Beginners Guide: The Most Important Project Team Member The Project Champion

The title champion brings to mind capes, super powers, masks and colourful tights. So– who is this mysterious figure? What is their origins story? What’s their true identity?

It’s no accident that the job title “project champion” sounds so awesome. After reading this I hope that you’ll see how the uncanny abilities of a skilled champion can supercharge a project– or even rescue it from the brink of total disaster.
beginners guide what is a project sponsor

Everyday some projects succeed while others fail. Have you ever wondered what makes some more successful than others? Sometimes it succeeds because everyone knows what needs to be done. Other times it is because it is a well-funded small project. However there is one person on the project that can make a real difference on whether the project succeeds or fails. They are the project champion.

I will always remember when I first came across a really good project champion it was on one of my earliest projects. At the time I was working for a phone retailer and was given a project to automate the returns customers would bring into the store. The project had a great name “One Touch Returns” and the idea behind the project was a customer would bring their handset into the store to return it and the salesperson would scan the barcode on the phone and place the phone in a box with all the other returned phones.

When the box of returns arrived at the warehouse from each store the warehouse staff member would scan the handset and it would tell them where to place it on the return shelf. The clever part was the software in the background that would run during the scan and calculate where the phone should go depending on its age, manufacturer, the network and if it was faulty. There were hundreds of different permutations due to different commercial arrangements on where the phone could go making the software very complex.

But when the project was completed every phone was returned correctly. Not a single phone was sent to the wrong place. The reason the project was such a success was largely down to the project champion who was brilliant. The champion understood the project inside and out. Whenever someone in the technical team had a query he could answer it straight away. He was also able to list all of the different rules and how each rule would work. Had the project not had a champion that was so engaged in the project the result would have been phones being sent to the wrong place and the project taking much longer to deliver. He was certainly the project superhero.

The project champion can make a real difference to the success of a project. Click To Tweet

So how does a project champion make such a difference to a project. They do this by doing 3 things really well.

Understand the vision:

They understand the project sponsor’s vision and get what is trying to be achieved. When a question comes up that needs solving the champion can be on hand to state what needs to happen to meet the vision. They are able to clearly explain the project requirements and agree what a suitable solution would be.

Make decisions:

A champion that always has to run to the sponsor before making a decision will just slow the project down. A good champion makes decisions based on their knowledge and understanding. They may afterwards check with the sponsor but importantly they have not stopped the project team from moving forwards.

Stand up for the project team:

By working with the project team if something does go wrong not turning round and blaming individuals but instead able to work with others to solve problems. When the executive starts to put pressure on why a project has not been delivered they are able to stand up for the project team and explain what a great job they are doing.

The project champion makes a difference to the project and can be the difference between success and failure. Who is your project champion?

If you would like to find out more about project management I have created an Introduction to Project Management course. The course is made up of 5 fun professionally animated videos along with quizzes and guides. Watch the short sample below and click the link to get access.


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