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Barebones Business Sponsorship, part 2

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Dear readers—Please forward this to the business sponsor of the projects you might be working on. Ask them to subscribe as well!

Hi Business Sponsor!

I was thinking a lot about how to make your job easier, and it occurred to me that the place to start would be to tell you some of the things that you should be asking from IT.

Fundamentally, every human being wants similar things—Heck, one of my favorite books on software engineering even refers to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.    Your sponsorship of this project (done well) should help you feel safe, part of a community, build confidence, and bring satisfaction and growth for those involved.

Being a good leader, to a large degree, is to understand that everyone, (IT, Management and Staff) has these similar needs.

So, keeping with the theme of good communication, let’s set a few expectations with IT.

  • The IT Team should become highly familiar with the business problem to be solved or opportunity to be addressed; also, who will use the software, and what those people need to have to feel successful. Ideally, the IT teammates sit with the users for at least a day or so, learn how these do their jobs now, and what tools and procedures are currently in place.  In the process, a good IT teammate gets the opportunity to learn cool stuff, such as making guitar pedals , or what is needed to make a safe, clean industrial boiler.

This effort will probably require people to spend time together “IRL” (In real life), or face to face to get the maximum knowledge transfer.  This is difficult in these virtual days.   Try to make it happen—it is worth it.

  • You should ask for a plan from IT, before each effort begins. (Readers!  Would it be helpful to you if we provided you with downloadable templates for these plans? Or a checklist you could use?)  Any plan should cover at least a few points:
    • A description of the problem to be addressed or opportunity to be chased
    • Possible options for the solution. (And don’t just accept one answer)
    • A draft schedule for the phase
    • A draft budget for the phase
    • Identified risks, and what preventions or mitigations could be applied
    • A quality assurance plan
    • Recognition of key Non-Functional Requirements (NFRs)


  • Your project manager should schedule regular check ins, such as presentations, demonstrations, budget meetings or Steering committee meetings—Especially, make sure everyone involved knows the “No Surprises Rule” rules.


  • Yes, you have a right to access any documents, test results, in progress work or demos whenever you want—BUT—you will get the best results when you avoid mistaking documentation for reality. So, work with IT, so that they can button up loose ends, organize their ideas and not waste your time or theirs.


Now, on to one request I have for you as a Business Sponsor (and there will be a lot of others later)

  • I need you to be the one to drive acceptance of the business change. I need you to inspire the organization to embrace the change.  We both know the company must be willing to take the risks and learn from any failures.  We all want to be in the culture of innovation and learning—And this is something we can help with in IT, but you need to be the inspirational leader to help others get there.

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Not to be missed on CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide:A CIO primer on addressing perceived AI risks.” It’s Bob Lewis’s take on real and perceived AI risks you probably haven’t read about anyplace else.

Comments (1)

  • Hi Greg – idea for a future column now that you are discussing business sponsors. I attended a project debrief yesterday where the team admitted they released a final product that was a compromise and ultimately did not meet what the customer needed. That came from trying to make too many people happy. I asked the Business Sponsor what happened and he said there were many interests around the company and he was trying to manage all of them. I then asked him if he was the right Business Sponsor which appeared to offend him. I know you have run into this and would love to hear your insights. As you know all too well, organizations are political and many lines of ownership are grey.

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