Projects need a variety of resources to be executed and delivered successfully. In most cases, these resources come from a sponsoring organization or project sponsor.
What Is a Project Sponsor?
A project sponsor is an individual who offers financial resources for the initiation of a project. Besides securing the project financing, a project sponsor proposes a business case, establishes a project vision and sets the project governance guidelines. The project sponsor is also responsible for the project’s return on investment and the impact it has on the organization.
Once the project is approved, the project sponsor supervises the project management team from a high-level standpoint, while project managers oversee the daily project activities.
Project sponsorship can vary depending on the project and organization. For example, in a sole proprietorship, the project sponsor is the business owner who hires a project team to execute a project. In the case of an IT project for a large organization, the project sponsor might be the chief information officer who will work with an IT project manager and a group of team members. In other cases, C-level executives and senior managers can be the executive sponsors of a project.
Project sponsors and project managers need a project management tool to collaborate and make sure their projects are successful. ProjectManager is robust project management software with all the tools needed to plan, schedule and track projects from ideation to completion such as Gantt charts, kanban boards and timesheets. In addition, ProjectManager has real-time dashboards, collaboration features and project reports that help project sponsors keep track of multiple projects and communicate their progress to their organizations.
Project Sponsor Role
The project sponsor is responsible for many aspects of the project, from initiating and ensuring project feasibility to tracking project progress and assessing its outcomes. The role can be broken into three parts: project vision, project governance and value or benefits realization.
Establishing the Project Vision
- Ensures the business case is valid and aligned with the business proposition
- Aligns project with business strategy, goals and objectives
- Stays informed of project events to keep the project viable
- Defines the criteria for project success and how it fits with the overall business
Establishing Project Governance Guidelines
- Ensures the project is properly launched and initiated
- Maintains organizational priorities throughout the project
- Offers support for project organization
- Defines project roles and reporting structure
- Acts as an escalation point for issues when something is beyond the project manager’s control
- Gets financial resources
- Decision-maker for progress and phases of the project
Setting Goals and Estimating the Project Benefits
- Ensures that risks and changes are managed
- Helps to ensure control and review of processes
- Oversees the delivery of project value
- Evaluates status and progress
- Approves deliverables
- Helps with decision-making
- Oversees project quality throughout project phases
Project Sponsor Responsibilities
Project sponsors play different roles in each phase of the project life cycle. Here’s a quick overview of the main roles and responsibilities of a project sponsor for each project phase.
Project Sponsor Responsibilities During Project Initiation
Project sponsors are instrumental in selecting the project manager during the initiation phase, and they give that project manager a clear mandate and context for the project and set the level of their authority.
During the project initiation, the project sponsor ensures the project is appropriate for the organization, offering input on the project charter and participating in the kick-off meeting. The sponsor helps with the decision-making during this phase.
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Project Sponsor Responsibilities During Project Planning
For the planning phase, the project sponsor is checking to make sure the project plan is realistic and feasible. This accounts for time restrictions and whether or not the team is tasked with expectations they cannot meet.
The project sponsor can help resolve issues, too, if they’re beyond the scope of the project manager. If there are other projects in play, the project sponsor is making sure they’re working together and not against each other.
Project Sponsor Responsibilities During Project Execution
For the implementation and control phases, the project sponsor should work with the project manager, but not overstep boundaries. The project sponsor evaluates the project’s actual progress against what was planned and provides feedback to the project manager as necessary.
Sponsors also help the project manager and teamwork more autonomously to solve issues as they arise, while ensuring that processes are being followed. They identify underlying factors that might cause problems and celebrate the completion of milestones.
Project Sponsor Responsibilities During Project Closure
During the closing phase, the project sponsor is part of the post-mortem evaluation of performance and other aspects of the project. They make sure that handoffs and signoffs are done properly. Project sponsors help facilitate the discussion that decides whether a project was a success or failure.
Overall, a project sponsor helps to streamline communications. They create trust and collaboration and keep problems from escalating. In terms of issues, they set up the instrument to identify problems with the schedule, cost and quality. In that sense, they’re also in charge of making sure risk management is successful. Finally, they also encourage record-keeping for historical data storage.
Now that we have a better understanding of the project sponsor role, let’s compare it against other similar project management roles.
Project Sponsor vs. Project Manager
As stated above, the project sponsor differs from the project manager because the project manager is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the project management team through the planning, scheduling, execution and closing phases of a project.
The project sponsor, on the other hand, supervises the project from a high-level standpoint that requires them to understand how projects align with their organization’s strategic planning. This mindset allows them to prioritize project ideas depending on which will bring the most benefits to their organization.
Project Sponsor vs. Project Owner
While the project sponsor is mostly concerned with securing the financial resources for a project and getting it started, a project owner is an individual who’s accountable for the overall failure or success of a project. He’ll work closely with project managers to make sure things go as planned and reports back to the project sponsor.
Project Sponsor vs. Project Stakeholder
The project stakeholder can be confused with the project sponsor because of the similar titles. However, their roles and level of involvement with the project are very different.
A project stakeholder is anyone who’s affected by the project to some degree. There are internal project stakeholders such as a company’s board of directors, shareholders and employees and also external project stakeholders such as government regulatory agencies, landowners, etc. The project sponsor is usually part of the organization that owns the project.
What Skills Should a Project Sponsor Have?
Project sponsors are usually senior managers or executives who excel at leadership, financial planning, strategic planning and business management. However, to succeed in their project sponsor role, they should be experts in project portfolio management and have project management skills such as project planning, scheduling and tracking.
How ProjectManager Helps Project Sponsors & Project Managers
Project sponsors need regular status updates. ProjectManager has a number of tools that help you get your tasks done on time and under budget, and then communicate that success to your project sponsor.
Plan, Schedule & Track Projects With Gantt Charts
For example, with our online Gantt chart, when team members log on and complete the tasks assigned to them, the project progress updates in real time. This helps you stay on schedule and provides a visual way to update your project sponsor on the schedule.
Monitor Projects at a Glance With Real-Time Dashboards
ProjectManager also has a real-time dashboard that displays live project data. These charts can be filtered to display just the data that the project sponsor wants, and then shared digitally or printed out for a presentation. If you’re meeting with the project sponsor, take your software with you. You can easily access it if any questions arise that demand a deeper dive into the data.
Project sponsors need this sort of transparency: they feel a part of the process and can provide the guidance they’re tasked to deliver to keep the project aligned with the organization’s business objectives.
There’s a lot to learn about being a project sponsor. For that reason, we’ve created blogs, guides and templates to help you better understand all the different aspects of this role.
- How to Start a Project Management Career
- 10 Key Project Roles & Their Responsibilities
- Top 30 Project Management Skills
- Top 10 Project Management Qualifications
- Best 12 Project Management Certifications
Project sponsors are one of the many gears that drive a project to a successful end. They’re especially important as they have the power to approve or disapprove changes in order to keep projects aligned with business strategy. Therefore, you want to keep them well informed. If you want to integrate the project sponsor better, try ProjectManager for free with this 30-day trial.