Today is International Project Management Day. I bet there will be quite a few posts on project management as a profession and a methodology.

I would like to talk about something that is to often forgotten in projects: the importance of the sponsor in the project.

No project without the sponsor

If no one wants the product or end results of the project, there will be no project. The sponsor is not only the initiator of the project, she is the reason for the project to exist. The sponsor is not just the flag-waver in the race to deliver the project on time and under budget. The sponsor must be involved with the project at many levels:

  • At project kick-off. It's a communication issue that is too often glossed over: the project team should understand who is initiating the project, and why it's being done. This should be learned from the project sponsor directly. The project manager saying "the sponsor told me" just doesn't have the same value, or the same credibility for that matter.
  • For all major changes to the project. It's up to the sponsor and the change control committee to decided on major scope, delays or budget changes in the project. Giving the project sponsor this visibility helps the project manager from developing image problems with the team.
  • At major deliveries or milestones. Connecting the team with the sponsor at key project events such as deliveries helps the team and the sponsor understand each other, instead of constantly communicating through the project manager. 
  • At project closure. It's up to the project sponsor to sign off on the project.

No authority without the sponsor either

I have seen the situation first hand, where the project manager was not supported by the sponsor publicly. Without the support of the sponsor, the project manager may not be perceived positively by the team, which will affect the project itself quite negatively.

As a project manager, I've learned to make sure that the project sponsor is involved in the projects, if only to communicate to the team what is required of them and of the project.

How do you deal with your projects' sponsors?