The interests of these three parties should be represented at an authoritative level, but these people will be part of a group and will need leadership. Consequently, the project steering group is usually chaired by a project sponsor, who is responsible for delivering the commercial benefits outlined in the business case. The project sponsor is likely to have been the driving force since the project was conceived. The project sponsor's role on the project steering group is outlined below.
The importance of balance in a project steering group and of a focused, authoritative project sponsor was demonstrated during the implementation of a new computer system for use by Britain's general practitioners (gps), when some lax commercial and practices were project roles and responsibilities observed. This was particularly evident during the user acceptance testing phase of the proj ect. Faced with their new computer system for the first time, many gps (the project's customers) asked the it contractor for functions that were not in the specification. The contractor incorporated the changes and the gps eventually received an improved system that met their needs. In the absence of authoritative commercial control, nobody asked if the changes should be allowed and the project's timescale and budget were exceeded because its organisational structure was missing this important view.
The members of the Virtual Seminars Project Steering Group are:
This is just one of a set of problems that arise from a poorly constructed project steering group. If there is a risk of it having too many members, separate out those who are there to provide opinions but who are not authorised to make decisions about the project. If these people represent teams or departments that will be customers of the project's deliverable, create a separate user forum through which they can express their views. Select one of them to chair the user forum and arbitrate where conflict arises. This person should sit on the project steering group to relay the forum's views and provide a single point of contact to determine the requirements the project's deliverable must satisfy and confirm they have been met at the end.