The role of a Project Sponsor is to work closely with the Organisation to provide governance and leadership.

What makes a good Project Sponsor?

An effective Project Sponsor is able to articulate and demonstrate the strategic value of a project at the Board, Organisational, and Project level. They understand the importance of developing and refining the business case and ensuring this aligns with the business strategy.

The Project Sponsor typically has a depth of experience within the organisation and is a well-respected individual. The most successful Project Sponsors have a consistent track record in leadership and they are effective communicators. They have demonstrated their capability to influence all facets of the business.

What does a Project Sponsor do?

A Project Sponsor is part of the initial planning phase of a project. They work in collaboration with key stakeholders to determine what the key outcomes should be.

They will:-

  • Determine the availability of resources (financial and human capital)
  • Approve project scope and changes
  • Formulate an ongoing communication plan
  • Work on refining the implementation strategy from project status to business as usual
  • Approve (sign off) each phase of a project
  • Provide support to the project and help resolve conflict or potential conflict
  • Put in place the necessary project controls
  • Help to mitigate risks and remove obstacles that may deter progress
  • Be resilient and emotionally intelligent
  • Ensure adherence to Governance standards
  • Agree to “what success looks like”

It is this macro view that adds a certain level of credibility and legitimacy.

The Project Sponsor should be the key decision-maker. They are ultimately responsible for delivering the project and adding value to the organisation.

The success of the project isn’t about ticking the various boxes along the way, ensuring

What does an Executive Sponsor do?

While the Project Sponsor is appointed by the organisation the Executive Sponsor is appointed by the Board. The link between organisation and its project governance practices. The Executive Sponsor is usually a Senior Executive. They will have an intimate understanding of their strategy, financial position, organisational culture, and market dynamics. As such they carry a level of authority and influence beyond just being a project advocate.

How much influence does an Executive Sponsor have?

The Executive Sponsor will have the necessary influence to determine how a project is progressing, they are focussed on delivering beyond just quality and outcome, they want to ensure the investment yields a return from a strategic, financial, cultural, and market position.

Should the Project not deliver against some or all of the pre-determined criteria the Executive Sponsor would be well within their scope to question the organisation’s investment. They can either defend or challenge the Project’s progress. Regardless of whichever position they take, they are (as a Board appointed representative) accountable to the Board.

With any strategic role, all parties must take the time and make time to ensure the Project and its stakeholders (including the Board) and engaging on a regular basis.

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Crawford, L. & Cooke-Davies, T. (2005). Project governance: the pivotal role of the executive sponsor.
Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2005—North America, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

International Journal of Project Management
Time and budget: the twin imperatives of a project sponsor
Volume 15, Issue 3, June 1997, Pages 181-186
JNevan Wright
Auckland Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand