Project Sponsor

Definition: A project sponsor is a person or an entity that provides funding, resources, and support to execute and complete a project. Project sponsors initiate the project, and every project has at least one project sponsor.

Project sponsors provide stability. They are not part of the project team and are not involved with daily project activities. 

The project sponsor can change the scope of a project and has the authority to add or remove specific goals/aims.

The project sponsor can be external to an organization or within the organization itself.

What Are the Advantages of Project Sponsors?

Projects are Completed on Time

Projects are temporary and have a defined ending. They must be completed within a specified duration. Project managers develop the project schedule based on the project sponsor’s requirements and activities’ durations.

Project sponsors keep watch over the project schedules and milestones. If there is any deviation, they pressure the organization and project managers to put the project back on track. Since project sponsors are influential project stakeholders; their pressure pushes the project team to perform their best to complete the project on time. Sometimes project managers may use schedule compression techniques to compress the schedule.

Project Funding and Resources are Available

Project sponsors initiate the project and provide funding and resources to complete it. The timely availability of funds and resources ensures the project is completed on time.

Continuous access to funds and resources ensures the project runs with no friction.

Ensures the Flow of Information

Project sponsors are first to know if the project or product scope changes. Sometimes, external forces can cause the changes, such as any new government regulation. In such cases, project sponsors inform the project management team to accommodate the changes.

The project sponsor is responsible for passing information to the project manager.

With a steady flow of information, setbacks can be avoided, actions can be swiftly taken, and the project team can work without confusion towards achieving project objectives.

Roles of a Project Sponsor

The project sponsor plays a critical leadership role in the following areas:

  1. Provides their expertise and knowledge to the project management team
  2. Provides recommendations for selling and marketing issues
  3. Helps make higher-level decisions
  4. Expedites communications and encourages collaborations among customers and stakeholders
  5. Serves as a spokesperson within the organization in front of senior management
  6. Take part in project feasibility studies, cost-benefit analysis, signs project charter, etc.
  7. Participates in negotiating funds

Responsibilities of the Project Sponsor

The responsibilities of a project sponsor are outlined below:

  1. Takes part in initial project planning
  2. Works with the project manager and provides guidance
  3. Makes difficult decisions that are beyond the project manager’s authority
  4. Sets achievable goals for the project
  5. Ensures the funds and resources are available to run the project smoothly
  6. Actively participates in crucial decision making during the project
  7. Ensures that the project stays on track
  8. Resolve conflicts that are above the authority and ability of the project manager

Project Sponsor Duties Throughout the Project Life Cycle

The different stages of the project life cycle are:

Project Sponsor Duties Throughout the Project Life Cycle

The responsibilities of the project sponsor in each phase of the project lifecycle are as follows:

Initiation Phase

  1. Proposes the project
  2. Chooses a project manager
  3. Provides funding for the project
  4. Strategizes and sets goals and end dates for the project
  5. Provides statement of works for the project
  6. Participates in the initial project meeting
  7. Ensures that all initial activities are carried out accordingly
Planning Phase
  1. Ensures that plans are achievable and realistic
  2. Analyzes potential risks
  3. Observes and measure the project baselines

Execution Phase

  1. Assesses the progress of the project
  2. Resolves conflicts that are beyond the capability of the project manager
  3. Makes or prevents changes to the already established plan
  4. Works together with the project manager to monitor the project
  5. Provides expert knowledge and judgment
  6. Provides funding and resources for project execution

Closing

  1. Assesses the performance of the project
  2. Ensures proper handoff and sign-off
  3. Accesses if the project was successful

Challenges Faced Working with a Project Sponsor

Dealing with project sponsors is challenging because:

  1. Project sponsors are the most influential project stakeholders. Project managers don’t have the option to choose their sponsors.
  2. The project sponsor may lack project management experience.
  3. Often, project sponsors are not aware of what is expected of them.
  4. Project sponsors may not have time to provide valuable advice and support to struggling projects.
  5. Project sponsors working at the wrong level or lacking power within the organization are not helpful.

Project Sponsors Vs Project Stakeholders Vs Project Managers

Project sponsors, stakeholders, and managers have critical roles in project management.

The project sponsors are responsible for providing project funding and resources to complete the project. They are responsible for making key project decisions. Project sponsors have the highest level of authority over the project.

Project managers come next in the hierarchy of authority. They serve as the link between the project sponsor and the team members. They work with the team members and are more involved than the project sponsors. The success or failure of a project depends on them. They act and follow the plans approved by the project sponsor to achieve success. They have the authority to use the project funding and resources.

The project stakeholders are those affected by the project or its outcome, whether directly or indirectly. Each stakeholder plays a role in ensuring the project’s success. 

Project stakeholders can include:

  1. Project sponsors
  2. Project managers
  3. Project teams
  4. Customers
  5. Vendors
  6. Members of the community.

Tips for Working with Project Sponsors

Working with a project sponsor can be tricky. A project manager must manage the project sponsor to complete the project successfully.

Below are a few tips for working with project sponsors:

Understand the Project Sponsor’s Requirements

A misunderstanding of the project sponsor’s requirements will lead to friction. If the project sponsor’s needs are not met, the project is a failure. Therefore, project managers must understand the project sponsor’s requirements before starting the project.

Be Organized and Consistent

Project managers must have an organized system to carry out assigned tasks. The project should be on schedule and within budget. This ensures the reliability of the project managers and establishes trust.

Take Responsibility

Accepting mistakes helps build trust. Project managers must learn to accept feedback and corrections. Incorporating input and corrections leads to success and establishes trust.

Carry the Sponsors Along

Communication is key to success. Project managers must listen to the project sponsor’s advice and give feedback. Keep the project sponsor updated on the project’s status and progress. This helps project sponsors stay on the same page and helps get their buy-in.

Conclusion

A project sponsor is a key stakeholder who has all authority over the project; they sign the project charter, appoint the project manager, and ensure funding and resources are available to complete it. The project manager is responsible for fulfilling the project sponsors’ requirements.