Roles and responsibilities

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Developed by Nikoleta Kolitsopoulou - Maridaki



Defining the roles and responsibilities is an important part of a successful collaboration among team members. Roles are the general terms, and responsibilities are the specifics. Project management is responsible for defining the roles and responsibilities within the organisation. There are roles more concentrated on office activities, while others are on technology and development. Project team members may have diverse skills and practical experience. They may be assigned full or part-time and may be added or removed from the team as the project progresses. Although specific roles and responsibilities for the project team members are assigned, the involvement of all team members in project planning and decision making is beneficial.[1] The appropriate project team members can be hired once the roles are clearly and precisely defined. Planning, monitoring or controlling will have no effect if the team can not collaborate or if the team members are not aware of what is expected of them. Therefore, responsibilities and accountabilities must be determined for higher productivity, better results and better communication with fewer misunderstandings and disruptions. Good match between work and a person decreases the number of errors and mistakes.

This article focuses on people perspective as an aspect of project management and provides an overview of roles and their responsibilities within a project team. Team compositions and organisation charts are also mentioned. Members of a project team can use this article to identify the team structure, to understand their role and allocated responsibilities or to deepen their knowledge of the subject. The model can be used in any industry where people are presented to perform teamwork. Effective collaboration is crucial to the success of a project.


Definitions and Importance

These definitions can be found in the PMBOK® Guide:[2]

  • Role - The function assumed by or assigned to a person in the project. Examples of project roles are civil engineer, business analyst, and testing coordinator. Role clarity concerning authority[glossary 1], responsibilities and boundaries should also be documented.
  • Responsibility - The assigned duties and work that a project team member is expected to perform in order to complete the project’s activities.

As it can be seen in these definitions, a role is not a responsibility and vice versa. Responsibilities represent values according to which roles are defined. Depending on the needs of the current state of the project, multiple roles can be related to one job. Each role consists of aligned responsibilities and expectations that can minimally vary during the life cycle of the project.

The personal classification is important as it brings all project stakeholders together. Formal roles and responsibilities are defined to clarify each participant's expectations through the project. This enables management to identify required specifications and competencies for a particular position. It is essential that team members understand their duties and are aware of their level of authority to make decisions when needed. As a result, they can experience advantages such as:

  • Improved collaboration: Team performs better results when individual objectives are assigned and described accurately. Disputes and possible misunderstandings are eliminated, especially those that are authority related.
  • Prosperous teams: Successful teamwork can be only performed when members stay focused on tasks they are responsible for and do not interfere their surroundings.
  • Overall effectiveness and efficiency: All mentioned above contribute to better quality of work, higher productivity and overall vital environment.

Project team structure

A project is typically a unique set of processes, into which more organizations and groups may contribute. The management structures of the parties involved in the project are likely to be different with authorities, priorities, objectives and interests to protect.[3]

It is not simple to define one universal structure that is applicable to projects of any kind. As mentioned before, a project is unique and so is its team structure.

A possible way to design a team formation can be inspired by PMBOK® Guide where the Project management staff is the main representative, and one level lower is the Project staff. Besides these stakeholders, Supporting experts, User or Customer Representatives, Sellers, Business partners and Business partners members are involved in the entire spectrum.

Very simple team organization can be derived from an article about Project Team Roles and Responsibilities published by Villanova University. The article describes only five roles - Project project manager, project team member, project sponsor, executive sponsor and business analysts.[4]

Figure 1: Project Team Structure, inspired from the PRINCE2™

More coherent and complex structure can be developed according to team roles and responsibilities characterizations described in the PRINCE2™ book.[5] It covers all possible stakeholders and shows the overall complexity of the entire system. A model of this type can be viewed as a top-down hierarchy:

  1. Project Board
  2. Executive, Senior User(s), Senior Supplier(s)
  3. Project Manager
  4. Team Manager/Package owner
-Project Team Members

Also involved, but not in the main hierarchy model:

-Project Assurance
-Change Authority
-Project Support

The composition of each team that is responsible for particular work package varies regarding cultural aspects, scope, and location, and may be formed as a combination of full-time and part-time resources. These may be both internal and external. Based on this information, PMBOK® Guide gives these two main examples of project team composition:[6]

  1. Dedicated. In a dedicated team, all or a majority of the project team members are assigned to work full-time on the project. The members usually report directly to the project manager and are fully focused on the project’s objectives.
  2. Part-Time. Some projects are established as additional temporary work. In this case, the project manager and team members work on the project while remaining in their original companies, where they keep they functions and responsibilities at the same time. The functional managers are accountable for monitoring of the progress and team members activities. Part-time team members may also be assigned to more than one project at a time.

