Managing Your Project Sponsor – The Practical Project Manager

The Practical Project Manager

The place to look for practical solutions to help in the journey of project management

Managing Your Project Sponsor

Who is your Project Sponsor? There are many ways to describe this person. Some of the phrases used to describe this person include:

  1. The person whose neck is on the line if the project is not successful
  2. The person who is paying for the project
  3. The person who will benefit the most from having the project succeed
  4. The person who holds the vision for the project

The list goes on and on.

My favorite definition of the sponsor is a combination of one and two. As part of your stakeholder analysis, it is critical to identify correctly who this person is. Once you have identified this person, you must have a session with them to understand their vision, pain points, criteria of success and anything else they would like to share with you. The Project Sponsor is your Customer.

Now that you have had this session, you should have enough information to start work on your project charter. Fill in all the information that you have and start work on the draft project charter. The project charter is what the Project Sponsor uses to give authority to the Project Manager to run the project.

Why is it important to manage your Project Sponsor?

As I mentioned earlier, the Project Sponsor is your Customer. All sign offs will come from the Sponsor. The Sponsor is also the one who determines whether the project was successful because he is the custodian or owner of the requirements. A project is considered successful if it met the requirements that it was envisioned to meet.

What can you do to manage your sponsor?

Know your Project Sponsor

Understand how your Project Sponsor best operates. How do they like their communication done? How frequently do they need communication: weekly or daily? In what format is the information required: email, text or face-to-face meeting? Ensure you communicate in a manner that gets you results or decisions. Give your Project Sponsor enough information to give a decision where required. Remember that the Project Sponsor relies heavily on the information that you provide so get your facts straight.

Be on the same page

Now that you have had a chance to understand your Project Sponsor’s needs, you need to explain how you foresee the project running. This helps the Project Sponsor see what to expect. Trick here is to be consistent in following the methodology so as to avoid confusion. It also helps the Project Sponsor to know what to expect.

Communicate regularly

This seems like I am repeating myself but there is no such thing as over communication as far as projects go. Communicate as much as possible. Share meeting minutes and agreed action items. Develop project status reports. Schedule on-on-one sessions with the Project Sponsor to discuss progress, issues or to just have a cup of tea. Target your communication to get you the information or decisions you need. Provide data and information as required.

Promote Teamwork

It is critical to run the project with your project team. Ensure the Project Sponsor understands the project team structure, roles and responsibilities. This should be in the project charter which must be signed off by the Project Sponsor. When the Project Sponsor is aware of what the team’s roles and responsibilities are, it makes the collaboration efforts much easier and your role becomes to facilitate and ensure the right people are in the right meetings.

Use the Project Sponsor

You have a Project Sponsor. Use them to get your project moving. Escalate any issues, risks, delays or changes that impact the project. Ensure you push for decisions from the Project Sponsor. It is your role as the Project Manager to highlight the impact of the issues, risks, delays or changes to enable the Project Sponsor to make decisions. Your Project Sponsor’s role is to help to address obstacles including funding and organisational barriers.

What are your experiences or ways that you manage your Project Sponsor?


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Photo credit: The Businessmen by Ryan McGuire
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