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Project Sponsor FAQ

Craig Brown has been writing about the job description of a project sponsor over at Better Projects. I have pulled together an FAQ for project sponsors, which you can use if you’re having difficulty explaining to someone what a project sponsor actually does.

Why does a project need a sponsor?
To support the project team and act as an escalation route for any issues or problems.

How is a sponsor different from a project manager?
The project manager manages the operational, day-to-day, issues on the project. When something happens that they can’t manage within the agreed parameters (a budget, a timeframe, a set of requirements) a sponsor makes the decision about how to proceed.

How can they make the decision when they don’t work daily with the detail?
The project manager will present various options and the consequences of following each option. The sponsor should have a general overview of the project which will be enough to choose the right course of action.

How is a sponsor informed of progress?
This is agreed between the project manager and the sponsor at the beginning of the project. It could be a written monthly report, a face-to-face briefing or on an exception basis. If there is a problem that cannot wait, the project manager should be able to approach the sponsor immediately.

What else does a sponsor do?

  • represent the project at a senior management level;
  • keep the project manager informed of any changes or developments that may have an impact on the project;
  • put their name to and help with communications about the project;
  • offer advice and make decisions;
  • put forward and/or support the case for a comprehensive budget for resources;
  • chair the steering group;
  • read, understand and sign off project documents;
  • anything else (within reason!) to support the project at the request of the project manager.

Next Monday: who makes a good project sponsor?

3 comments… add one

  • STACY MACQUARRIE,PMP 6/10/2008, 3:33 pm

    What is your opinion on co-sponsorship? With multiple sponsors on the project, where does the accountability lie? Is it with the sponsor who controls the $$? Or is it with the one who is most involved? Does co-sponsorship really work?

    Stacy

  • Elizabeth 9/02/2009, 9:57 am

    Stacy,
    I think co-sponsorship can be problematic. You need co-sponsors who are co-operative and understanding of each others’ perspectives, and in difficult situations, like projects, this doesn’t always happen. The main conflict is between the budget holder and the person controlling the resources.
    It is possible to make co-sponsorship work, but you need regular meetings (or at least contact) between the co-sponsors.
    I would avoid co-sponsorship if at all possible. If you can’t avoid it, hold regular project board meetings with as few people as possible.

  • Stacy 30/07/2009, 10:15 pm

    Single person sponsorship with all of the competencies here would certainly help a lot!

    http://www.2omega.co.uk

    What do you think?

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