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Could visibility and better oversight make sponsors more effective?

I have heard from a number of quarters that a strong, effective sponsor can make a significant difference to a project – the barriers can seem to melt away rather than continually build. Effective leadership in projects can help people open their minds to the opportunities and be willing to embrace new ways of working. 

One of the core needs and difficulties of being an effective sponsor is being visible. Sponsors sometimes have limited time to listen, take on board feedback from a wide audience, and personally advocate the need for change. This becomes increasingly difficult for multi-location projects, which are so common today. 

I recently had an interesting conversation with Faith Forster, Founder & CEO of Pinipa, a platform for oversight and communications on more complex projects with multiple workstreams and stakeholders. 

Faith said one way of improving sponsor oversight is to provide a simple, high level view of progress, creating visibility of key items across workstreams such as key dates, decisions, discussions and documents. You could use this information to share targeted updates with stakeholders proactively, so that those interested in the project are always kept up to date, saving valuable time and effort for the project team.

The aim is to achieve a delicate balance between a sponsor actively supporting the project team and stakeholders, whilst not micro-managing. This will increase visibility and accountability, helping the sponsor make more informed decisions, proactively share and reinforce the basis of those decisions, and rapidly course correct if needed.

So I was intrigued by the idea of a start up like Pinipa seeing a market in a platform for project management that has stakeholder engagement at the core of its proposition. Project updates can be captured through integrations with PPM software packages. 

Where this presents a very interesting opportunity is for the role of the sponsor to monitor progress, but also give feedback through discussions to understand how stakeholders are responding. 

I welcome any suggestions in the comments for ways in which sponsor oversight can be improved.

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  1. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 22 April 2016, 08:15 AM

    One very simple option is to refuse to fund a project or program unless:1.  There is a comitted sponsor prepared to champion the project and have its success linked to his/her KPIs2.  Require all sponsors to have completed a half day intensive training before thay can fulfil the role in point 1This may cause a few problems in the early stages (but what's the point of the project if the organisation's executives don't want it) and will save the organisation $millions in failed projects. The role of a sponsor is challenging, see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1031_Project_Sponsorship.pdf