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Project owner vs sponsor

Project owner vs project sponsor

The terms ‘project owner’ and ‘project sponsor’ are often used interchangeably and aren’t consistently applied. Because of that, there isn’t a generally agreed upon difference between them.

In this article, we’ll go through the various roles and responsibilities associated with each term and discuss why you may want to consider a change in terminology to project executive.

What is a project sponsor? What is a project owner?

Essentially a project sponsor and project owner are the same thing. The term refers to an individual or group of people at senior management level who are responsible for ensuring a project is delivered successfully and remains aligned with business objectives.

What are the roles of the project sponsor and project owner?

You may be asking yourself; how do the roles of a project sponsor and project owner differ? Well, they don’t, really.

In its article, Duties of the effective project sponsor, the Project Management Institute says “project sponsors typically are members of senior management who carry a respectable level of influence and authority and serve as proponents of projects”. On the other hand, the project management application, Wrike, describes a project owner as being “responsible for the larger picture of the project” and having “ownership over the project in the sense that they are accountable for the project’s success and failure”.

Given the similarities between the two, to help avoid confusion and ensure your teams are talking the same language, PRINCE2® suggests using alternative terminology. Within the PRINCE2 methodology, these two roles are combined in the ‘project executive’ position. The project executive is accountable for the success of the project and ensuring it remains aligned with business objectives.

Project executive vs project manager

While the project executive governs the project, it is the project manager’s role to run the day-to-day management of the project.

Learn more about the role of a project manager and what they do, or discover how to become a project manager.

What are the responsibilities of a project executive?

The responsibilities of a project executive, include:

  • Overseeing the development of the business case
  • Ensuring the project remains aligned with business objectives
  • Approving all relevant documents including the project plan, project initiation document and project brief
  • Appointing the project manager and dictating the team structure
  • Maintaining budgets and keeping to timelines
  • Ensuring the project remains desirable, viable and achievable

What are the responsibilities of a project manager?

The responsibilities of a project manager, include:

  • Consulting with stakeholders
  • Preparing the business case and project plans
  • Ensuring project risks are identified, assessed and controlled
  • Maintaining good relations with the project team
  • Monitor progress and report on project performance

Solidify your project management knowledge and develop a common language for your teams with PRINCE2 training. View our Foundation and Practitioner course options to book your training today.