Some people in your organisation will be great at generating ideas. Others, such as project managers, will have a talent for bringing models to life by sourcing the right technical resources and human talent. But great ideas and management will only get you so far.
Employees looking to turn a smart concept into a game-changing reality will need executive sponsorship. Senior sponsors play a crucial role, helping to ensure ideas and projects move from the design to the implementation phase. They have experience in areas, such as business strategy and financial backing, which will determine the likelihood of an initiative being canned or backed.
In the digital age, the role of a senior sponsor – who could, for example, be the CFO, CMO or COO – is key. From social, through mobile and on to big data and the cloud, the board is being bombarded with potential technology projects.
This interest is a blessing for workers with an interest in the power of all-things-digital. Yet it can also be a hindrance. Get the pitch wrong and sceptical board members will view a digital project as just another proposal in a long line of cash-burning initiatives.
The board needs to understand what a proposed project will do to improve the way the business currently operates. After all, any digital project – such as the mobilisation of a website or the creation of an app – is not an end in itself.
Sponsors will help project managers demonstrate how the web mobilisation project will allow more customers to interact with the business from any location. They will help project members define how an app will provide new kinds of information to a flexible workforce.
Executive sponsors provide the human interface between innovation generation and value creation. Sponsors ensure managers hone a project request for the board that lays out the problem being solved, the options for implementation, and the potential risks and/or benefits of running with the initiative.
The sponsor is also someone who will watch over project members. They will have the ear of the chief executive and will take the pressure off the wider team by having accountability for success or failure, both during and after implementation.
Such sponsorship will help reduce the weight of expectation and allow individuals lower down the hierarchy to focus on what they do best, such as project creation, development, testing, implementation and refinement. Executive sponsors, in short, help turn great ideas into a competitive advantage.