10 Ways Project Sponsors Can Boost Project Success - PM 360 Consulting
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10 Ways Project Sponsors Can Boost Project Success

10 Ways Project Sponsors Can Boost Project Success


If anyone reading this is wondering what a Project Sponsor is, I will pose to you the question I pose to all organizations to answer what a Sponsor is:

“A Project Sponsor is accountable for project success. What is the Sponsor accountable for?”


I sum up in one sentence: “A Project Sponsor is accountable for the Benefits Realization”. So, if your business case claims that by doing this project you will make £x extra profit/saving (benefit – keeping it financial for illustration), then the Sponsor is accountable for whether or not £x extra profit/saving is made (benefits realization).

(Ian Clarkson 2018)


1.The Project Management Institute (PMI) “Pulse of the Profession 2018” report states:

      • Analysis shows that the dominant driver of projects meeting their original goals is an actively engaged sponsor.
      • One in four organizations (26%) reports that inadequate sponsor support is the primary cause of failed projects.

1.International Project Management Association (IPMA) 2015 states that for many projects the role of a sponsor is not defined. This creates many difficulties for the project manager, trying to find someone in the organization to answer the many questions he or she has. It starts with the clarifications of the objectives, the business case and the constraints of the projects. Later it continues with important decisions, e.g. change requests and additional resource requirements. Finally, the sponsor needs to accept the deliverables and sign-off the project. Thus, the role of a project sponsor from the initiation throughout the end of a project should be clearly defined and communicated.

– Power and influence of a project sponsor is key for supporting projects in a complex and dynamic context. The lower a project sponsor is positioned in the hierarchy, the more it is difficult to succeed in decision-making processes and discussions. Thus, a project sponsor should be positioned as high as possible in an organization and make his or her influence available to the project manager. It does not mean pushing things through, but at least balancing the (often) uneven distribution of power between line and project functions.


2.Executive Project Sponsors – Padraig Friel PM360 Consulting The role of project sponsors is often overlooked. But for every stage of a project, there are key executive sponsor behaviors that can make the difference between success and failure. In my view the following factors are required for effective sponsorship. Project Sponsor is highly desirable but not always likely. I advise on  the importance of sponsorship and how to achieve it. Executive sponsors are responsible for initiating, ensuring, approving, and establishing the vision, governance, and value/benefits realization for the project.. Successful executive sponsors build project sponsor capabilities through the ARC Model and 10 actions roadmap:


10 Ways Project Sponsors Can Boost Project Success

1.Champion the project and be accountable for benefits realization 

If they sponsor doesn’t  promote the project who will?

2.Availability  of key people and competent project teams

Most projects suffer from a lack of the right people skills. Your project is no different. Dedicated resources  of key people with the  right competences and experience

3.Leadership of executive teams  commitment to the project

Projects don’t sell themselves; sponsors do. Executives can lose interest and reassign funds and resources. Management of expectations under the project constraints on what is achievable.

4.Resolve  difficult roadblocks / issues

Its common in project management for teams and project leaders to encounter issues that require escalation. Sponsors can play a pivotal role in helping teams move beyond roadblocks and focus their efforts on areas of strengths and influence to attain the goals

5.Sponsor accountability and time commitment

Executive sponsors are responsible for lining up the necessary resources at the beginning, managing (or personally performing) certain activities and while the project is underway, and ultimately delivering results.

6.Stay on top of project progress by having regular meetings with the project manager and team

Communicate the facts on project progress. This includes the project scope, schedule, budget and objectives.

7.Managing risk and reward

Managing risks internally and externally continuously  and the commercial  benefits and return on investment been delivered. Knowing when too cancel the project, if it is over budget and behind schedule and the business benefits are not going to be delivered

8.Understanding project management tools and techniques

Project management tools and techniques make planning and managing projects easier and more effective. They can be applied to any project regardless of the field or industry. Sponsors focus on business benefits and return on  investment, and need to be coached on the importance of project management concepts in the successful delivery of projects

9.Manage stakeholders’ expectations

From the onset of a project through to its completion, sponsors can greatly assist project leaders in smoothing the path to success by helping to manage stakeholder relationships and expectations, Engage with key stakeholders and delivery of their win-conditions

10.Delivery of the  the schedule milestones

Early wins builds confidence and buy in. Sponsor, project manager and project team to do everything possible to deliver the schedule milestones. No one likes a late project.


10 Ways Project Sponsors Can Boost Project Success

Fortunately, some sponsors know how to hit home runs. These sponsors understand that their leadership is essential to a winning season. They stand out from other sponsors by owning their projects and maintaining a healthy relationship with their project managers from the beginning to end of their projects.

