What is a Project Sponsor?
A project sponsor is a member of the senior management team who can help guide the project to the businesses strategic objectives. The sponsor may have thought of the idea for the project in the first instance.
According to the APM (BoK 7 2019):
The sponsor plays a critical role as part of the governance board of any project. The sponsor is accountable for ensuring that the work is governed effectively and delivers the objectives to meet identified needs.
In some businesses the project sponsor may be called a ‘Project Champion’. In other businesses there may be a distinction between the roles:
- The Project Champion is the advocate for the project
- The Project Sponsor is the owner or funder of the project
For small businesses there may be no distinction. In the descriptions below either term will suffice. It is good practice to have a senior manager onboard to ‘champion’ the project.
The Role of a Project Sponsor
The definition of a project sponsor suggests that they have a high level view of the project. This will give them the ability to:
- Show authority when major decisions have to be made on the project
- Remove blockages when other projects, departments, or staff threaten the projects progress
- Provide resources (Finance, Staff, Space, Materials) when needed
- Have a ‘helicopter view’ of the overall business situation as the project progresses
- Be inspiration and motivational to the project manager and team members
- They may act as a mentor to a new or junior project manager
- The sponsor should attend the project ‘Kick-Off’ meeting to set the project in the business context
- They should attend or chair the Project Review Meeting to ensure that corporate learning takes place.
The sponsor needs to deliver the above tasks. In some cases the project manager may have to suggest these duties to the sponsor!
Difference Between a Project Sponsor and Project Manager
The project sponsor is not involved in the day-to-day running of the project. This day-to-day activity is the role of the project manager. The project sponsor may receive weekly updates on the progress of the project.
One definition is that the project sponsor ‘funds’ the project and the project manager ‘runs’ the project.
The project manager should not approach the project sponsor too often as they will appear unable to manage the project. On the other hand the project sponsor will require regular updates on the projects progress, and should be available when big decisions or changes are required.
A project sponsor operates at a corporate level, whilst a project manager operates at a day-to-day level.
A member of the senior management team advocating the project is vital for the project success. Ensuring on-going business benefits result from the project delivery is also important.