How many times a Project Manager has had the feeling that he/she is the only one interested in keeping a project alive providing results? A Project Manager might deliver the desired results of a project without a Sponsor but that will cost him/her a lot of time, effort, mistakes, frustrations and perhaps also some enemies on the way. The absence or the inappropriate selection of a sponsor is one of the main reasons for a project to fail.
The sponsor role in a project is key for its success. But what’s a sponsor? Why is this role so important?
The sponsor is the person engaged and ultimate accountable for the project, who lives for the project, who will fight against the wind to get the project achieved its goals, who will get hurt if the project fails, who will push to get the resources needed to get the desired results and finally who will ensure the project remains viable and aligned with the company’s vision and strategies.
A Project Manager not only needs to have a sponsor, he/she ultimately needs the “right sponsor” for the project and not just a name to fill in the project organization chart. This is an active role that requires to be filled normally by a Senior Manager, closest to the project, interested on the project’s goals and with the time to dedicate to it. Ideally this person should have knowledge of Project Management practices, understanding not only the scope and outcomes of the project but also all deliverables and the Project Management documents that support it.
Having the right level of commitment from the Sponsor is also very important; the Sponsor should be there when problems/conflicts are originated and/or the Project Manager needs his/her support to move on with the planned activities as blockers are presented on the project development.
On the other hand, the Project Manager may not have all the information about the strategy and the vision of the company; this may cause project’s results getting into a wrong path.
Before accepting any mandate to start working on a project, always asks for a Project Sponsor; this will save you lot of troubles since the beginning and will let you set the right expectations upfront.