What Is a Project Sponsor? (With Benefits and Phases)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 22, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The sponsor of a project is a vital member of the project team. Regardless of the sector or kind of project, each one requires a sponsor to succeed. Learning what a project sponsor is can help you ensure the success of a project. In this article, we define a project sponsor, discuss what they do, explore the benefits of a sponsor, review their related phases, explore their specific roles, and discuss the differences between them and project managers.

What is a project sponsor?

A project sponsor is a senior manager who contributes resources and helps ensure the success of a project. This individual serves as the crucial link between the project managers and the company's leadership team. The sponsor contributes to the project's success on a high level, both financially and via consultation and leadership. Additionally, this individual facilitates contact with the organization above the project manager's level and de-escalates potential issues. The sponsor maintains the project's schedule and budget while guaranteeing the project produces high-quality outputs.

What does a sponsor do?

The sponsor ensures that the project's overarching vision, management, and value creation achieve success. The sponsor's primary tasks are:

  • Determining the project's initial and continued legitimacy and feasibility

  • Maintaining alignment with corporate goals to meet specified success criteria

  • Ensuring the team launches the project appropriately

  • Serving as the project's representative in the higher organization

  • Supporting the project consistently

  • Defining individual responsibilities and the project team's hierarchy

  • Resolving disagreements between stakeholders through negotiation

  • Contributing financial resources to the project by negotiating on its behalf with the higher organization

  • Deciding on progress and phasing

  • Determining that the team handles risks and changes effectively

  • Ensuring the project has the proper control measures and reviews

  • Verifying that the qualities, values, and advantages of the project are consistent with the organization's aims

  • Maintaining a steady pace of project advancement

  • Signing off on deliverables

Benefits of having a project sponsor

While they don't actively engage in daily duties and meetings, they may have a significant effect on the success of the project by:

  • Providing oversight: They provide advice, expertise, resources, and assistance. Sponsors may keep a broad perspective on the proceedings.


  • Helping organize the team structure: With their knowledge and neutrality, sponsors may assist managers in forming teams most suited to the project's needs, ensuring they cover all relevant functions.


  • Aiding in progress evaluation: When challenges develop, sponsors may give an objective perspective. Additionally, they may provide support, additional advice, and an opinion on the project's progress, including quality evaluations and deadline feedback.

Related: What Is Project Coordination and Why Is It Important?

Project phases that the sponsor participates in

Typically, the sponsor engages with the project from inception to completion. The sponsor's responsibilities throughout each phase of the project are as follows:

Initiation phase

The initiation phase includes:

  • Determining the project's suitability for the organization

  • Advocating for the proposal and garnering support during the initiative's creation

  • Contributing to early decision making and project planning, including establishing the project scope and statement of work

  • Granting funding

  • Providing information to assist in the creation of the project charter

  • Contributing significantly to the project manager's selection

  • Determining the project manager's authority level

  • Establishing milestones and an end date

Planning phase

The planning phase includes:

  • Giving the team enough time to plan

  • Determining if the project's strategy is feasible

  • Providing a list of potential dangers

  • Identifying which reports management requires to supervise the project

  • Resolving problems that go beyond the scope of the project manager

  • Approving the final project management plan

  • Determining the project's essential success factors

Execution, monitoring, and controlling phase

The execution phase includes:

  • Supporting project managers

  • Collaborating with the project supervisor to ensure the project stays on schedule

  • Ensuring adherence to processes and quality policies

  • Considering potential challenges

  • Defending the project against external pressures and modifications

  • Signing off on deliverables

  • Reviewing and approving changes to the project's timelines, priorities, tasks, and other critical project aspects or delegating this responsibility to a representative

  • Defining the scope

  • Resolving problems that go beyond the scope of the project manager

  • Constructing agreements with stakeholders

  • Requesting a review for quality assurance

Closing phase

The closing phase includes:

  • Accepting deliverables formally

  • Evaluating the project's performance and ensuring each team member fulfills their responsibilities

  • Helping determine the project's success

A good sponsor ensures that the project aligns with the organization's commercial and cultural objectives. This individual also plays a critical role in guaranteeing the building's longevity by ensuring that the necessary personnel and procedures are in place to maintain the project's outputs after completion.

Specific roles of a sponsor

Here are some specific roles a sponsor might fulfill:

Executive sponsor

An executive sponsor is the highest-level project management executive. This individual typically funds the project directly by initiating a funding plan and authorizing funding sources. They also govern change management and ensure the resolution of issues escalating from the project at the higher organization level.

Related: What Is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

Business analyst

Business analysts collaborate with executives and stakeholders to assist them in resolving issues or achieving objectives. They acquire and evaluate data and information about a business before communicating their ideas for increased efficiency. Their solution may be a physical item, a service, a process, or computer software. A business analyst is another kind of sponsor. This senior management position uses technical expertise to examine and record the entire value chain of the project delivery cycle from start to end.

Additionally, the business analyst determines the project's business requirements. This individual contributes to the project team's performance improvement efforts by conducting data analysis and developing and enforcing performance criteria.

Technical advisor

A sponsor of a project might also serve as a technical advisor. This individual acts as a technical consultant and leader, developing and supporting the project's technical infrastructure inside the company and making technology-related choices throughout the project's lifecycle. This encompasses the planning and evolution of system capacity and architectural needs.

Strategy lead

A sponsor may also serve the function of strategy lead. They're responsible for coordinating, communicating, and advancing the implementation plan for the project. In collaboration with the project manager, the strategy lead establishes the project's scope and change management procedure. This individual strategizes business case components, determines project pipeline priorities, and aids with requirement development. Additionally, they establish and oversee project delivery techniques and standards and monitor progress.

Sponsor vs. project manager

While project managers oversee a project daily, sponsors supply the resources necessary to execute a project. Other significant distinctions between a sponsor and a project manager include:

Role

A project manager is responsible for overseeing all parts of a project. They manage a project's team, establish a timetable and budget, and oversee its progress. They're present in various fields, including technology, health care, law, engineering, and construction.

A sponsor is a senior manager who contributes resources and expertise to a project, such as leadership and consultation, to ensure its success. They serve as the link between the leadership team of the organization and the project managers. Additionally, they manage the project's finances and timeline while ensuring that the project produces high-quality outcomes.

Work environment

Sponsors of projects may find employment in almost every sector and any size company. They usually work in offices and may work lengthy shifts, including weekends and nights. Many sponsors travel between project locations or corporate headquarters to attend customer or investor meetings. They often collaborate closely with project managers and other senior executives in the organization.

While project managers typically operate in an office environment, they may occasionally visit the project worksite. They spend most of their time standing or sitting at a computer station, managing projects, composing mail, and making business calls. They often work a standard full-time schedule but may work irregular hours or overtime to meet project deadlines.

Related: Project Lead vs. Project Manager: What's the Difference?

Education

A Bachelor's Degree in Management or Business Administration is often necessary for project managers. While some have technical degrees in sectors, such as computer technology, others hold advanced degrees in the subjects of study relevant to their business. Apart from a degree, project managers often have many years of experience and a project management professional certificate.

The education of a sponsor varies according to their business or course of study. For instance, a chief information officer often has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Programming, or a closely related profession. A construction manager might possess a Bachelor's Degree in Construction Science, Construction Management, Architecture, or Engineering.

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