Sponsors champion a vision for the project!

Sponsors champion a vision for the project!


The role of a project sponsor (or sponsors) is discussed less often than project and program managers, Scrum masters, developers or even coaches. Even in its simplest form the role of a sponsor is not only important, but also critical. Good sponsors provide funding and resources, vision and political support.

A sponsor typically provides the funding for the project or program. He or she that owns the project checkbook will in the end own the decisions that affect the overall budget. The budget is then translated into the people, tools and software needed to deliver value to the business by the sponsor’s lieutenants. Lieutenants can include project and program managers, the product owner, Scrum masters or technical leads. Control of the budget is also an indication that the sponsor is ultimately responsible for delivering an amount of value to the overall business. They are often judged by whether the money spent on projects delivers a return on investment. Therefore sponsors will be interested in how their money is being spent.

If sponsors are responsible for both the funding for a project and then the value the project delivers, they must also be the champions of the project’s vision. The vision represents the purpose or motivation for the project. Until delivered, a vision is the picture that anyone involved with the project should be able to describe. I often liken the project vision as the flag on top of the mountain that acts as a rallying point. While a sponsor does not have to conceive of every project vision, they must act as a cheerleader motivating the organization to support the team or teams.

I can’t conceive of an organizational environment outside of a single proprietorship in which the day-to-day pressures of delivery put pressure on project personnel and resources to focus their time more urgent tasks (urgent and important are not the same thing).  The general level of noise and jockeying for people and resources can lead to a loss of focus or worse yet a premature change in direction. One of the most fundamental roles that a project sponsor has is to act as bulwark to shield the project from pressures that could delay or pull the project apart. Standing up against the pressure that even mundane day-to-day operations can create requires the use of the sponsor’s political capital within the organization. Political capital is generated from where the sponsor is in the organization hierarchy, how critical the project is to the organizations mission, the perceived ROI of the project and the sponsor’s ability to deliver winners. 

Project sponsors are generally senior figures in most companies. Sponsors are called on to champion the projects vision and then to back words with funding and political capital. All of the assets a sponsor brings to the table are perishable therefore sponsors will always be every interested in the work being done in their name.