The importance of project sponsorship

2013

I saw something for the very first time the other day, and it was one of those 'why on earth have I never seen this before it is so obvious…' moments.

There is some background to this I have to admit. I have a new book out called Strategies for Project Sponsorship (Management Concepts Press) written with two fellow authors, Ron Rosenhead and Vicki James. As a result of this I am tending to think 'sponsors' at every occasion and this one was no different.

I was reviewing a portfolio dashboard at a software vendor and they, as I have seen many times in the past in many systems, offered me views by project manager, business unit, location, value, phase and so on.

But then I asked, and was delighted to see (after a simple sort edit) a view of the portfolio by - yes, you guessed it - by sponsor. At last!

And why not.

Portfolio management should be much more than just a prioritisation of projects and resources exercise. It should be the representation in projects (and programs) of the competitive strategy that will allow business executives to convert their intentions into reality.

So this is pretty serious stuff then.

All of this is placed in the hands of project managers, and they need to be held to task and held accountable but in the words of Standish: 'The most important person in the project is the executive sponsor. The executive sponsor is ultimately responsible for the success and failure of the project".

So to me, these days anyway, for the executive team to be able to view their portfolio also by project sponsor and to see who of these 'ultimately responsible' people are performing (and who are not, thereby putting the business strategy at risk) should be a 'no-brainer'.

When it comes to financial accountability, it seems - at least anecdotally - that projects often go over budget, deliver late, and deliver less than was expected. Yet there are absolutely no significant consequences at sponsor level. No one appears to be accountable and no one gets removed.

Now, if something goes wrong in the 'real' side of the business - sales down, profits falling, share price dropping - then it seems like something will be done and someone will be held accountable. Maybe this is because this is seen as 'real' business and 'real' work and as such has to be taken seriously.

Project sponsorship needs the same strength of focus and importance of status. The success or failure of a project is a direct reflection on the sponsor as the keeper of the organisational vision.

A 'sponsor' view of the project portfolio is an absolute key to this in the future I believe. So executives; demand this today!

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About The Author

Peter Taylor
Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. An entertaining speaker in the project management world, he also acts as an independent consultant coaching executive sponsors.