Project Sponsors - Who's running this project anyway?
All too often there is confusion and argument as to who is running the
project, and who it should be?
The answer is simple. The Project Manager runs the project, no
'ifs' 'buts' or 'maybe'. In most cases, the project manager will report
directly to a senior business manager who has been appointed 'sponsor' or
'project owner'. The project manager runs the project on a day-to-day
basis on behalf of the owner.
Note that the question is
"Who is running the project" not "Whose project is it"? The answer
to that is also unequivocal, but different. This is discussed in the
We won't get into the role of the 'steering committee' here,
that's a separate article. However, it is
important that there is a clearly identified business owner, and a project
manager. They should be two separate people, with clearly defined roles and
Think of the construction of a building as your project. If you are not a
builder, would you go out and buy a hammer and nails, and start knocking up a
frame? Or would you find an experienced, reputable builder, and hire them
to undertake the construction? There is never any doubt as to ownership
(or who will foot the bill). You hire the builder because they have the
skills and experience to get the job done the right way.
Most large IM&T projects are at least as complex as a building
construction, yet some business managers think they can buy 'project management'
software, call themselves a project manager, and off they go. Put your money on
a project failure here, the odds are pretty good!
Running an IM&T project requires a person with specific skills and
characteristics. Yes, they need to understand the various tools, including
appropriate software, but that is one of many considerations. They need years of
relevant experience. As with selecting a builder, you want someone who has done
this before, and has a history of successful implementations behind them. They
know what works and what doesn't. The traps and the shortcuts. They have a
network of contacts. They know who has relevant experience, and who can be
trusted to get the job done. They know which people, companies, and processes
are appropriate for the particular project, and which ones are not.
No matter how skilled a business manager is, you cannot turn them into a
project manager overnight by executive decree, or by sending them on a two week
project management course. We have reviewed a project which did exactly that -
and although the person was a competent manager in their chosen discipline, the
project was an expensive and very public failure. The manager in this case was
unwittingly set up for failure, and
the business was set up for a disaster.
Project managers need guidance and support from the organization's
operational and executive management, but they also need to be given the freedom
to run the project properly and professionally.
A good credo is 'One project, one owner, one manager'. Just as
long as everyone understands the difference between owning the project, and