Thursday, May 16, 2019

Project managers deliver projects; project sponsors deliver business value!

Project managers deliver projects; project sponsors deliver business value!
As a project sponsor, you are ultimately accountable to the organization for the delivery of the business outcomes and benefits. The project team and steering committee exist to help you deliver the outcomes and realize the benefits.

You can take a passive role — attending your steering committee meetings, reviewing progress reports, meeting with the project manager — and not bother with the details or even really know what exactly is going on with your project.

Alternatively, you can take the project sponsor role seriously, and actively work to ensure the success of your project. For active project sponsors, here are some guiding principles:

1) Remember you’re not accountable for bringing in the project on time and on budget. That’s the project manager’s job. You’re accountable for delivering the business outcomes, benefits, and (net) value.

2) Project outcomes are not business outcomes. A project may deliver a system, but a system on its own doesn’t equal business value. The business wants to use the system to improve how it does business, competes, and makes money. This is a different outcome, one that delivers real business value. Look at what your project investment is going to deliver — is it a project outcome that the business hopes it will make work, or a business outcome that will deliver real, measurable business value?

3) Your project is set up to implement change, whereas the business is set up not to change. For the project to be successful it must interrupt business-as-usual and change it. To achieve this, it needs the help, support, and authority of you and your steering committee. No business change = no business benefits = you fail as project sponsor.

4) Who you have on your project determines the outcomes and results. Two project teams given the same problem will produce two different solutions. Choose your project team wisely and well. It is worth putting significant time into the project resourcing step. This is especially true for choosing your project manager.

5) You can’t focus on everything, so you should focus on three things in particular:

i) The project RAID lists (Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Decisions) : Unresolved issues that need to be resolved before implementation are an unknown, unplanned workload (and cost). If the issues log explodes, so can your project timeline and budget. And risks are the threats to the project and its successful delivery. A series of new risks late in the project can threaten the viability of the entire project.

ii) Your critical path (or chain): How you are tracking to this path will determine your likelihood of an on-time and on-budget delivery.

iii) Your project’s value: Value creep occurs when the benefits of a project progressively go down while the costs increase. The result is a net reduction in project value, often resulting in a move from positive to negative returns.

6) Be present. Visit the project team at least once a month. Visit the business areas being impacted by your project — what do they think about the project? Visit your key stakeholders regularly — are they still supportive? You need to be seen to be leading, committed and involved. If you are losing business support, you want to be the first to know so you can take action before it is too late.

7) Learn to do your job as a sponsor. Project sponsorship is not intuitive or a natural extension of line or operational management. It is a different set of skills and knowledge base, one that has to be learned. You wouldn’t want amateurs on your project, so why impose one at the top?

8) Watch for signs of trouble — the little changes that sneak up on you. These include unplanned employee turnover that loses cumulative project knowledge, cumulative scope changes that redirect the whole project, and poor quality outputs that indicate the project may be in trouble. With your broader perspective, you need to review these leading indicators of project failure.

Closing thoughts

A great executive sponsor is an active sponsor. It will take time and effort, but if your project is not worth doing this, then why do the project?
Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 by Henrico Dolfing

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