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Web Site Reader Question:
We're preparing for our on-demand crm software and payroll software implementation and we're unclear about the requirements for the executive sponsor role. Can you tell us what is required of an effective executive sponsor? Also, are the responsibilities of this this role changed in any way because we're implementing a software as a service CRM product?

Let me respond to those questions in reverse order. First, there are no material differences in the role or responsibilities attributed to the CRM software delivery model - be it an on premise implementation or a software as a service hosted solution.

Second, in my opinion it is critical that the Executive Sponsor be a participative, visible and vocal executive stakeholder and strong decision-maker who can clearly and convincingly speak to the organization's vision and strategic benefits for your proposed customer relationship management software project. This person fulfilling this role must understand why the solution was procured and how it is going to benefit the organization. Other specific executive sponsor responsibilities may include the following:

  • It is absolutely critical that this role provide visible executive sponsorship to the user communities at every available opportunity.
  • This position should be responsible for reviewing the progress, timeliness and realization of objectives for the implementation.
  • This role should provide direction on prioritization of emerging issues and risks.
  • The executive sponsor must thoroughly understand the project's material issues, critical risks and unresolved open items.
  • This person must ensure the appropriate project team members and key decision makers are the best people for the positions (and not necessarily the available people) and have the availability to successfully complete their role responsibilities.
  • The sponsor is often needed to ensure the dedicated or appropriate level of participation for each project team participant (making sure the team members are available to participate full-time during peak periods and backfill team members primary responsibilities when necessary).
  • This role may also identify and acquire access to additional staff as needed to support specific areas of expertise not represented by project team members.
  • It is important that this role review all material changes to the schedule and recognize the project impact in order to identify whether changes can be absorbed or require a change of schedule and resource allocation.
  • This person must be able to provide advice and counsel on major policy and process decisions.
  • The executive sponsor should provide interpretation of vision, direction and execution of objectives to the rest of the project team.
  • This role generally communicates project budget and financial issues to financial or executive management.
  • This person should review deliverables at key milestones for time, quality and value in order to ensure progress and closure.
  • The executive sponsor often assesses the existing business practices and guides future practices or requirements.
  • This person may provide informal project status and communications to project team members and various user communities.
  • Most importantly, this position must be vested with the success or failure of the CRM software implementation project. That is, if the project is successful than this position has been successful. Similarly, if the project is unsuccessful then this position has been unsuccessful. There is no distancing the project result from the effectiveness of the executive sponsor.

An executive sponsor in an unmistakable position of authority and accountability that can be the deciding factor a Customer Relationship Management system installation succeeds or fails.

Have your own question? Send it to our resident customer relationship management (CRM) software expert Colleen Peterson at colleen[at]