Build Sponsorship, Boost the Portfolio

By Mario Trentim, PMP, PMI-RMP

We’ve all been there. Portfolio managers have done their job of setting long-term objectives and a clear strategy. Projects have been selected and prioritized. And yet the organization is still having trouble gleaning real benefits — i.e., results that create business value and contribute to its strategic objectives — from projects and, subsequently, its portfolio.
This disconnect is often rooted in weak sponsorship, and that’s often a result of project sponsors not knowing their roles. When that happens, they aren’t able to support projects in a way that aligns a portfolio to the organization’s grand strategic plan. Project sponsors are instrumental in a project’s selection and categorization, allocating resources, and monitoring and communicating its progress to the highest rungs of an organization. As a high-level decision-maker, an effective project sponsor gives the portfolio more agility and flexibility to adapt and absorb changes.
While fostering the right kind of project sponsor won’t happen overnight, it can start right away. To do so, executive-level management — many of which could be sponsors — should:
  • Make strategic planning a continuous and dynamic process
  • Appoint and assign a sponsor responsible for every business objective
  • Provide mentoring and coaching to sponsors, in addition to some portfolio and project management training
Project managers can also help sponsors support projects better by communicating in the same language. Project managers should translate technical issues (such as scope and deliverables) into tangible business results (i.e., return on investment, profit, revenue and costs) for sponsors. In this manner, sponsors and project managers together can handle the internal environment (project team and processes) and the external environment (organizational structure, strategy and market demands).
Do you have strong project sponsorship in your organization? In your experience, can effective sponsorship boost the entire portfolio’s performance?

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

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