This level stands for the management level of the executing organization. That may be the management board, a group of managers related to the overall management, a dedicated steering committee, the program level related to a project, etc.
The strategical level in large-scale projects supports these functions:
- Overall view of the business impact of the project to the goals of a company or organization.
- Relation in terms of programs and portfolios.
- Final recipient of reports that show the project status.
- Decisions in terms of the completion timeline, more budget, major change requests.
- Support in case of any blocking issues inside or outside the executing organization.
- Mediator and escalation point if several stakeholder groups may not be able to solve an issue in their relation.
This level may perform more tasks. All of them must be clear at the beginning of the project because later changes may cause unnecessary political interferences. The final structure and the influence of this level depends on the project, the executing organization, the complexity, the number and the structure of the stakeholder and other influences.
A steering committee forms the major communication between the strategical and the tactical level and is often seen as equal to the entire strategical level. Although these sessions are supposed to supply a regular exchange of information in both directions the communication towards the strategical level usually dominates. Therefore, this stream of information should be prepared very carefully because it enables the tactical level to give a view on the status and obtaining the necessary support if required.
The main flow of decisions goes certainly from the strategical level to the tactical level. There are several kinds of decisions that might trigger a formal order to the project:
- Added scope for the project.
- Constraints in terms of time and/or budgets.
- New milestones for certain deliverables.
- Stop of the project because of strategical business considerations.
Apart these decisions there may be some more that goes the other way and feeds the strategical level. This could apply when the tactical level takes urgent decisions to run the project that might be controversial in terms of former decisions in the strategical level. It is necessary to give the tactical level a certain degree of discretion that enables the project to take decisions and inform the Strategical Level later.
A project sponsor usually starts and supports the project. There are several definitions how such a role should influence the project and its deliverables. It is recommended to define this role and the expected influence on the project. The sponsor may support the project in two ways: The first one is the obvious allocation of funds and resources. The second one is often overlooked: It includes the view of the strategical level in terms of the development of a project. There is a short and good description of this fact: “…the impact of senior management is not per se a ‘success factor’; rather, its impact depends on the prospects of a project.” This fact is important because the project manager always executes the project as described in the project charter. He or she will usually not consider any changes of the executing organization that may affect the project. Or the other way: If a project manager discovers such a change, he or she might not be able to implement the resulting modifications in the project without the right support.