Great project sponsors prep for the role and make the program manager their secret weapon

As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind the technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, this seasoned leader, who’s had a front seat watching tech transform business in Canada, knows how to manage people to get projects running again. This bi-weekly column is for leaders working on enterprise-wide projects searching for insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack success. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or  Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia.

I enjoyed reading your last blog about effective communication between program managers and project sponsors. I’m currently a C-suite sponsor of a large project at my organization. Got any tips on how to provide the right level of support to my program manager to drive a successful implementation?  

Great question! And thanks for stressing that it takes two to tango.

I’ve read a number of recent publications that suggest that having a C-suite sponsor is a major contributor to project success.

There are a number of reasons: Being positioned at the top of the house, the C-suite sponsor can more easily ensure that the project’s goals are aligned with overall company strategy, garner support, and overcome resistance from peers and management, and provide accurate and meaningful information to the program manager as the project unfolds.

Aside from playing a huge role in the project’s success, this can also be a good thing for the sponsor as well, as they get to oversee key initiatives that are important to the company and CEO.

Win/win right?

Unfortunately, many senior executives aren’t properly prepared to be a good sponsor and don’t understand how to make a difference in the project outcome. Without a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and associated time commitments, sponsors run the risk of signing up for too many projects and using the precious time they’ve invested for the projects wisely.

So what can sponsors do to make their sponsorship as successful as possible? Here are a couple of recommendations:

  1. Before the project starts, meet with your program manager to clarify, set, and align expectations. What do each of you require from the other to have a great relationship? Your program manager can address the amount of guidance, senior-level support, and resources he/she needs, and you can confirm the project’s objectives, establish key milestones, and provide budget status.
  2. Have a realistic discussion about the amount of time required to properly support the project. Because you already have a full-time day job, it will take a strong commitment to the sponsorship role to avoid it being swallowed up by all of your other priorities.


Jackie Clark
Jackie Clark
Program and change management expert in digital and data transformation, and technology system reengineering.

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