The term ‘project sponsor came into use in the 1980s and at first referred to someone who owned the business and thus the project. The sponsor therefore was the person who signed the cheques, who was also the paymaster. A later definition saw the sponsor as the boss of the project manager.
Today the project sponsor is more the figurehead or the champion of the project. If the project is very large there will likely be many managers. Some of these will not be in the upper echelons of the company. The sponsor is the conduit between the various managers and facilitates communication between the various staffing levels.
The sponsor’s responsibilities venture far and wide. The sponsor takes on an advocate’s role, can be a financial guru, a problem solver and the person who accepts responsibility for the overall result of the project. The highly important project manager takes comfort in knowing the sponsor is there for moral and practical support. In short, the sponsor is super important which means keeping the sponsor on song and on board is vital to the success of the project.
But how? What can you do to excite and interest your sponsor? You certainly want the sponsor’s dedicated commitment. You need their enthusiasm, energy and dedication. So what might you and others do to make that happen?
Well first and foremost make sure the sponsor knows exactly what their role entails. What tasks, what specific tasks is the sponsor required to complete? If the sponsor is unsure of their role, losing interest is a definite possibility.
The sponsor is often the person identified within the company as the one responsible for the project. But is the sponsor often seen and recognized? Do employees know the sponsor and their role? Public awareness and promotion of the sponsor is essential to keep them on their toes.
The wide responsibilities of the sponsor mean that all project managers must clearly report on the status of their tasks at regular intervals. Leaving the sponsor out of any loop is a dangerous practice. A well-informed sponsor is an interested sponsor.
The sponsor, for all their importance, is not the project manager. Allowing the sponsor to take over even a part of the work of the project manager is fraught with danger. Staff may become confused with the chain of command. Making decisions is not the same as monitoring and reviewing a project and allowing sponsors to blur their responsibilities can cause friction and damage the actual project. A sponsor will be most interested when they know and stick to their specific albeit far-ranging responsibilities. Keep them on track.
Acceptance of a sponsor’s vision is a perfect way to encourage loyalty. A sponsor takes great pride in their vision for the project when others involved share the same vision and support it to the hilt.
Consider your next project. Does the sponsor have the support they need? Are you as one of the project managers giving the sponsor the support they need to do their job well and remain enthusiastic throughout the life of the project?
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