Committed and effective sponsorship; the key to technology implementation success
When an organisation starts a new initiative or program it’s essential there is an influential sponsor or backer available to play an active part, provide support, promote the initiative and assign the resources needed to ensure it’s a success. But who would want to be a project sponsor as when things go well they rarely receive the credit and recognition they deserve? However, if things don’t go according to plan then the finger of blame is normally pointed in their direction and they typically pay the price and their career may be adversely impacted.
The role of backer or sponsor is crucial and without someone committed to running the program and being actively involved then it runs the risk of failure. Technology change programs in particular, require a Senior Executive to be responsible for ensuring they are successful. The Project Sponsor will normally be a senior Executive from within the organisation, often at or just below Board level who will actively drive the program and provide the link between the delivery team and the Board of Directors. They will need to possess authority and influencing powers to promote the change to the wider organisation, ensure the delivery team has the financial and personnel resources needed and that the necessary controls are in place to ensure it is delivered successfully within the planned timescales and budget.
Large scale change programs may encounter resistance, so the Sponsor needs to ensure there is buy-in and acceptance within the organisation. Strong communication skills and the ability to influence are vital because even with the best business case, resistance to change can lead to project failure. The PS will need to lead the change and support the project manager and their team navigating the organisation’s political terrain. They will provide high level project backing, act as an escalation route for the Project Manager, arbitrate/resolve conflicts should they arise and communicate project closure and the outcome to the organisation,
Their responsibilities include; preparing the project brief and the Project Initiation Document (PID); appraising technology options and submitting them to the Board of Directors for approval; ensuring an appropriate project or programme management framework is in place e.g. Prince 2, Agile, Waterfall etc; securing internal project resources and external expertise as necessary; arranging and chairing regular Project Steering Board meetings; liaising with affected department stake holders; determining and managing project risk; controlling the budget including allowing for contingent risk; co-ordinating and fostering a project team ethos; evaluating the performance of the project manager; establishing a formal project reporting structure; defining project control and management criteria; supporting the project manager with problem resolution and reviewing project update reports.
The Project Sponsor will act as a single point of contact with the project manager for the day-to-day management in the interests of the organisation. They will need to have sufficient knowledge of the organisation and the program to make informed strategic and operational decisions. The Sponsor should be able to apply quality management principles and processes; apply risk assessment and management principles and processes; network effectively; negotiate effectively and apply influence; broker relationships with key stakeholders within and outside the project; be aware of the broader perspective and how external factors may impact the project.
Project sponsorship is not a spectator sport and it is essential that the Sponsor is actively involved and committed to the successful delivery of the project. They should have the authority to make the majority of the key decisions and will act as project champion to ensure the expected outcome is delivered. With a strong effective Project Sponsor in post then there is every likelihood that the change program will be a success.