Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Tag Archives: project sponsor

Poll Results: Who is responsible for ensuring project value?

I recently cross-posted a poll in a couple of different locations. The majority of responses came from this LinkedIn poll. The biggest value of the poll is in the comments. They are worth a good read. I will be writing an article based on the information collected and my thoughts. Here are the raw results in the meantime.

A few notes:

  • Many commented that they did not like having to select a single role, that it is the team’s responsibility to ensure project value.
  • The wording of the poll was questioned. I agree! A better question would have been “Who is responsible for ensuring the project delivers business value?”
  • In a different context, the use of “business owner” was questioned. In the article I will be referring to this role as the Customer/SME.

Here is a preview of what is to come in the article.

Thank you for your participation and comments. Keep them coming!

Which Came First, the Project or the Project Sponsor?

There has been a lot of interesting discussion on the roles and responsibilities of the project sponsor in LinkedIn groups such as Project Sponsors. There does not seem to be a common understanding on what a sponsor’s responsibilities are, or even if a sponsor is required for a project. This leads to the question – can there be project without a sponsor?

This would be the same as asking ‘can there be a television program without an advertiser or other funding’, ‘can there be foreign exchange student without a sponsor/host family’, ‘can there be sports team without a sponsor to help organize and get uniforms and equipment’? A project (television program, exchange student, or sports team) cannot exist if it does not have some who cares enough to give or raise money, get excited and brag about benefits and accomplishments, or be willing to work to help overcome obstacles. I concede that there may be a project, but it will be a project with very high risks. A project I would not choose to manage.

Do projects need a sponsor? Yes. Do project sponsors know how to support their projects? Ah…now we are on to something.

Here is a two-part challenge for you. First, do a web search on “project sponsor” “job description”. Go ahead. I’ll wait for you…

How many jobs did you find? My search resulted in many articles like this one as well as job descriptions that included working with project sponsors. Not so much on the  job postings for project sponsors.  Now try “project sponsor” curriculum. Did you find any college level courses in project sponsorship? Well I did find one single day program targeted to sponsors. I was very excited about that until I noticed they had no current course offerings on their calendar. Your sponsor is not likely to know what is needed to be an effective sponsor. Project Sponsor was something they were assigned or took on as responsibility of their job, but is not the job they studied for. This is where he needs your guidance.

You are likely reading this article because you are interested in project management. You likely have experience and have education in managing projects, or plan on pursuing it. You are actively choosing to explore the project sponsor role in support of the project you manage. What title does your project sponsor hold with the organization? How did he get to be a sponsor? Did his career path include any formal experience or education in managing projects? Hopefully, this line of thinking puts your understanding in a different light.

Congratulations if you are a project sponsor reading this post! You have taken a great step to becoming a top rate sponsor and providing the support your project needs to be successful.

It is our job as project managers to communicate the needs of the project to our sponsors. I developed the following list of sponsor responsibilities by considering the Project Management Body of Knowledge definition and the examples of non-project sponsor examples above.

  • Establish guidelines
  • Provide mentorship and guidance
  • Approve content, service, and/or image of the project
  • Contribute in selecting high visibility/impact resources
  • Champion the project
  • Accept legal and financial responsibility
  • Provide funding, supplies, or space as agreed to and needed to support the project
  • Work to resolve issues between project/team, providers, others
  • Withhold or withdraw funding if the sponsored is not meeting obligations or agreements

Well, it is a good start anyway. What do you think?

This article does not address the issues of the wrong sponsor assigned or the stubborn sponsor who does not buy in to the importance of these responsibilities. I will save those for another day.

Image: Simon Howden /

Project Sponsorship

This week I gave a presentation to a group of people who made up the governance stakeholders of a newly initiated, multi-agency, federally funded project.  The presentation was developed to be generic and geared towards a large, diverse audience that may include a mix of sponsors and project managers from different organizations and different projects.  There was an unforeseen advantage to giving a general sponsorship presentation to a specific group that I wanted to share.

The discussion at the presentation was among individuals with a vested interest in the governance of the upcoming project.  They were able to review general the definitions, responsibilities, and recommendations within the presentation and have candid conversations about the needs for this project. It helped open the minds and the discussion to who should be invited on the Steering Committee, how the sponsors could work together to complement each other and acknowledge competing interests in the project, and helped give light to what they will need in selecting a project manager to help the project succeed.  The downside was I had to cut the presentation short because we ran out of time, but given the work and discussion that did happen, I’m okay with that.

The point in posting this is to say that by presenting sponsorship in a way that promotes discussion of the concepts with all of the governing stakeholders allowed that group to discuss their needs rather than being told what the needed to do.  For me, their discussion was validation that they understood the roles of the sponsors and steering committee, and how they could set the project up for success.

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