Dear PM Advisor. June 24, 2013

Dear PM Advisor, How do I pick a sponsor?

Going it alone in Maryland

Dear Going it,

If you are a member of senior staff, overseeing all the company's projects, you should use the following criteria taken right out of the PMBOK:

  1. Provides the project budget
  2. Spokesperson to higher levels of management
  3. Lead the project from engagement to authorization
  4. Helps develop scope and charter
  5. Serves as escalation path
  6. Authorizes changes to scope, phase-end reviews
Older versions of the PMBOK asked that the sponsor be External to the project. I still think this has its advantages to the organization in that highly placed people do not unfairly wield their influence to further the interests of bad projects that are their pets.
To sum up the requirements, the sponsor is someone high in the organization who wants the project to succeed and will assist the Project Manager in her efforts.
However, since most of my readers are Project Managers, not Senior Staff, I'm going to assume that your question comes from one of us. How does a Project Manager pick a Sponsor?
All of the previous criteria still apply. However, you want your project to succeed regardless of its effect on the other projects in the company. So you want someone who does consider this their 'pet' project. Perhaps it is the person who conceived of this project in the first place. Perhaps they will be the eventual customer of the result of the project. Having that person as your sponsor will really help you succeed.
Good luck,
PM Advisor
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