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Do sponsors need to be qualified in project management?

Adeline Teoh ed.
November 18, 2011

Stakeholder management isn’t new, but I sense a greater foregrounding of collaboration as a success factor in projects.

Every project manager I’ve ever met knows how to manage a project but often encounters a real disconnect, at least at first, between the tasks required to complete the project and the stakeholders that the project affects.

For the most part, good communication solves a lot of the issues that tend to come up. If a project manager can clearly communicate the brief and the stakeholders’ roles in the project, it goes a long way to promoting ownership and appeasing those opposed to change. It also allows stakeholders to ask questions that assist the process rather than hinder the progress.

The other part of stakeholder management, however, is education related. The question is, what do stakeholders need to know about the project management process to allow them to contribute to the success of a project? While you probably wouldn’t have the resources to put everyone in a community through ‘Project Management 101’, there is one set of stakeholders where education is a must: project sponsors.

Project sponsors! There is such a range of sponsor types. In the more project-led organisations it could be the PMO, program manager or portfolio manager while others might have the managing director or a C-level executive at the helm. Unfortunately, along with the broad spectrum of sponsor types comes a broad spectrum of education levels about project management.

I spoke to Dr Raymond Young, an Assistant Professor at the University of Canberra, a few weeks ago on this very topic. The visit was supposed to be an introductory meeting but turned into a 90-minute long discussion about the role of sponsors on a project. It turns out that significantly more than any factor, the involvement and support of the sponsor decided whether the project was successful or not.

So what do project sponsors need to know about project management? Have we come to the point where sponsors need to be qualified in project management to ensure the project succeeds? And what can project managers do to garner support from their sponsors? I’d be interested to learn your thoughts.

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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