Topic 2.3: The project sponsor and client
There are a number of definitions and expectations of the project sponsor. Essentially, the sponsor is the person who authorises the release of project funds.
Note that the sponsor may not be the project manager’s day-to-day (business as usual) manager.
If, as a project manager, you don’t know who your sponsor is, then ask who do you go to first when you need more money or resources for your project?
A good project sponsor will also support you by:
Clarifying business priorities and strategy
Providing a clear decision-making framework (and making timely decisions)
Taking ownership of and responsibility for key stakeholder relationships, and
Encouraging and rewarding ethical conduct; after all this relationship will function best when it is built on trust.
Ideally the sponsor will also be an advocate for your project, lobbying for support among the broader stakeholder community.
For that reason, you will often hear the sponsor referred to as the project’s ‘champion’.
Sometimes the sponsor will also be the client of the project.
This is especially true of internal projects; that is, projects that are commissioned by the organisation for their internal use.
In projects where the client is external to the organisation, the sponsor is usually a senior manager or executive with line authority over the project and its manager, such as a program manager.
The only time the client is the project manager is when they are spending their own money on the project (and self-reporting).
It is critical that clients (especially external clients) are kept engaged throughout the life of the project, especially when changes to scope are contemplated.
A remarkable number of projects fail because this obvious principle is ignored.