Assist in developing project budgets and approval of change requests. Implementations often have a public dollar value and a not-so-public amount. The executive sponsor must have the ability to commit the discretionary amount, or at least the confidence to take requests to firm's executive team for approval. The board may need to approve large requests, but the executive sponsor should have some discretion.
Participate in project meetings. The project manager needs to manage the implementation day to day, but executive sponsors are too often unaware of important events and issues. An executive sponsor should get a regular report including progress, schedule, budget, issues, staffing, etc. Ideally, this would be a weekly face-to-face that includes other key members of the project team. Vendor(s) can add value, as well.
Assist in conflict resolution. The executive sponsor must know the business rules and processes to help facilitate issue resolution. While the executive sponsor must have confidence in his or her self in order to resolve issues, they must also be confident enough to seek the advice of others as needed. Management must be confident that the executive sponsor will make good choices, including when to involve them in issues. The project manager, the implementation teams, and the staff must be confident in the executive sponsor’s knowledge and willingness to support proposed solutions. The executive sponsor must be able to get issues put to bed in a reasonable amount of time in order to keep the schedule.
Handling the politics
The executive sponsor must be as immune as possible to the dreaded “end around” – disgruntled parties who take their grievance to the executive sponsor’s peers or superiors. Nobody wants to abandon an opportunity because a group on the implementation team couldn't sell a good idea to the project manager or the executive sponsor.
At the same time, nothing will undermine the credibility of the executive sponsor more than to have his or her decisions regularly or even occasionally reversed, particularly by team members who circumvented the implementation hierarchy. The company needs an executive sponsor who can make a decision and then make that decision stick. The successful executive sponsor also needs to know when to take an issue to the firm’s executive team.
An executive sponsor must have the ability, not just the potential, to cut across an organization's various structural and political fiefdoms. The executive team must have confidence in the sponsor and support his decisions – not simply wipe their collective brow and give thanks that none of them that was nominated.
Bob Stewart has over 20 years of experience working with construction-specific ERP software packages. Bob is a founding partner and principal consultant for Construction Change Partners. Construction Change Partners help construction companies evaluate, select, and implement the software they need to help run their businesses more effectively. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org