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Responsibilities of an executive sponsor in digital culture

As we look deeper into the role of an executive sponsor, here we are discussing seven significant responsibilities of an executive sponsor in digital culture.

As we look deeper into the role of an executive sponsor, here we are discussing seven significant responsibilities of an executive sponsor in digital culture.

Responsibilities of an executive sponsor in digital culture



27th February 2020

Allison Baxter

1. Promote the culture

The main part of an executive sponsor’s job is to establish a culture of collaboration and customer obsession. It is substantial to ensure that an involved leadership is maintained throughout a project as teams have a tendency to fall back into old ways of working. As a result, the focus on the customers can easily slip as other priorities jostle for prominence.

2. Manage the risk

Digital transformation projects are expensive to run considering new technology can open your organisation to security risks. Also, the workforce can get demotivated and disgruntled, if they feel that their jobs are at risk and/or are unsure of the new tech. It is then the executive sponsor’s responsibility to manage all these areas of risk which in reality, are impossible to remove completely.

But at the same time, it is crucial to get the right balance between being extremely cautious to a point that nothing gets done and having an intense ‘gung-ho’ optimism. This balance can be attained by promoting transparency that exposes potential risks early in the process, allowing them to be assessed and evaluated properly as a part of the overall project elements.

Even without the complete knowledge of the technicalities, an executive sponsor with enough authority and understanding can control the cost and security of the new technology.

3. Manage the change

People are in general resistant to change. If they feel that their jobs are at threat, the ‘big bang’ presentations on the exciting new tech will not be enough to combat these fears. In order to ensure that every employee is on board, the organisation should invest in training and change management workshops, such as teach usage, as well as convey the benefits of digital initiatives.

Small changes are often much more effective as they let the business see how these new changes are bringing improvements. The executive sponsor should encourage the project team to identify the easy wins. By determining the primary pain points and tackling them in a quick manner, a belief can be developed in the process by the wider company which can create an environment that welcomes continuous innovation.

4. Empower the team

An executive sponsor establishes a team that is empowered to do the job they have been tasked with. It is imperative to make the team understand how any proposed digital transformation project fits into the broader business goals.

As a responsible leader looking at a wider picture, it is required to maintain a sense of urgency and not let the team get trapped in planning a perfect solution. As it may come to a point where the project doesn’t get completed and the requirements become obsolete by the time they are delivered. 

6. Effective communication

Any successful digital transformation program is dependent on effective communication between team members, to other parts of the business, to the end-users and across the leadership. This does not mean a one-off email, cc’d to all staff, and the job is done!

What is effective with one group may not be work with others and, as a rule of thumb, the larger the number of people you need to communicate with, the more methods you should use. Remember that communication is a two-way effort. It is essential to factor in how the executive sponsor can gather and absorb feedback, as well as constructive criticism.

7. Ensure the project’s success is measurable

An executive sponsor is accountable for all the time, money and effort being spent in the digital transformation process. Hence, from the outset, the executive sponsor must ensure that useful and measurable targets (SMART) aligning with the business goals are put in place and are being monitored throughout.

To aid this, it is worth noting that small agile sprints can be tested, improved upon and are easier to manage and measured, compared to the year-long waterfall projects that can only be assessed after a final release.

In summation, an executive sponsor is responsible for articulating the digital transformation project’s vision and strategies and then communicating these effectively across the organisation, so that every employee understands their role and contribution to the business’ digital aspirations.

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