No, we are not talking about ways to rise money for some junior soccer team. We are talking about those very specific stakeholders that, in BI, make everything happen.

The Project Sponsor is usually a C level executive or someone in the upper layer of the company who is actively promoting the project execution. She is the project advocate near the top of the corporate ladder.
Obviously the Sponsor is crucial to actually initiate the project and becomes slightly less important when Business Intelligence is well consolidated within the landscape of the enterprise assets.

The Sponsor must be able to deploy enough power and influence to:

·         Ensure the project start up and avoid hinderances by other relevant powers within the company.

·         Ensure that proper funding and staffing can be accessed when required.

·         Protect the project by political threats

·         Protect the project from other projects’ competition

·         Loosely define some project guidelines in terms of deliverables, tools or methodologies

Sponsors’ motivation are often quite complex and they hardly become openly comprehensible to the other people involved. In small to midsize companies the case for a comprehensive BI initiative and its advantages may actually be convincing enough on their own. In larger companies, usually there is a complex mesh of political motivations. Sometimes just leaving a legacy on the company landscape may be enough to start the initiative. In other occasions, it is just to rule out similar projects from internal adversaries. 

Whatever it is the deep motivation, the Sponsor often has some complementary purposes to meet; for example:

·         Make sure that, within a larger project, some specific areas are either accurately covered or accurately not covered.

·         Make sure that all the project communication is coherent with the style and the buzzwords that was used to “sell” the project at the appropriate authorization level.
Real life. When, after the appropriate analysis, in a project the use of OLAP cubes was deemed not necessary; the Sponsor forced the author to provide a cube because “there were cube drawings in the introductory slides so we need to have some”.

·         Have contracts awarded to one or more trusted third parties.

·         Have roles within the project being covered by trusted individuals.

Some of these may seriously restrict the Project Leader’s room to manoeuvre, but we must always keep in mind that, with no sponsor, there is no project.

When Business Intelligence is one among the company assets, it is managed by a team and it is well established, the sponsor is not as vital as for the specific project. Generally, there is some BAU going on and BI keeps up with that. However, having a friend near the top of the company often comes handy.
A successful BI team may be a prized unit to include among the areas under the control of an executive manager.
Conversely, being at the centre of a power fight without a safety hatch may not be a pleasurable experience.

None of us actually loves being trapped into political fights, and I personally would be more than happy to stop thinking to these issues. However, the harsh reality is that a project sponsor is often more important to the project than the project outcome itself.

Well, I hope I have given you something to think about.

See you next time.