By Kathy Martucci, PMP:

One of the most well-known critical success factors in any project is executive support.  In effect, the project manager must recruit, train and retain an effective sponsor who can add value to the project. How can a busy executive establish and manage funding; stay apprised of project planning and deliverables; and make the right decisions to keep the project on track?

During the initiation phase, the project manager and the project sponsor work closely together to develop a business case as well as initial estimates of scope, cost and schedule.  Armed with these initial plans, the project sponsor can more effectively champion the project and marshal the resources necessary to support the next phase of the project, the planning phase.

Refining the scope, cost and schedule as well as developing the risk, communication, and change management plans (among others) comprise the heart of the planning phase. While the project sponsor does not develop these deliverables, it is the sponsor’s job to support this phase with the resources necessary; and it is the project manager’s job to communicate these plans and their impact to the sponsor.

During the execution and control phase of the project, the project manager focuses on leading the team to develop the product and/or services outlined by the scope.  The project manager devises concise but comprehensive ways to keep the project sponsor involved and aware of project status and issues.  At this juncture, the project sponsor supports the process by mitigating or removing risks and continually communicating upward.

As the project concludes, the sponsor and the project manager have the critical responsibility to assess, document and communicate best practices, lessons learned and key metrics for use in other organizational efforts.  Celebrating the success of the current project and improving the chances of success for future projects is the last and best of the sponsor and project manager’s duties.