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The Project Sponsor Role – Selection and Appointment

Eric McConnell
September 7, 2011

Who Governs a Project?

project sponsor role - selection and appointmentThe project sponsor role is defined as the range of duties and responsibilities allocated to an individual or a group within the performing organization to provide necessary financial resources and ensure that the project is successful at the business or organizational level. It is the role of the project manager’s boss.

In this context, because the project sponsor role brings a significant value to project success, it is vital to understand selection and allocation of the role. The sponsor is an individual or a group who acts at the senior management level to be as an advocate for the project and ensure that the project delivers the desired business outcomes, under the allocated resources. The sponsor provides internal political support and ensures right prioritization of available funds and resources.


First of all, let’s determine who can be a sponsor and what requirements that “who” should meet. A project sponsor (often regarded as a project champion) can be any person or group of people who have a deep interest in or affected by the project to be created. So it is a stakeholder (who takes a stake in the project) having both the right and duty to provide and prioritize project financial resources.

As it has been already described in my previous article about sponsorship, the role of project sponsor is often created and allocated for internal projects that are undertaken within a single business organization. In such projects the project manager, the implementation team, the client and the owner are employees of one and the same organization. Rarely, for external projects (when there’s a client organization cooperating with some external organization on a contractual basis) the role is allocated as well.

Taking into account the mentioned above considerations, I can conclude that in a typical business organization the role of the project sponsor is self-allocated to the senior management staff, such as director, president, executives. The key requirement for the selection is that the candidate should be well experienced in project management; otherwise the candidate will be likely to fail with financing the project. If to be more specific, the full requirements list for project sponsor selection includes the following items:

  • Occupation. Your candidate is supposed to be a member of the senior management within your organization.
  • Experience. The candidate should be well experienced in sponsoring similar projects in the past.
  • Skills and Expertise. Along with experiment, your candidate is required to be a self-organized person having a range of skills and abilities for successful project championing, such as decision making, problem solving, communications, time management, others.
  • Authority. Your candidate needs to have sufficient authority level required for making financial decisions.


In most cases, the role of the project sponsor (champion) will be ultimately determined by the nature of the performing organization and the type of the project to be performed. It means that when you appoint a person to the role, you must be sure that your candidate clearly understands the key duties and responsibilities of the job. The candidate should be aware of the core processes of your organization, understand the tools and methods used to manage those processes, and realize how to best utilize available resources to drive the project.

Below we give a list of the top 8 duties and responsibilities to be allocated to the role of the project sponsor. Please make sure that your candidate understands the duties and responsibilities and has necessary skills, experience and knowledge to successfully perform the role.

  • Budget allocation. Your project sponsor is supposed to provide or at least contribute to acquisition and allocation of financial resources required for the project. The sponsor takes the overall responsibility for ensuring that the project is managed under the approved budget and for getting additional funds if needed. The role also requires the candidate to protect available resources from overflow or re-allocation to other projects.
  • Support. The project champion should support the project politically. It means your candidate is expected to act as an advocate for the project, ensure effective communications with line management and protect the team from corporate politics.
  • Resourcing. Along with the budgeting duty, the sponsor should take care of proving necessary non-financial resources for the project, such as people, technology, IT systems, knowledge, innovations, process, etc.
  • Consulting. All decisions made within the project can be supported by the sponsor who provides advice and consults decision makers.  The sponsor should also delegate authority to the management team to make decisions within the scope of the approved project plan. The role also requires the candidate to make major decisions regarding the fate of the project.
  • Approving. The project sponsor is required to approve and verify a drafted project plan. The sponsor must also maintain and promote the vision, strategy and policy for the project. He provides guidance in up-front planning and determines the organizational structure for the project.
  • Goal setting. The candidate is supposed to identify and determine the high-level goals and objectives for your project. The sponsor participates in the strategic planning process through setting goals to ensure that the project is aligned with the business needs and requirements of your organization.
  • Change management. It is generally agreed that the sponsor approves changes to scope and baseline of a project. So be sure that your candidate carries out this duty.
  • Risk management. The project sponsor should assist the management team in identifying, analyzing and managing risks through providing guidance and expertise.


Obviously, the project sponsor role has a significant impact to the success of a project endeavor. The selection and appointment of the role depends on such requirements as occupation, knowledge and experience as well as duties and responsibilities. I hope my article helps you better understand the project sponsor role. Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback. Thank you.

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