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Project Sponsor FAQ

Craig Brown has been writing about the job description of a project sponsor over at Better Projects. I have pulled together an FAQ for project sponsors, which you can use if you’re having difficulty explaining to someone what a project sponsor actually does.

Why does a project need a sponsor?
To support the project team and act as an escalation route for any issues or problems.

How is a sponsor different from a project manager?
The project manager manages the operational, day-to-day, issues on the project. When something happens that they can’t manage within the agreed parameters (a budget, a timeframe, a set of requirements) a sponsor makes the decision about how to proceed.

How can they make the decision when they don’t work daily with the detail?
The project manager will present various options and the consequences of following each option. The sponsor should have a general overview of the project which will be enough to choose the right course of action.

How is a sponsor informed of progress?
This is agreed between the project manager and the sponsor at the beginning of the project. It could be a written monthly report, a face-to-face briefing or on an exception basis. If there is a problem that cannot wait, the project manager should be able to approach the sponsor immediately.

What else does a sponsor do?

  • represent the project at a senior management level;
  • keep the project manager informed of any changes or developments that may have an impact on the project;
  • put their name to and help with communications about the project;
  • offer advice and make decisions;
  • put forward and/or support the case for a comprehensive budget for resources;
  • chair the steering group;
  • read, understand and sign off project documents;
  • anything else (within reason!) to support the project at the request of the project manager.

Next Monday: who makes a good project sponsor?

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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