The executive sponsor is the project team’s link to the top leadership of the organization, and is ultimately accountable for the project team’s results.  The executive sponsor helps provide resources, authorizes major deliverables, resolves issues that are outside the project team’s scope, and provides direction to the project team when needed. If the project is big enough, the sponsor may delegate certain aspects of his or her responsibilities to others.

The executive sponsor is typically a high-level functional leader who has a vested interest in the project.  For example, an engineering vice president would be a logical choice to sponsor a project team exploring the viability of a new technology.

 A Good Sponsor is Critical when Functions are Not Aligned

Goal alignement between functions is a sign of mature executive leadership.  Successful organizations rally all functions around a core set of priorities, often reflected in Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).  An organization with a clear set of priorities tends to pull project teams along because one or more functions has a strong, vested interest in seeing a successful project outcome.  Oftentimes the project will be a “make or break” for one or more functions, meaning that the project is essential for the function to achieve its operating objectives.

Unfortunately many organizations have conflicting agendas between functions.  In these cases, a sponsor is crucial to help push the project through system and all of the roadblocks that go with misaligned functions.  Selecting a good sponsor is critical to project success in these situations.  Two of the most important factors in selecting a good sponsor are (1) the sponsor’s excitement about the project and its potential to help the organization, and (2) the sponsor’s reputation and resulting “clout” in the organization.