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What is project sponsorship?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. (Starting out in project management 3rd edition)

The sponsor’s involvement is continuous throughout the life cycle, although the extent of their engagement will tend to fluctuate. (APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition)

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.

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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.

Building Sponsors

A guide to project sponsorship

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

Sponsoring change 2nd edition

Sponsoring Change 2nd edition provides essential guidance to sponsors of projects, helping users to deliver project outcomes more successfully.

Buy from bookshop

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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. 

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