The purpose of a project or program is to have its deliverables create value. But this value can only be realized if the new process or artifact 'delivered' by the project is actually used to achieve the intended improvements.
Executives have a central role in this process. There is a direct link between the decision to make an investment in a project and the need for the organization to make effective use of the deliverables to generate the intended benefits. In turn, this creates a valuable ROI.
According to PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession, in organizations where senior management has at least a moderate understanding of project and program management, 59 percent of the projects successfully meet or exceed the anticipated ROI. This is compared to just 51 percent of the projects in organizations where the senior management has a limited comprehension of project and program management.
This is where a project sponsor comes in.
An effective sponsor is the direct link between the executive and the project or program. The sponsor is crucial to ensuring top-level management support for the project contributes to the project's success and is critical to achieving the ultimate goal of generating an ROI.
According to Pulse, 75 percent of high-performing organizations have active sponsors on 80 percent or more of their projects.
If your project has an effective sponsor, make full use of his or her support. The challenge facing the rest of us is persuading less effective sponsors to improve their level of support.
To impart project knowledge into other areas of the business, the team needs to be able to 'advise upward.' Here are three tips to do so:
1. Create a conversation about value with other project managers and teams within your organization. This is a very different proposition to being simply on time, scope and budget. It's about the ultimate value to the organization created by using the outputs from its projects and programs. The key phrase is "How we can help make our organization better?"
2. Use the right evidence. Benchmarking your organization against its competitors is a good start, as is understanding what high-performing organizations do.
3. Link the information you bring into the conversation with the needs of the organization. Show your organization's executive how this can provide direct benefits.
In most parts of the world, organizations need to do more with less to stay competitive. Developing the skills of project sponsors so they are active is one proven way to achieve a significant improvement with minimal cost.
In fact, if projects are supported more effectively, there may be cost savings and increased value at the same time. And what's in it for us as project managers? We have a much-improved working environment. Everyone wins.
Do you have an active sponsor on your project? Do you think active sponsors improve project success? How involved are the executives in your organization?
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