Executive sponsorship is one of the most important non-technical aspects of a project. Everyone knows about the technical: do we have rack space, is there enough power, did fibers get ordered, did the equipment ship, are the cut sheets ready? But rarely is thought given to the people aspect of projects.
What is Executive sponsorship? Executive sponsorship by definition is a role in project management, usually filled by the senior member of the project board and often the chair. The project sponsor will be a senior executive in a corporation (often at or just below board level) who is responsible to the business for the success of the project. Each company has a different structure and it will mean something different in each case, but the concept is the same for the majority. At our company the primary sponsor was the CIO.
Who are the key sponsors? In our company’s case, key sponsors have been the C Level Executives. Managers and directors are important and are usually considered stake holders. These are the folks you will see every day during the deployment, and they will provide the details you need for the project. They will also be the ones to tell you if your work is great or if you were down for 4 hours (and the company needs a new IT Staff!).
The C Level brings the needed overall approval and agreement that the project will happen, the timelines agreed to will be met, and everyone will cooperate. We’ve all run into that one power user who does not want to give up their 10 year old technology because they know it like the back of their hand. This is where sponsorship comes into play. Since your sponsor has the authority to stop the project or push it forward and cares most about its success/failure, his or her intervention is the easiest way to keep the project on track and conflict free.
Easy ways to raise awareness and set the stage for a successful project:
1. Monthly IT awareness meetings with operations/stakeholders
2. Lunch and learns
3. Company newsletters/intranet sites
4. Interactive demos (this is assumed since a new system is being installed)
In the end Executive sponsorship is a key component to a project’s success. Not having a sponsor can hurt a project in many ways, but if everyone is onboard more can be done faster and with greater acceptance. Having a responsible executive who, when needed, can basically help on the business side of things, is invaluable.