Who Is the Project Champion?

The Project Champion (also known as the Project Advocate) is not the Project Sponsor, not an exceptional Project Manager who is physically strong, and not the smartest and fastest resource in the project team whose work will guarantee the success of the project as some may intuitively think. So who is the Project Champion?

The Project Champion is someone who:

  • advocates for the project by constantly praising its benefits (strategic advantage, ROI, etc…) to the stakeholders,
  • is a fierce supporter of the project,
  • and provides (often moral) support for both the Project Manager and the Project Team by liaising with upper management to address their worries and/or obstacles in the project.

In short, the Project Champion is an informal role whose main goal is to make the project succeed by addressing different obstacles while making sure that the stakeholders are always satisfied with the project.

What the Project Champion Should Not Do

As stated earlier, the Project Champion is not the Project Sponsor (although sometimes the Project Sponsor can play a dual role), and not the Project Manager, for that matter. Hence the Project Champion is not responsible for any reporting or monitoring of the project. The Project Champion’s involvement in the project (other than moral support) is solely limited to receiving (note the word receiving, the Project Manager provides the Project Champion with feedback, it is not the responsibility of the Project Champion to ask for feedback) feedback from the Project Manager about the problems that the project and/or the project team is facing, and escalating the feedback to the stakeholders along with suggested solutions to ensure a smooth project.

Who Should be the Project Champion?

Anyone from middle or upper management is eligible to become the Project Champion, provided he has the following traits:

  • Strong communication skills: Since the role of the Project Champion is communicating with the Project Manager and the stakeholders, he must be an excellent communicator.
  • Admiration of the organization: The Project Champion should be someone admired and respected by the organization, someone with charisma, someone that others blindly trust, and someone whose suggestions are always taken into consideration.
  • Expertise in company politics: It is a fact that most stakeholders don’t want to come up themselves with solutions to the project’s problems (they simply don’t have the time), instead, they want others to suggest solutions to choose from. Stakeholders usually select the solution that is in harmony (does not conflict) with their own agenda. The Project Champion’s role is to propose solutions taking into consideration every stakeholder’s individual agenda, e.g. the company’s overall politics.

Perhaps the perfect Project Champion is someone from upper management, with the above traits and some solid Project Management experience. It is important that in this case, the Project Champion should be careful not to get tempted and assume some of the responsibilities of the Project Manager (such as stakeholder management).

Is a Separate Project Champion Role Necessary?

In general, the need for a separate role is proportional to both the size of the organization and the project, though there are some who believe that the Project Champion’s role ties well into that of the Project Sponsor, and hence it makes logical sense to have both roles assumed by the same person in every project and every organization. It is important to note that the advantage of having a dedicated Project Champion is that the project, the Project Manager, and the project team will have more support, and that the project will be less likely to fail. A good Project Champion can be the reason why a project succeeds.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.

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