Why project sponsors matter

Written by
Laurence Cramp

Why project sponsors matter

Written by
Laurence Cramp

Why project sponsors matter

Written by
Laurence Cramp

What is the role of project sponsors?

Project Sponsors have the overall accountability for the success of a project – and in particular that its delivery results in the realisation of the expected benefits.

There are typically four aspects of project assurance that are key enablers of successful project delivery:

Project or Programme Quality Planning:  Setting out requirements for quality and undertaking the appropriate level of planning to achieve them.

Project or Programme Quality Control:  Monitoring the management and technical deliverables to determine whether they comply with the quality requirements (for example of internal and external stakeholders).

Project or Programme Assurance:  Review, validation and reporting within and independent of the project to provide confidence the initiative is ‘doing the right things’ to achieve a successful business outcome.

Project or Programme Continuous Improvement:  Participating in a two-way lessons learned process and acting when at risk of repeating mistakes from the past.

Sponsors and project assurance

Project or programme assurance is a process – so it is ongoing. There are four main aspects of assurance that a Sponsor needs to ensure are taking place:

  1. Validating and monitoring of the investment case, and ensuring benefits are realised after the project itself is closed
  2. Ensuring effective management of the business risks
  3. Monitoring progress and taking appropriate actions
  4. Ensuring the quality management activities on the project are fit for purpose

In addition to ensuring that appropriate assurance is taking place, the Sponsor has two further assurance accountabilities.  

Within the project or programme the Sponsor needs to make sure that the project or programme’s management deliverables are fit for purpose. The Sponsor should:

  1. Review and approve all documents required by project assurance, investment assurance of gate assurance
  2. Review and approve all other governance deliverables required
  3. Review and approve the outcomes of sub-gates or other checkpoint reviews
  4. Review, approve and escalate monthly project performance reporting

The Sponsor must also ensure that the project or programme remains in line with the business strategy and objectives (typically termed portfolio assurance). So, the sponsor should also:

  1. Keep up-to-date on the objectives and priorities of all the areas of the business that will be impacted by the project or programme, including interdependencies of other projects and programmes
  2. Make recommendations on the best course of action if the project or programme gets out of alignment and benefits are considered at risk

Why project sponsors are important

The role of Sponsor is a critical link between an organisation's senior management and the management of each project. The sponsoring role has decision making, directing and representational accountabilities. Project Sponsors can be titled in different ways, for example Senior Responsible Owner or Executive Sponsor, and may be located at different levels in an organisation depending on requirements.

Project Sponsors are the route through which project managers directly report and from which project managers obtain their formal authority, remit and decisions. Sponsors own the project business case.

Ultimately competent project sponsorship is of great benefit to even the best project managers and too often we see this as a token role or something that happens at the start (and maybe the end) of a project but never during its delivery.

How we can help

Project and Programme Management are two of our core competencies. We focus on what our clients want to achieve and we ensure the business benefits are delivered – it’s not just about checking milestones, it’s about real results and real value.

But we don’t only deliver project and programme management services ourselves. We can review your project management approach to ensure it meets your corporate objectives, creates value for your business, and has the appropriate tools, governance and performance indicators to guarantee success.