By definition, project sponsor seems a role that mainly responsible for securing the project finance and then come in for the celebration when the project gets over. But an engaged sponsor with a high-level interest in the project from starting to closure can have a significant impact on success and failure.
Project managers being a lead need to ensure the engagement of all stakeholders including project sponsor(s) as well but that requires an art of serious interpersonal skills to engage executive people throughout the project life cycle. Following are the best three tips from our side that can help you for engaging a project sponsor.
Earn their confidence
Distributing information on agreed frequency can help you to gain the confidence of your sponsors. You can arrange a weekly meeting with your sponsors to discuss project’s high-level status including critical risks and issues. Also, you can go for a monthly status review meeting with important stakeholders to discuss the status in more detail. This will allow you or team to get answers to critical decisions or directions from sponsors that will surely enhance the confidence level of the sponsor on you.
We have some projects in remote locations in the world where physical traveling either is not possible or avoid due to law and order situations. In this case, engagement of sponsors becomes difficult if you do not schedule regular communication matrix. We kept two weekly status meeting one with the client and one internal to make keep engaged all stakeholders. Additionally, we scheduled a monthly status meeting with project sponsor to satisfy their demand for information.
Sponsors are senior people and do not like surprises for sure. So if you facing any issue or problem hard to resolve, please go straight to your sponsor and ask for a help. That’s what an engaged sponsor believes in doing. In this way, they will know how hard you are working on a project and what are the real situation on the ground and might give some useful tips to avoid risks.
In one of our recent software implementation project in the Middle East, we had some key level issues in our deployed product during integration testing. On-site resource kept hidden this information for several days and engaged team off site in parallel for resolution. He was actually trying to protect our or his team image but avoiding full opportunity to improve the product for future implementations that will not be acceptable to project sponsor.
Did you ever heard, “strategy to manage important and influenced stakeholder”? If you have progress on some critical phase or problems in to achieve an important milestone, you can either just inform this to your sponsor or you can put some innovative factor in this information that your sponsor likes it and probably react on it.
For instance, we had contracted two projects with our one client. The second project was scheduled to initiate after successful delivery as well as the commercial launch of deliverable derived from the first project. We finished the first project on time but somehow due to internal issues at the client end, the commercial launch of deliverable resulted from the first project was put on hold. We made an attractive spreadsheet based dashboard to show the time difference technical and commercial launch along with its impacts on their aligned business strategy and scheduled to share it periodically with the project sponsor. He further shared it with senior positions at client end so they can prioritize this issue on an immediate level.
Ensuring transparency, keep information personalized and earning the confidence of sponsors are considered as an essential requirements to ensure proper engagement of sponsors so they can play their role in your projects. Otherwise, they will only responsible to arrange funds and appear at the end of project life cycle either to appreciate or slash you.
Let us know if you have any other tips to keep project sponsors engaged in following comments section or here.