If you're a WLP professional tasked with implementing an evaluation
project at the ROI level, then you need support for resource
allocation in all phases of ROI implementation, including
evaluation planning, data collection, data analysis, and
communication of results. In fact, any performance improvement
initiative that seeks to demonstrate results at Level 3 or above
will require approval of time, money, expertise, and resources.
Approval must come from a committed sponsor who has the authority
and desire to provide the appropriate direction, support,
resources, and rewards to ensure that the evaluation project will
be implemented as planned.
The role of sponsorship
Executive support, in the form of a dedicated sponsor, is
considered a critical component for the success of large-scale
changes in performance. "Sponsor" is generally the term used to
describe senior managers in an organization who are responsible for
allocating resources in support of specific organizational goals.
It's important to distinguish between a sponsor and an advocate.
While an advocate may persuasively communicate the need for people,
money, and materials to complete an evaluation effort, an advocate
ultimately needs the support of an executive sponsor to provide
such resources. Performance improvement or WLP specialists cannot
assume a sponsorship role. Sponsors have the legitimate power and
influence to authorize a major effort and to assign
accountabilities for project stakeholders, supporters, team
members. For example, sponsors play a pivotal role in jump-starting
an evaluation effort when managers who should be acting as
advocates fall short in doing their job.
Commitment from a sponsor also includes attention and action where
and when required during the long haul of a project's
implementation. During the course of a project, people may change.
They get promoted, transfer departments, or leave the company. New
people are then brought in. Maintaining ongoing participation of an
evaluation team, and filling potential black holes in the effort,
takes the resolve of a credible sponsor who can provide direction
and convey a results-orientation in both words and action.
The role of the evaluation project manager
Given the infinite number of possible projects that could consume
an organization's resources and the finite, highly competitive
nature of resources available, evaluation project managers must
continually position their evaluation strategy and resource
requirements in a meaningful business context. Subsequently, a
well-managed project should have regularly scheduled status reviews
to provide sponsors with current information about the health of
the project, its progress toward goals and milestones, and
resources expended to date.
The role of risk management
Every project, no matter how well-defined or well-executed,
encounters threats and barriers to achieving desired goals. To that
end, evaluation project managers must convey a desire to
consciously manage risk. Risk assessment should occur during
evaluation planning and should be re-visited whenever there is a
substantive change in project definition, team, approach, or
context that may alter the project's intended course or projected
results. This is a facet of ROI implementation that is often
underestimated or misjudged by WLP and evaluation project managers.
Sponsors need risk information to assess whether the value of a WLP
project, and its progress to date, warrants continued investment in
the face of new business demands and concurrent, conflicting
changes in the organizational environment. Electing to continue an
evaluation project should be a considered and conscious choice. For
the implementation leader, risk management has the following
- It provides an opportunity to remind sponsors that there are
- It establishes a foundation for dialogue with sponsors around
possible responses to risks.
- It legitimizes risk management as a standard practice in WLP
project planning and ROI implementation.
- It positions the WLP function as a proactive business partner.
- It reinforces the alignment of WLP objectives with objectives
at the heart of a sponsor's business orientation.
Implementing a comprehensive measurement and evaluation effort
represents a significant undertaking that requires a dedicated
sponsor and careful planning to keep the process on track.
Implementation schedules, evaluation targets, data collection
plans, ROI analysis plans, measurement and evaluation policies,
follow-up schedules, and resource commitments are key. However, one
of the most neglected areas of project planning is risk management.
In the real world, some WLP projects fail to realize their expected
value. When this happens, the evaluation project manager must
address hard issues with their sponsor:
- When did we know this project was in trouble? If the evaluation
leader was doing -her job, a data trail should exist to answer this
question, and the information should have been promptly and clearly
relayed to the project's sponsors.
- Was continuing the project an informed decision? If the sponsor
had timely and accurate status information and was doing his or her
job, the answer to this question should be "yes."
Acknowledging the potential for risk and addressing possible risk
responses are proven ways of building and sustaining sponsorship
support through all phases of ROI implementation. Table 1 (below)
provides a checklist of implementation questions for helping WLP
project managers and evaluation leaders work with their sponsors to
anticipate, prioritize, and mitigate possible threats to project
Table 1: Implementation Issues for Planning and
Managing Evaluation Project (Courtesy of Evaluation Works; used