What is project sponsorship?



Definition

The sponsor has a critical role as part of the governance board of any project, programme or portfolio. The sponsor is accountable for ensuring that the work is governed effectively and delivers the objectives that meet identified needs.

Definition from APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition  📖

Sponsors

Sponsors are business leaders who play a key role in promoting, advocating and shaping project­work. They oversee the project and programme management functions and remains accountable for ensuring the realisation of the specified benefits over time.

They bring together financial and non-financial considerations, with a risk analysis for the investment that enables decision-makers to have an indication of the confidence they have in the projected returns. 

Organisations that have inadequate governance and sponsorship often find themselves attempting to deliver projects that have no justifiable business need or have the ability to severely damage the integrity of the organisation itself. 📖



The sponsor’s involvement is continuous throughout the life cycle, although the extent of their engagement will tend to fluctuate. 📖

The project sponsor plays a central role in governance and is accountable for the continuing validity of the business case throughout the chosen life cycle, and precedes and supersedes that of the project or programme manager.

A successful project sponsor is:

  • A leader and decision­maker who is able to work across corporate and functional boundaries within the organisation.
  • A credible influencer of stakeholders with the delegated authority to act on behalf of the investing organisation.
  • An enthusiastic advocate of the work and the change it brings about.

The sponsor plays a key role in managing the interface between permanent and temporary structures, ensuring that:

  • projects have access to suitably skilled and experienced people without reducing operational performance; and
  • any tensions across the boundary between the temporary and permanent organisations are managed.

To shape a programme, the sponsor works with stakeholders as early as possible to establish:

  • a clear understanding of the desired future state – typically described as a ‘programme vision’;
  • how much risk investors are willing to tolerate in achieving their objectives (risk appetite).
  • To shape the portfolio, the sponsor and portfolio manager seek out visibility of plans of the constituent projects and programmes agree how to reshape those constituent parts depending on:
  • The organisation’s ability to resource the whole portfolio.
  • Any changes to strategic direction or pace of strategic implementation.
  • Read more in chapter one of the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition.

To shape the portfolio, the sponsor and portfolio manager seek out visibility of plans of the constituent projects and programmes agree how to reshape those constituent parts depending on:

  • The organisation’s ability to resource the whole portfolio.
  • Any changes to strategic direction or pace of strategic implementation.

Read more in chapter one of the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition.


A guide to project sponsorship

‘Project sponsorship offers organisations huge opportunities when implemented successfully.

While significant work has been undertaken to improve project performance via project delivery teams, little has focused on critical issues of sponsorship and leadership. This may be attributed to the sponsor’s role being hard to define and lacking traction in the boardroom. 

Read more


Sponsoring Change, 2nd edition

Sponsoring Change, 2nd edition
 

 View in bookshop


Related reading

Is your sponsor effective?    BLOG  
We all know that having an engaged and effective sponsor is the key success factor to the successful outcome of a project or programme... read more

Project sponsorship: making projects work    BLOG  
What does a global engineering company looking to develop their project management methods, a global manufacturing business introducing project management... read more

Who and what is a sponsor in project management?    BLOG  
The Association for Project Management London branch and Governance Specific Interest Group (SIG) held an evening event earlier this year to discuss the core issues ... read more

A project sponsor’s impact on practice-based learning within projects    RESEARCH  
Achieving a deeper understanding of project sponsor (PS) behaviour requires studies on the interaction of the PS with singular project ... read more




Why the role of project sponsor needs to be better defined
   BLOG  
There are many misconceptions about undertaking a programme or project sponsor role effectively... read more

Is your sponsor effective?    BLOG  
We all know that having an engaged and effective sponsor is the key success factor to the successful outcome of a project or programme... read more

Project sponsorship: making projects work    BLOG  
What does a global engineering company looking to develop their project management methods, a global manufacturing business introducing project management for their new product development lifecycle... read more

Sponsoring the Thameslink programme    BLOG  
Nick Gray of Network Rail (NR) recently presented on the Thameslink programme and reflected on overall sponsor challenges... read more

 


APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

You can learn more about sponsorship in chapter one of the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition.

The APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition is a foundational resource providing the concepts, functions and activities that make up professional project management. It reflects the developing profession, recognising project-based working at all levels, and across all sectors for influencers, decision makers, project professionals and their teams.

The seventh edition continues in the spirit of previous editions, collaborating with the project community to create a foundation for the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios.

APM Body of Knowledge





Members of APM can learn more about sponsorship on the APM Learning portal.

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