The support from a sponsor is a key asset for a successful collaborative platform set up. Its support and participation contribute to cultural changes and facilitate transition for employees.
The sponsor is a reference person. He (or she) lends its image to the initiative and is its figurehead. He will be the one defending the platform implementation to senior leadership and will carry the project. He is also sometimes the person held responsible for a success… or failure.
The ideal project sponsor is recognized for its enthusiasm, its charisma, his ability to mobilize and generate buy-in along with some decision -making power and autonomy in the matter. He is involved in the organization and is senior enough to radiate transversely across the organization. His program vision (versus project) is an asset to carry out both technological and human change.
Furthermore, he has the legitimacy to position himself as an arbitrator in specific circumstances, especially during the steering committee meetings he leads (the project manager drives them) when options need to be set. His facilitation skills allow him to unblock sensitive or difficult situations.
Chosen… or appointed or self-appointed, depending on the circumstances and the organizational structure. The project sponsor may be the person who instigated the project or the one controlling the budget.
He can also be identified after the decision to launch the project. Often the operational project manager starts searching for the precious profile. In order for this quest to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips:
His involvement translates into (or should) an active role on the platform, leading him to be visible. His value as an example is attractive and generates interest and mobilization for the initiative. As a leader of a cultural change, his messages encourage everyone to contribute (regardless of their seniority in the organization). If he does not have the time to post regularly, the sponsor may be assisted by the internal communication team.
Finally, his decision-making power is critical. Especially facing painful and / or unpopular decisions (abandonment of systems, technologies or practices). As it is sometimes necessary to go through binding measures to sustainably anchor changes, it is important that the sponsor is entitled to take such decisions and above all enforce them.
The will to change is certainly essential but not enough. In fact, the long-term needs in terms of time, effort and energy to share information and knowledge need to be legitimized and recognized by the organization to encourage employees.
Without the support of a sponsor, the obstacles encountered by the project team will be much more difficult to lift, the platform will not have the same influence within the organization and employee contributions will be less important. Moreover, the project will be more vulnerable in the future against potentially competing initiatives.
The set up and maintenance of a collaborative platform is a long term program that will often demand major changes in work habits within the organization. A motivated project sponsor is not the only success factor but is a big advantage!