When it comes to protect team setup there are various roles and for all of them you as the project leader want to have trained and skilled members in your team, don't you? But what about the project sponsor? Does a sponsor also need a sort of project management education?
I think yes, of course.
In my working life I've met several types of sponsors. Some only appeared on the first kick off meeting for the first fifteen minutes to make a super important introduction into the topic and then never showed up again until the project end celebration to then have again a super important speech. On the other side I had to deal with sponsors that thought they are co-project leaders (or even more).
I remember one who even approached my project team to reprioritize tasks, change the project scope or assigne action items to them. So from this perspective I admit that I like the first example of sponsors more. But it also means that you will not get very much support from this kind of sponsor within your organization.
So what we are going to expect from a sponsor? Well, he/she should
- Take ownership of the business plan
- Sell and marketing the project throughout the organization
- Provide business expertise and guidance to the project manager
- Represent the project in the business community and management decisions groups
- Acting as an arbitrator and making decisions that may be beyond the authority of the project manager
- Support the project manager to enforce decisions that might go beyond his or her authority
- Acting as chairperson of the Steering Committee.
The main responsibilities are but not limited to
- The benefit plan and its realization
- Partnering with the portfolio management to ensure the benefit of the project is captured correctly and the project is prioritized accordingly
- Ensuring that the project is visible and recognized as a viable business proposition
- Ensuring changes to the project are properly managed
- Ensuring risks are managed
- Ensuring the project is under control
- Approving key project deliverables
- Ensuring overall quality of the project (e.g. signing quality documents)
- Initiating project reviews and supporting the process of review
- Resolving issues that are beyond the control of the Project Manager (e.g. resource conflicts)
These are quite a lot of roles, tasks and responsibilities that a Project Sponsor is confronted of and most of the time they are not fully aware of this because the sponsors are coming mostly out of the line and less of the project management area.
This leads to misunderstandings and conflicts between the project manager and the sponsor that could be avoided if the organization establishes clear directions of the role/responsibility of the project sponsor.
Once the role and responsibility of a project sponsor is defined within the organization a standardized training should be developed and rolled out. The training itself needs to be declared as mandatory for every person in the organization that wants to submit resp. launch a new project. In addition the trainings for project manager should also include what they can expect from their project sponsor so they can work together in the most effective way.