Surviving Your First Implementation Project: A Word From Our Sponsor (Part 2)

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Surviving Your First Implementation Project: A Word From Our Sponsor (Part 2)

Posted by Wave6 Blog Team on Aug 20, 2015 5:13:30 PM


"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." – Ayn Rand

As we laid out in the previous post, you’ve just been handed your first project, your Grande-Extra-Shot-Skinny-Caramel-Macchiato-in-a-Venti-Sized-Cup has finally kicked in, and your mind is racing with, "now what?"

Now it's time for you to start asking more questions, and here is the first one to ask. Please keep in mind this particular question you're about to ask is the most important one:

Who is the project sponsor?

The Project Sponsor - she, he or they –are going to become your best friend, the best ally to the project and be a key component to your success in this endeavor.

So what is a project sponsor?

Here is a clinical definition:

"A senior management role that typically involves approving or supporting the allocation of resources for a venture, defining its goals and assessing the venture's eventual success. Furthermore, a project sponsor might also champion or advocate for the project to be adopted with other members of senior management within the business. Also called an executive sponsor." –


Okay – that’s a little dry. The loose definition that I most often gravitate towards is that the project sponsor empowers the project manager (and project team) with the authority and resources to execute the project.  


This includes:

1. Getting approval for the project from the Senior Management
2. Allocating the resources (in dollars and kind) for the project
3. Giving the aforementioned support and authority to the project team to execute its charge (handing you the gavel)
4. Removing obstacles that get it the way of project progress (the big rocks that the project team cannot move on their own)

*It's that last bullet (moving mountains) that can save your project if it stumbles.


What does this mean to you?


To get and maintain the support of your project sponsor – Check out the following 5 things you definitely need to do:

1. Understand your Sponsor’s vision- From hour one of the project, make sure you understand the sponsor’s vision and the business need or opportunity this project is solving. This is intelligence you will instill into your project team with the project charter (which we’ll talk about in the next installment).


2. Communicate- Make sure you have good two-way communication with your sponsor. Keep your Sponsor updated and make sure they have access to you as much as they need.  Don’t limit this to just formal status reporting – but those casual drive by conversations are just as valuable. [For Extra Credit – pick-up Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.


3. No Surprises- Everyone hates surprises. Make sure you communicate to your sponsor when things are not going well – and as soon as you know them.  It is better to warn them of potential brewing issue– then to go off the road with no warning. On the flip side, celebrate every win. Let them know when the team is going the extra mile or has just knocked down a major roadblock in the project!


4. Ask for what you want and provide options!-   The worse thing you can do to your sponsor is to act like chicken little (Help! The sky is falling, the sky is falling). Instead – show leadership!

  • If you need to bring a serious item or risk to your sponsor let them know what the "ask" is (and be specific).
  • If there is more than one viable resolution to the problem – give them the Top 3 items with the pros and cons of each.
  • Sometimes action may not be required. You may simply be seeking their counsel or perhaps an opinion to options you are researching.


5. Let them know when you will know- Things happen fast on a project. You may not have time to understand the issue and know all the options when it first hits you. When calamity strikes and your sponsor asks you, "what are you going to do!?!?!" – I would not recommend an answer of  "have no idea". Instead – let them know what you are doing and when you can provide an answer.  This sounds like, "the team is researching 3 options to address the issue. I plan to have options to discuss with you at 3pm today."

In short – those items all add up to open and timely communication. That’s the easiest thing to remember.

Next up in Part 3 – we’ll talk about the why before the what of your project.

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Topics: Salesforce Implementation


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