Enter Ms. C. - Why You Should Select the Right Primary Stakeholder

Successful IT projects are the work of many contributors. Sometimes project success can be traced in large part to a single individual. Enter the primary Stakeholder, the project sponsor.

Scenario 1: The young policy analyst was an excellent addition to our project as our main subject matter expert. She knew policy inside and out. She understood end-user functionality and how business processes were carried out in the field. She had an exceptional knack for designing the user interface of the new system.

But she was difficult to work with, often usurping decision-making that rightly belonged to her superiors. She attempted to override decisions made by IT Project Manager. She dominated requirements gathering sessions and criticized co-workers in public. Her detractors wanted her removed from the project; her advocates reminded us daily that she was the best they had.

Enter Ms. C., our project sponsor from the client organization.

Primary Stakeholder taking charge of staffingShe caught wind of the problems that were being caused by her employee, and decided to reassign her immediately. Ms. C. asked to meet with her Stakeholder representative on the project and myself representing the PMO. The two of us championed this young woman for over an hour – not disagreeing that her behavior was problematic, but arguing that we were at a critical point in the project and required her superior knowledge and skills.

Ms. C. relented. She trusted us to make it work and periodically checked in on us over the next several months.

Scenario 2: Our project was “blessed” with the services of an IV&V (Independent Verification and Validation) contractor. The issue: the project was running smoothly, and IV&V had nothing negative to report in its monthly status reports to the regulatory agency. So, every so often, IV&V would move status from “green” to “yellow” and attempt to justify the downgrade.

Enter Ms. C.

Primary Stakeholder reviewing project statusShe reviewed every IV&V draft report that indicated a downgrade to “yellow”. She then met with the IV&V contractor. He would explain in layperson’s terms, in excruciating detail, the justification for downgrading the project status. Ms. C. asked very good questions, challenging IV&V on its assessment.

More often than not, IV&V relented and re-established the “green” status. Ms. C. did not demand the change if “yellow” was in fact warranted; but so often IV&V left her office humbled at having creatively attempted to justify the downgrade. He often remarked, “no project runs this well.”

Scenario 3: The project had progressed very well, and the schedule pointed to an on-schedule Pilot Implementation in six weeks. As we prepared for the go/no-go decision, we noted that there were still over 350 outstanding defects from User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Not all of these defects were critical, and in my estimation, we were safe to freeze the code and go live on schedule.

Enter Ms. C.

Primary Stakeholder involved in implementation decisionShe had reviewed the UAT statistics and demanded to know why we should go live with so many outstanding defects. She called a meeting with her Stakeholder representative, her functional leads, and me. For the next three days the boardroom was our home away from home, and the projector hummed eight hours a day as we projected each defect one at a time on the screen. We explained the effect of each on the business processes should we leave the defect uncorrected at go-live.

At the end of the review, Ms. C. was satisfied that all 350 defects did not need to be fixed for go-live. But she did require that 100 of them be fixed, retested, and certified in time for our final go/no-go decision.

We implemented on time.

It was one of the most successful systems projects that I have had the privilege to work on. The IT solution provider had stellar project management and skilled technical staff. The end-user team members were the client’s brightest and best. The client’s technical staff contributed significantly. The PMO provided strict project oversight and guidance.

However, in my estimation, we would not have implemented on time without the sacrifice and diligence of one very key team member, the project sponsor. She did not know process. She did not know technology. But she knew people.

Enter Ms. C.


Merv Jersak
If you want your IT projects to come in on time and within budget; if you want your clients to be your best ambassadors and your project teams to be committed to your success; if you want to stop leaving money on the table – then Merv Jersak is the mentor and coach who will work with you to help attain the results to which you aspire. With more than 40 years’ experience as an IT Project Management and systems consultant, Merv works with IT solution providers and end-user organizations, focusing on the people aspects of project delivery to drive more profit to the bottom line and to have fewer budget overruns.

To learn more about Merv’s service offerings, or to hire him to speak to your organization, visit www.PeopleFirstProjectManagement.com.

EMAIL merv@PeopleFirstProjectManagement.com // LINKEDIN www.linkedin.com/in/mervjersak

52 Project Management Success Tips from Merv Jersak  •  Copyright ©2020. All rights reserved.