Sponsors ultimately say start or stop!

Sponsors ultimately say start or stop!

We defined the role of a project sponsor (or sponsors) as delivering resources, vision and political influence. This definition is in-line with my practical experience and for the most part within industry theory. I recently asked several colleagues, clients and friends their opinion of the role of the sponsor. While not a cross section of the IT environment, the sample included several published authors, developers, project managers, Scrum masters and even a few sponsors.

The results of this informal survey of the role of the sponsor was that sponsors:

  1. Deliver resources,
  2. Provide influence,
  3. Share vision,
  4. Are accountable for results and have the responsibility of delivering benefits back to the business, and
  5. Make the ultimate release decision.

The survey identified two concepts in addition to providing resources — influence and vision:

The first of the new concepts, accountability for results, reflects the idea that someone needs to make sure that the project delivers the promised benefits. Meetu Gururaj, Wipro, said it eloquently, “The sponsor has the responsibility of delivering benefits back to the business.” All significant projects are approved based on some sort of business case. The business case is used to allocate scarce resources (we can all agree that there is always more project work to do than budget available), knowledge and talent within the organization. If the results in the  business case becomes a mere formality used for project approval and then never referred to again, how is an organization to know whether they have made the right investment decision?

The second concept that the respondents added to the list of sponsor responsibilities was making the ultimate release decision. Evan Leybourn included in his ultimate role of the sponsor “is to say start and stop”. The sponsor supplies the budget/resources, the influence and support and is accountable for the results dovetailing nicely with making the ultimate go/no-go decision.

Sponsorship is more than writing a check and saying a few words of wisdom. The feedback from the sample of authors, developers, project managers, Scrum masters and sponsors was a reminder that the responsibilities of being a sponsor is balanced by accountability.