In the event that you have a sponsorship void, your best bet is to defer the project. However, as project manager you may not have that luxury in your organization.
What does a project need from a sponsor? According to Englund and Bucero, in their book Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success:
“A good sponsor performs different functions during the project life cycle, serving as mentor, catalyst, motivator, barrier buster, and boundary manager. The sponsor is the link between the project manager and senior managers. The project sponsor is the best ‘project seller’. The sponsor promotes and defends the project in front of all other stakeholders. Being a project sponsor is to be involved from project initiation to project end.”
At the requirements stage, the sponsor’s role is crucial. Do not fall into the trap of accepting a lukewarm, undefined or disinterested sponsor. If your sponsor is not enthusiastic and a strong ‘project seller’, your project is, well, doomed.
In the event that you have a sponsorship void, your best bet is to defer the project. However, as project manager you may not have that luxury in your organization. If your sponsorship is lukewarm at the start, then drive your sponsor to provide the initial direction you need. Book an hour with your sponsor, preferably out of his office and without his phone. Bring with you whatever material you have that would be used in the executive summary of your project charter.
Your objectives for the meeting are to define:
- Project Drivers. 3 or 4 statements that encapsulate the purpose of the project. These can be high-level, and should align with corporate objectives. Typically these drivers will reference improvements in one or more of the project pillars (cost, scope, resources or quality). Quantify these in the context of EPM.
- Key Project Requirements. 3 to 5 mandatory items, preferably prioritized.
- Project Boundaries. What is the scope of your project? This is best expressed in a single sentence, two or three at most. Who will do what with Project Server?
- Project Constraints. What hard deadlines is the project up against? What parallel activities are planned? What dependencies exist?
- Project Success factors. When you look back on the project, what concrete elements will be used to gauge success?
Be frank with the sponsor. What issues do you foresee? Take a broad view:
- Is your organization ready to accept the discipline MS Project Server will mandate? Make a frank assessment of your organization’s Project Management Maturity.
- Is your organization prepared to commit the resources required to flesh out requirements and participate in design? Your engagement partner can provide a solution, but only you can define the proper solution.
- Do you have a vision for MS Project Server at the end of the Deployment Project? How about after 2 years? 5 years?
- Where will objections to MS Project Server come from? How can they be mitigated?
And don’t forget the positive side. What benefits do you expect MS Project Server to accrue (in addition to the objectives and requirements your sponsor mandates)? For instance:
- Commonality of project representation, assessment and reporting.
- MS Project Server can provide a consistent, enterprise-wide view of project portfolio and status.
- The power of peer pressure. Once a critical mass of projects are reflected and maintained in MS Project Server, Project Managers not toeing the line will become persuaded to do so.
- Demand Management. Resource bottlenecks can be predicted.
- Portfolio Management. The Holy Grail. Is our project portfolio consistent with our enterprise objectives? Are there redundant projects? Which projects should not proceed?
While the sponsor is critical, sometimes the PM needs to nudge the sponsor. You may need to be a mentor, mentor, catalyst, motivator, barrier buster, and boundary manager to your sponsor, initially. Embrace this opportunity. At the outset, get your sponsor to agree to monthly review meetings. Review progress against objectives at each meeting, and adjust project requirements (with change control) as things evolve. Demonstrate the sponsor’s importance by relying on him to provide direction and stage-transition authorization. You’ll be surprised by the improving degree of sponsor-engagement, on this and future projects.