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formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC
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.
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.
I just finished writing a response to a Request for Proposal and found an interesting theme in my response. The Stakeholder Analysis is the most important tool in the Project Manager’s toolkit. With a great Stakeholder Analysis you will have information that is key to planning for project communications, organizational change management, training, rollout plans and notifications, risk management, you name it. This will be an equally valuable key in planning Business Analysis activities and communications.
While I refer to this as a Project Management tool, the fact is it is a complete project tool. It is not something that can be completed by the Project Manager in a vacuum, nor is it something that should be written once and then filed away. As you work the project you will get additional information in many different ways that will make project plans and activities go more smoothly.
I am an avid poker player. Most poker books discuss the strategy of writing notes on other players as soon as the poker session is over (or even better during). The point of this strategy is to have better recall on how other players act in certain circumstances so that you can learn what their play says about the strength of their had hand and what plays you can use to increase your odds of making money.
Another useful analogy is the star sales person who takes careful notes on all customers, actual or prospective. With this information they can proactively provide meaningful leads to customers on items they desire or would benefit from. They can also avoid wasting time on cold calls that do not have a high likelihood of resulting in a sale. Finally, it will provide information to support inventory decisions, avoiding costly mistakes of purchasing items that are not likely to sell.
What information is the Stakeholder Analysis providing that will increase our chances of success?
Think of the Stakeholder Analysis has your very own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. You will not be able to answer all of the questions upon first making an entry. As you learn more about the stakeholder and the project, additional information will become available. The Stakeholder Analysis should continue to grow throughout the project as you and the project team gain information. Update the Stakeholder Analysis as you learn more about your stakeholders, and the strategies and tools that work best for meeting their needs as well as gaining their trust and cooperation. At the same time, update any project plans that can be improved given what you now know. Plans were not meant to be set in stone but rather to be improved upon as additional information becomes available.
Here are a few strategies developing your Stakeholder Analysis:
Information is the key to success. Use the Stakeholder Analysis to structure your information gathering, record the information you learn, and advise you on actions that will result in the greatest chances of project success.
I welcome any and all thoughts or experiences you have had in working with stakeholders.
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