasons for project failure is the lack of active and engaged sponsorship? We're guessing probably not... That's because you'll likely first want to point a finger at things like scope creep, poorly defined requirements, lack of project governance and poor communication.
These are of course all valid reasons for project failure, but at Analyze we've realised the one item that often gets overlooked is how strong your project sponsors are.
Gone are the days where a sponsor only provided funding and then checked in every now and then to see what's happening to their money. If you've been asked to fill a project sponsor role you need to understand the critical role a sponsor plays in driving a project forward.
Analyze believes that a great sponsor has to:
Have the right level of authority
It's important for a sponsor to have the right level of seniority, influence and authority. If they're not in a position to assist the team in removing blockers and making things happen, their impact will be very limited.
Be available and willing to get more involved
A sponsor who's spread too thinly spells trouble for any project. You need someone who can get involved in the detail. A great sponsor is there from beginning to end, not only as an escalation point, but also as a sounding board and coach.
Have a good understanding of the problem at hand
The project sponsor should be able to clearly articulate the problem which needs to be solved, be specific about by when it needs to be solved, and define how the project will know once it has been solved. Without this level of understanding a sponsor could end up backing a project that ends up completely missing the mark.
Assemble the right team
It's the sponsor's responsibility to source the right resources with the appropriate skills to deliver a successful end result. In situations where sponsors aren't able to assign all team members directly, they need to bargain and negotiate with other teams and departments to secure the best team possible.
Keep the dialogue open
Regular, two-way communication with the project team, particularly the project manager, is key. A great sponsor is able to give direction while also listening to ideas and collaborating with subject matter experts within the team.
Be willing to make the tough decisions
A great sponsor is someone you can turn to when things are not going according to plan and tough decisions are needed to get the project moving forward again. An indecisive sponsor will only lead to wasted time, effort and money.
Help navigate the political landscape
Competing projects, priorities and agendas are the norm within any organisation. A great sponsor will help the project navigate through these types of challenges to ensure that it gets the right level of attention in order to succeed.