Project Management 5a. Sponsor Roles

The sponsor represents the sponsor organization, the department or company that the sponsor works for. The sponsor and sponsor and the sponsor organization play these roles.

Role About this Role
Executive sponsor (executive sponsor, benefactor) (also called the paying sponsor or benefactor: The executive with responsibility for the project. Although you will not have much contact with this person, recognize that this is the person who can authorize or stop payment for a project and who must ultimately feel satisfied with the results.
Ombudsperson Your primary contact in the organization of the sponsor. This is the person designated by the paying sponsor to serve as your liaison with the sponsor, and the person who identifies whom in the organization to involve in the project, introduces you to those people (ideally), assists with setting up meetings, and helps you gain access to resources, such as prototypes of new products, plans for organizational change, and access to workers and customers of the organization.
Subject matter experts (SMEs) One or more people who developed the technical content that will be addressed by the course or technical communication product. Table 8 below lists the typical projects for instructional designers and technical communicators working on highly technical content.Table 8: Who Is the Subject Matter Expert?

For this Type of Information Your SME Will Likely Be
Software documentation System designers and programmers who designed and developed the software.
Other types of product documentation Engineers who designed and developed the product.
Scientific and technical reports Scientists who conducted original research and need to communicate the results to the public.
Environmental safety and health materials Scientists and engineers who conducted site research and need to communicate the results to a government organization and the groups within the general public whom are affected by the research.
Proposals Engineers who will be providing the technical services or designing the products requested by the sponsor of the sponsor.

Your project may have one or more SMEs. For large software projects that involve large teams of software designers and programmers, you might deal with several SMEs. For a scientific report, you likely work directly with a single scientist.

SMEs usually focus on the completeness and accuracy of the technical content. They are concerned that your precisely report information; a misused word often raises their concern. For example, when a technical communicator wrote “This word processor has Internet access,” the SME expressed concern. The word processor can produce text that users can use as home pages on the World Wide Web on the Internet, but it does not let users use the Internet.

Although SMEs are well-versed in the technical content, they approach it from their own perspective as the one who developed the content, rather than as a user of that content. As a result, SMEs often request that you include more information than learners and users want; the additional information could easily distract learners and users from successfully completing the objective at hand. In such instances, you need to refer to the objectives of the project to determine the relevance of the additional material requested.

Marketing A representative of the group that has responsibility for sales of the product or service discussed in the course or technical communication product. Instructional designers and technical communicators usually work with a market planner, the person whose responsibility is identifying the needs of a market, translating those needs into requirements for a product addressed by the course or communication product, making sure that the product meets those requirements, then planning a strategy for making the public of the product or service and encouraging the public to purchase that product or service.

Marketing (as instructional designers and technical communicators usually refer to this representative of the sponsor) usually plays a role in courses and communication materials about products and services and in proposals. Because scientific reports and environment, health and safety information usually is not directly marketed, Marketing does not play a role in these projects.

Marketing is primarily concerned with the way you represent the product or service in your course or communication product. Representatives of marketing generally try to make sure that your material addresses the perceived needs of the people who will be purchasing the product or service and that the course or communication product positively reflects the product or service.
Legal A representative of the corporate legal department. The legal reviewer is concerned about these issues:

  • Actual or implied promises or warranties. If a course or communication product says that the product or service does something, the product must do it or the sponsor’s organization has liability. For example, one organization misprinted the price of a $10,500 service as $3,500. The company had to provide the service at the lower price or risk a lawsuit.
  • Proper use of intellectual property. Intellectual property are the ideas and concepts developed by an organization that give it an edge in the marketplace. One type of intellectual property is a trade secret. Corporations do not purposely release trade secrets to the public, unless certain precautions are taken. The legal department makes sure that you only provide the information that users have a need to know—and that the intellectual property of others is properly handled.
Learners and Users The people who will use and apply the content in the instructional program or communication product.Learners and users are primarily concerned with the relevance, applicability, accuracy, and usability of the content.  Many users usually assess usability as:

  • How quickly they could find and learn the content sought
  • How effectively the content answers the questions or problems that prompted users to search for information in the first place?
  • Was the content easy to understand? Could learners and users understand it on the first reading or did they have to read passages several times before understanding them?<.small>
  • Was the content complete? Did learners and users find guidance for completely performing a task, complete answers to the questions or did they have to look in several places for complete information? Was something left completely out—and not available anywhere in the document?
  • Was the content accurate? Could learners and users perform the task as described?
  • How satisfied were learners and users with the course or communication product?  Did they have a positive perception?  If not, why not?<.small>

In a real project, some sponsor representatives serve in one role, in other projects, a single sponsor representative serves several roles. The level of involvement by sponsor representatives also varies, depending on the combinations of roles they play, other responsibilities they have, and their interest in the project. Some sponsor representatives play a central role in a project; others only play a role on paper.

Continue with the next post: Project Management 5b. Instructional Design and Technical Communication Roles.

© Copyright 1996-2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.


About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers.
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