In a previous post, we started the discussion about your team as internal project resource and what is expected of various roles to realistically go through an ERP project or business transformation. This week is the first of a small series of posts that will discuss different roles in more depth. First on the docket: The role of the Executive Sponsor.

For two years in a row, Project Management Institute (PMI) research has shown that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the top driver of project success. Recent research by Young and Poon (2013) found top management support was shown to be the most important factor for project success.

So, what actions can the Executive Sponsor take to ensure project success, and how much time should they expect them to take?

There are five key roles every Executive Sponsor should take seriously and be actively involved in as a project resource:

1.  Remove roadblocks

This involves a number of potential challenges across the organization. As an Executive Sponsor you are in the best position to help remove roadblocks that can hold valuable time and resources hostage without the right permissions. By staying ahead of these challenges, you are paving a smoother road, which will allow others involved in the project the opportunity to be more productive and efficient.

2.  Help the project team understand the alignment of the project to the organization’s strategy

This is where strong communication of the overall vision comes into play. A major project is going to be seen as a disruption – because it is just that. By helping to align the purpose of the project to the overall company goals and strategy, you are helping the team understand the “Why” of the project. Open communication is crucial.

3.  Champion the project or program

Again, utilize that vision statement you wrote (you did write one, right?), and let your excitement about the direction of the company and the role of this project in that to shine. Show your own involvement in this to make it real and to champion involvement.

4.  Add resources when appropriate

Fill out the team by engaging others throughout the organization at different levels of management and beyond. Take into account both the timing of the project and other organization resource needs outside the project so you can recognize and allocate the right resources when they are needed, but not over-utilize those resources when their input is not needed.

5.  Act quickly to resolve issues

As an Executive Sponsor of the project, the team looks to you as the decision maker. Stay on top of unsolved issues and decisions. The faster you facilitate the resolution of issues the better. Doing so keeps work flowing and your team in the game without unnecessary lags which usually translate to an unconscious message that the project isn’t important. Swift resolution will convey a message that keeps people on their toes and motivated to move forward.

These 5 roles must be taken seriously and acted upon for the role of an Executive Sponsor to be taken seriously. In the next post I will discuss time expectations for an Executive Sponsor as well as additional points on these 5 vital roles. Stay tuned, and feel free to sign up to receive the next installment automatically.

Dennis Reader, PMP, ITIL, CSM

Dennis brings his ERP and project management expertise to every project. He delivers value to clients across a variety of business verticals including HR, Finance, Operations, eCommerce, Marketing, Web, and Order Management. He was recognized as PMO top performer of 2014 for his ability to direct effective teams that consistently meet or exceed project goals and objectives.