The role of the Project Sponsor is the most senior, and most critical role within Agile project management. Usually a senior member of the organisation, they are responsible for championing the project and delivering the results back to the organisation.
Typically, the Project Sponsor will provide no interference, and will leave the Project Team to deliver the project. They do however, have the power to terminate the project should it fail to fulfil its goals.
The key responsibilities of the Project Sponsor include:
The Project Sponsor is responsible for the resources. They should add resources where appropriate and be able to negotiate effectively where resources are required from other departments, such as finance and human resources.
Issues are common in projects and require escalation to reach a resolution. The Project Sponsor is able to speed up this process, allowing the team to get back on track quickly.
A good Project Sponsor doesn’t wait until issues arise to get involved in the project. They have a good understanding of how the project aligns with the organisational strategy, and, by making themselves visible to the project team, they can share the project goals and offer help and advice.
Provide a communication bridge
Often considered the responsibility of the Project Manager, the Project Sponsor can prove to be an effective link between stakeholders and the project team. They can provide progress updates and manage the expectations of their stakeholders.
Gain executive support
Having a direct communication line to Senior Executives provides significant influence. Project Sponsors can use this influence to gather support for their projects at all stages of the process, from small details to major change requests.
It is important for the Project Sponsor to champion the project not just at executive level, but at project level too. Promoting the importance of the project at all levels provides an environment that is more conducive to success.
Request regular progress reports
Where the Project Sponsor receives regular progress reports and feedback, there is a greater chance of the project being successfully completed within the original scope, within budget and on time. The Project Sponsor must therefore open up an effective communication channel with the project team and request regular updates.
The Project Sponsor role is not simply a promotion from Project Manager. The Sponsor is expected to have advanced knowledge of project management and therefore should participate in regular professional development preferably externally to the organisation.
Despite gathering feedback about other members of the team, feedback about the Project Sponsor is collected less often. Requesting feedback about the effectiveness of the Project Sponsor has been proven to lead to greater project success.
Maintain a manageable workload
The Project Sponsor isn’t dedicated to a project in the same way that other members of the team may be. They are likely to also have other, full-time responsibilities, and so it is important that they do not over-extend themselves by taking on too many projects. Having too many projects on the go will negatively affect their performance, and, in turn, the project.
How a Project Sponsor is selected
The Project Sponsor is someone who has an interest in the project and who has authority to provide financial resources. They are usually selected from senior management staff at the organisation, however it is vital that they have significant experience of project management.
In addition, they will also need to have experience of similar projects, strong organisational, problem solving and decision-making skills, in addition to being a strong communicator.
From providing motivation to the project team, to allocating resources and using their influence to gain support from senior executives, the Project Sponsor is a vital role in a successful agile team.
Additional Agile Resources
For an overview of all of the important roles in agile project management, please visit Overview of Agile Project Management Roles. The article includes a free presentation.