An Engaged Business Sponsor is a Powerful Partner

Posted | Category: Professional Development | Contributed

Recently, a new BRM Institute Online Campus friend, Ruggero Nocerino, quoted Machiavelli in a post:

“Nothing is more difficult to plan, more doubtful to happen, or more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system, for the one who proposes it produces the enmity of those who have profit to preserve the ancient and only lukewarm supporters in those who would benefit from the new.”

I recently learned the meaning of these wise words first-hand, when I had the Gary Myersopportunity to work on a project that stemmed from the project sponsor’s passionate request for a new application, which was already decided upon and expected to increase sales dramatically. Having come from a different division of the company, the demand and portfolio reviews were very new to me, but we completed the demand and portfolio reviews and the project began without any real hindrance. However, I found myself sitting back and wondering why a new BRM with a non-standard portfolio application request sailed through the approvals like that. It took some time for me to realize that the answer was that my sponsor knew his side of the business, assertively pressed the right keys, and had a solid business case to sell the project. Was this the key to IT success that I had been missing?

I want to step back to my own passionate project of a few years ago. As a materials manager, I had a dream to reduce workload in MS Excel and transfer that usage of our ERP system for the same task. A small trusted team and I developed the requirements, but while I was passionate enough to sell the project, others began noticing that the sponsors were not actively involved in creating or defending the business case throughout the approval process. Despite their clear lack of engagement, I made the mistake of believing I was still correct in developing this project based on improvements I had made in prior companies.

The result? IT built the tool, but after it was delivered even I could see that the sponsors were not involved in the changes, outcome, or the implementation.

Lessons began to form in my mind. Why did my dream project fail? If I had seen what others did in the lack of my sponsors’ support during the approval process, I would have taken my pride down a notch and instead worked to understand my sponsors’ needs, share accountability with them to get them invested, and therefore surface demand within the business. Maybe that Italian guy, Machiavelli, knew something about business relationship management all those centuries ago.

Through this experience and my involvement with BRM Institute, however, I learned my lesson. Fast forward to my most recent project, wherein the project sponsor was fully engaged from the beginning, generating the team and even driving the process himself instead of requiring or waiting on an IT or business analyst to do so. In the future, one thing I look forward to within my involvement with BRM Institute is learning how to foster more project sponsors like my current one. How do I actively convert an uninterested sponsor into an engaged business partner? How do I translate between business and IT so as to have the leader’s involvement, ownership, and accountability for the results? These are all questions I am in the process of answering as I work to gain a seat at the table, because I know that once I have my business sponsors engaged, that is when we can begin the path towards becoming business partners—and eventually, strategic partners.

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