What makes a sponsor a good choice for a project’s success?

I shared some FAQs last week for project sponsors. A reliable and active project sponsor is a key to avoiding project failure. You have the option to choose your project sponsor, but you should find someone who will do a great job. Are you a good person?
Sponsors are the people who represent the interests of the project at board meetings. They can provide strategic direction and protect the project’s best interests. Sponsors should be involved in the success of the project. They should be someone who can live with the results of the project for many years after the manager has left. Sponsors who do not participate in the delivery of the project may have difficulty motivating others or be unable to make decisions about matters that are beyond their control.
Eddie Obeng defines a sponsor in Perfect Projects as “a person who:
The idea was born and the desire to make it real is real.
Control the money
es the final product, or will you live with it?
Can provide high-level representation to smooth out political battles before you get them
The resource ‘owns.
Acts as a mentor/soundingboard.”

This last point is crucial and often overlooked. Ineffective sponsors can delay decision making by not being available for their project manager. Practically, an absent sponsor won’t be able to provide the strategic vision and answers that the project team requires. Low morale can lead to a decrease in the project team’s ability to achieve their goals. If the sponsor doesn’t care about what they do, why bother?
Good sponsors are aware of their role in the project team. They won’t attend every meeting but will occasionally send an email thanking everyone. They will be available for the project manager to escalate information and will pass any relevant information on to the project.
Experienced sponsors make it easier to build a relationship with project managers. Any sponsor can be a good one, if they have the authority to work with the team as well as ask questions.
It is also helpful to have an honest project manager.
Next Monday: Training your project sponsor
* Obeng, E. (2003) Perfect Projects. Pentacle Works (Beaconsfield), page107