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Project governance and Project Management Office (PMO)
Project governance and Project Management Office (PMO)

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1.2 The project sponsor

We have explained the APM articulation of how good governance is demonstrated, however, it is less straight forward to explain how this is achieved, although clear roles and responsibilities have been highlighted. In Crawford et al. (2008) a survey across five continents with several projects or programmes based in each is described. This research is interesting because it builds on the recognition that the sponsor can be crucial to the success of a project, and it investigated the role of the sponsor and the connection between the sponsor and governance of projects. Crawford et al. make a distinction between two perspectives that may exist at the interface of the act of governing the project:

  • governance, in the interests of the host organisation – governing the project that requires looking at the project from the perspective of the host organisation
  • support, in the interest of the project – top management support that requires looking at the host organisation from the perspective of the project.
(Crawford et al., 2008, p. S49)

The sponsor both ensures that governance requirements are met and provides support to the project. Crawford et al. (2008) suggest the model shown in Figure 3 as a way of clarifying the role and responsibility of the project sponsor. They suggest that this clarification is needed because the sponsor’s role has informal aspects as well as formal responsibilities. The corporate and project governance define the formal aspects, and the model is intended to support the understanding of the balance of support and governance needed in the effective performance of the sponsor’s role. To identify which quadrant is applicable for a particular project the perspectives of the organisation and the project need to be considered.

Figure 3 shows a conceptual framework for examining the two perspectives in the context of the project sponsorship. The role of project sponsor is ongoing, and continued engagement with the project is likely to be essential. However, what that engagement needs to be will vary between projects, and is also likely to vary over the life cycle of a single project. The primary responsibility of the sponsor, to ensure that the project objectives are set within the business case, should not be lost in the other considerations addressed by this conceptual framework.

Described image
(Adapted from Crawford et al., 2008)
Figure 3 Model for examining the role of project sponsor in governance and in project support

It is also possible for the project sponsor to change over the lifetime of a project. For longer projects this becomes more likely, and may arise from change of staff within the organisation, or even where the strategic priority attached to a project changes so that the sponsor also changes.