Executive sponsor (sometimes called project sponsor or senior responsible owner) is a role in project management, usually 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.
The sponsor has a number of interfaces and responsibilities for the project.
The responsibilities for which the sponsor is accountable to the board are:
- Provides leadership on culture and values
- Owns the business case
- Keeps project aligned with organization's strategy and portfolio direction
- Governs project risk
- Works with other sponsors
- Focuses on realization of benefits
- Recommends opportunities to optimize cost/benefits
- Ensures continuity of sponsorship
- Provides assurance
- Provides feedback and lessons learned
The governance activities that take place between the sponsor and the project manager are:
- Provides timely decisions
- Clarifies decision-making framework
- Clarifies business priorities and strategy
- Communicates business issues
- Provides resources
- Engenders trust
- Manages relationships
- Supports the project manager's role
- Promotes ethical working
In addition to these activities the following activities take place between the sponsor and other project stakeholders:
- Engages stakeholders
- Governs stakeholder communications
- Directs client relationships
- Directs governance of users
- Directs governance of suppliers
- Arbitrates between stakeholders
Due to the problem-solving needs of the role, the executive sponsor often needs to be able to exert pressure within the organization to overcome resistance to the project. For this reason a successful executive sponsor will ideally be a person with five personal attributes - understanding, competence, credibility, commitment and engagement.
A few research studies have been published that not only detail the role of this individual within project management but also provide a way to ensure that the success of a project is increased if this individual plays a more active role.
Senior Responsible Officer role
The UK government treats the role of a Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) as distinct from the sponsor's role, referring to projects where the sponsor "may be considered to be at a very senior level or part of a sponsoring group, above the SRO". A Public Administration Select Committee report published in 2011 and critical of UK government IT procurement, noted that SRO's had often moved on to new roles during the course of an acquisition project, and this was one of the reasons why problems had been encountered.
- ^ Sponsoring Change: A guide to the governance aspects of project sponsorship, Association for Project Management, 2009. ISBN 978-1-903494-30-1
- ^ This article incorporates text published under the British Open Government Licence: Infrastructure and Projects Authority, The role of the senior responsible owner, published 18 July 2019, accessed 15 November 2022
- ^ House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, Government and IT - "a recipe for rip-offs": time for a new approach, Volume 1, page 8, published 28 July 2011, accessed 15 November 2022
- Exploring the Role of the Project Sponsor, conducted by members of the Project Management Institute, in particular, Dr Lynn Crawford and Christine Brett (both at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia).
- Top Challenges in managing Executive Sponsor Programs , based on research from the Executive Sponsor Industry Association