Organisations that want to improve their processes, systems, and other resources can embark on a sound project. Such organisations always start with a clear understanding of the context upon which the project will operate on. This is because each project will have a unique set of contexts. It is unique in its scope, decision processes, phases, setting, and stakeholder makeup. If the contexts are not duly analysed, it is possible that the project may not be able to provide the expected deliverables.

Tools and Techniques for Determining Project Context

Analysing the contexts upon which a project will operate on is the crucial first step in effective and successful project management. Tools and techniques exist to help managers in the analysis of both external and internal environments that can have an impact on the project’s final deliverables. Two of the most common analytical tools are the PESTLE and SWOT analyses.

  • PESTLE Analysis

There are six contextual issues that project managers must understand. These contextual issues are political factors, economic influences, social elements, technological aspects, legal concerns, and environmental issues. It is the responsibility of project managers to examine these 6 components to have a clear appreciation of a project’s context.

  • SWOT Analysis

This tool helps project managers analyse the strengths and weaknesses of a project. It also allows them to identify potential threats that can undermine the successful implementation of the project and its final deliverables. Managers also need to look at opportunities that work in the project’s favour.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Sponsor

The principal role of a project sponsor is to provide oversight for the different organisational and financial responsibilities of the project. It also includes those related activities that are important in ensuring the project’s decisive governance. To put it simply, the project sponsor ensures the project’s success.

A project sponsor is responsible for, but not limited to, the following.

  • Provide input in the initial stages of project planning.
  • Negotiate project funding.
  • Serve as a project spokesperson to the leadership.
  • Provide guidance and direction for project initiatives, empowerment, and strategies.
  • Identify project benefits.
  • Manage the realisation of the project benefits.
  • Assist in the creation of a Steering Committee.
  • Identify factors that are critical to the project’s success.
  • Approve final project deliverables.
  • Review the changes that can occur in the project’s context.
  • Gain the consensus of stakeholders and negotiate, if needed.
  • Ensure stakeholder involvement to strengthen commitment.
  • Evaluate the overall project success upon completion.

It should be noted that any of these responsibilities can change at any phase of the project’s life cycle. Everything depends on the changes that can occur within the project’s contexts. For example, a sudden change in the political atmosphere may warrant a modification in the approach to the project’s implementation.

Relationship between Project Sponsorship and Project Management

Project management involves the judicious and effective use of resources to produce desired outcomes. The project requires adequate funding for the different resources and activities that it needs to undertake. An effective project sponsorship is crucial to effective project management.

A project sponsor ensures the availability and accessibility of resources. He also promotes the project in the hope of securing additional funding. Overall, it is the project sponsor who holds the ultimate responsibility for the success of the project.

On the other hand, a project manager’s focus is on the day-to-day activities of the project. He makes sure that the different resources made available to the team are used in a judicious manner. The project manager brings the different project teams to work together. He provides overall direction to the different teams, ensuring that they perform their specified tasks to help produce the project deliverables on time.

If one looks at the organisational chart of a project management team, the project manager will be one level below the project sponsor. If the project management organisation has a project director, it would sit below the project sponsor and above the project manager.

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The Project Office

Given the transient nature of projects, it would be impossible and impractical to provide a more permanent venue for the project management organisation. In most cases, a certain room or a makeshift facility is dedicated to the members of the project. This gives them a venue that is more focused on the development and execution of the project.

  • Role of the Office

The principal role of a project office is to provide a more effective platform where the different project players can meet, discuss, plan, execute, monitor, and evaluate the different aspects of the project. The office provides a centralised venue for everything that relates to the project.

  • Types

A project office can come in one of four types.

  • PSO – The project support office maintains the standards expected of the project. It also maintains all project data to enable decision makers formulate project-critical policies effectively.
  • PPSO – The programme or project support office is similar in function to a PSO. However, it supports a bigger programme that can include several projects.
  • PMO – The project management office is responsible for the project’s overall success through supportive, directional, or controlling models. A PMO is often aligned with a single business unit.
  • EPMO – The enterprise project management office is a project office that oversees all projects and programmes of the organisation. The EPMO reports to the organisation’s CFO or CEO.
  • Benefits

An effective project office provides excellent administrative support to the project management organisation. It can also provide guidance, when needed. Another benefit of having a project office is that the team can standardise its approaches and activities. The office can also provide assurance to the stakeholders, the project sponsor, and the project manager.

One of the most important benefits that a project office can provide is ensuring continuous improvement for both the organisation and the project team members. It can also unify the different projects and programmes of the organisation.

  • Project Support

Support is critical to the success of any endeavour. Without project support, project managers will have to split their time and resources between the implementation requirements of the project and administrative tasks. Project support allows the project to proceed as smoothly as possible by allowing project managers to focus more on essential things and not on mundane tasks.

The success of a project hinges on a clear understanding of the context upon which it operates. It is also important to have an effective project sponsor to ensure project success and a project office to support the activities of the project management organisation.

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