Sponsors are typically busy senior executives often coming from the C-suite. In addition to the projects they are sponsoring, the executives have many other responsibilities.

How is it possible for a sponsor to complete their project work and still have time to perform their other duties? Let’s look at 10 ways sponsors can boost project success. (www.projectriskcoach.com)

1.Clarify and communicate the vision. Joel A. Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Unfortunately, many projects are nothing more than a passing of time. If you expect your teams to change the world, clarify and communicate a clear vision. Without vision, your teams will perish.

2.Engage high-powered/high-interest stakeholders. Sponsors should engage key stakeholders while initiating their projects and developing their project charters. Yes, the people whom you fear will resist and undermine your ideas. Invite them to the table. Have the difficult conversations and resolve the conflicts early.

3.Fund the projects. As you develop the vision, consider the cost. You may wish to have a business analyst complete a cost/benefit study to support your business case. Make sure the project team has the funds and resources they need.
4.Understand the sponsor’s role. The best sponsors understand that their greatest value is at the higher levels of the organization, not in the details of the project. Sponsors should rally senior management support, remove roadblocks, and aid with upper-level communication. Staying out of the project details provides the sponsor with more time to fulfill their other duties.
5.Ensure that the project manager has the right resources. Project managers are often given preassigned resources. The project managers are dealt a losing hand sometimes. Sponsors can greatly advance their projects by understanding the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the project objectives and going to bat to secure the right resources.

6.Run interference and clear the way. Sponsors can help by anticipating negative attention and criticism that their project managers and teams may receive while performing the required project tasks. Protect the teams from distractions or annoyances by preempting the issues. Share the rationale of the team’s activities with key stakeholders before the teams execute.

7.Creates an environment where project managers can talk openly about risks. Some people don’t like bad news. Great sponsors create an environment of trust where project managers can share the most significant threats. Project managers should succinctly report the risks (i.e., threats and opportunities), the response plans, and the effectiveness of the responses. Sponsors can validate the alignment with their risk appetite.

8.Remain engaged with the project manager and team. One of the biggest complaints I hear from project managers is how sponsors drift over time. The sponsor is Gung Ho at the kick-off meeting, but they’re lost in the second inning. The project manager, without the backing and authority of the sponsor, is left to move a mountain with a spoon.

9.Respond promptly. Project teams get into trouble occasionally. The teams encounter situations that are outside of their control. When the project manager raises an issue to a sponsor, the sponsor should respond with a listening ear and a helping hand.

10.Reward and recognize the team. Project managers and team members want to know their contributions matter. Sponsors can motivate team members by making occasional visits to team meetings to say a quick thanks. Sponsors can write a hand-written note to the project manager when key project milestones are met. Taking the teams out for lunch at the completion of a project and acknowledging their hard work can go a long way in recharging individual’s batteries for upcoming projects.

“Sponsors report that on average they are working on three projects at a time, spending an average of 13 hours per week on each project they sponsor — in addition to their regular jobs.” —PMI Executive Sponsor Engagement

Seventh Inning Stretch

What can organizations do to improve the sponsorship of projects and the return on project investments? Here are three ideas.

First, organizations should invest in training senior executives, in their roles as sponsors.

Second, identify and expand the number of sponsors. This strategy not only helps with current projects, but this step will develop more leaders for the future.

Third, the sponsors may consider delegating some of your problems or normal duties to others in advance of heavy seasons of project work.


The Areas in Which Project Sponsors May be Falling Short

There seems to be a gap between what project managers (PMs) and sponsors report in terms of the levels of motivation, active listening, communication, and change management support received or provided.

1.Motivation: 34% of PMs say sponsors motivate their teams frequently, while 82% of sponsors say they do so frequently.

2.Active Listening: 42% of PMs say sponsors frequently listen actively, while 88% of sponsors say they do so frequently.

3.Communication: 47% of PMs say sponsors frequently communicate effectively, while 92% of sponsors say they communicate frequently.

4.Effective Change Management: 37% of PMs say sponsors manage change, while 82% of sponsors say they do so frequently.

(PMI 2018)



Author Ian Clarkson 26th June 2018


Author The Project Management Institute (PMI) ; Pulse of the Profession 2018 Report


Author International Project Management Association (IPMA) ‘Guiding Framework for Project Sponsors’ 2015


Author Padraig Friel MBA MScPM CMC IPMA-C ”Executive Project Sponsor Briefings” 2022


Author Harry Hall ’10 Ways Project Sponsors Can Boost Project Success’ 2021