Roles and responsibilities

Individual roles and responsibilities within a project team are in this article described according to the Project Team Structure model, as it frames all possible project stakeholders. Because projects across the industrial spectrum differ from each other, not all stated positions are essential to the respective projects. Short-term projects with modest scope, low risks and small budget do not usually demand the action of additional members such as Change Authority or Project Assurance. Presence of these stakeholders would increase project costs while their advance and contribution to the project deliverables would be minimal.

Project Board

The Project Board is responsible for the success of the project and has the authority to make key decisions, thereby determining the direction. It operates according to instructions from corporate or programme management. The Project Board has three roles: Executive, Senior User(s) and Senior Supplier(s). All stakeholders are involved to maximize the chance of success as all interests are represented. Executive represents the business case, Senior User(s) specify the business requirement, and Senior Suppliers(s) provide the products or services to meet the business requirement. The Project Board has the authority to assign tasks to Project Assurance or a Change Authority as a response to the complexity, scale and risks of the project.[5]

Managing Succesful Projects with PRINCE2™ divides general responsibilities of The Project Board into 3 groups:[5]

  1. During start-up and initiation
    • Authorizes deviation from tolerances with corporate or programme management
    • Confirm the Project Initiation Documentation
    • Approve the start of the project
  2. During the project
    • Provide the Project Manager with direction and guidance
    • Assure decisions are made to benefit the project objectives at all levels
    • Communicate with stakeholders
    • Approve changes (unless delegated to a ChangeAuthority)
    • Monitor and manage risks
    • Approve completion
  3. At the end of the project
    • Ensure that all requirements have been met
    • Approve the final project product
    • Accept the End Project Report Report with all necessary documentation
    • Confirm project closure and inform corporate or programme management


The Executive role can be understood as a role of an Executive project sponsor. This position is superior to the role of a project manager and requires full commitment essential to the success of a project. An Executive is responsible for the Business Case and provides the direct link between the project management and upper management levels. He/she also authorizes and governs the funding for the project and manages the environment within project activities are performed. [7]

"The Project Board is not a democracy controlled by votes. The Executive is the ultimate decision maker and is supported in the decision making by the Senior User and Senior Supplier."[8]

General responsibilities:[8]
  • Design the Project Manager and the project management team
  • Monitore and control the progress of the project and Business Case
  • Supervise the budget for the project
  • Maintain the accountability of Senior User for overseeing of objectives defined in Business Case
  • Maintain the accountability of Senior Supplier for the quality of created products and resources
  • Response to problematic events and ensure that project maintains in progress

Senior User(s)

The Senior User(s) represents everybody who will benefit from the use of project's products and plays an important role at The Project Board. The role ensures that project objectives will be achieved as it was defined in the Business Case and all requirements will be met as well as the quality and functionality of the final product. Depending on the complexity, scope, risks and importance of the project, more than one user may be needed to represent all users interests. It is usually effective to keep the number of users low to accelerate the decision-making process and eliminate the risk of any conflicts.[8]

General responsibilities:[9]
  • Deliver required products' quality, functionality and usability
  • Approve conditions for acceptance of the project
  • Supervise the realization of required benefits
  • Liaison with Users
  • Control the flow and availability of user resources
  • Guide and advise user management during the project

Senior Supplier(s)

The Senior Supplier(s) represents any person or body of people that provide the project with goods or services and is present at The Project Board. The role's main responsibility is to ensure all delivered products meet the requirements regarding quality. Moreover, Senior Supplier is the key supervisor of all technical matters and is accountable for its proper operation. More people may be needed to cover all suppliers interest. [10]

General responsibilities:[9]

  • Confirm the feasibility of project goals
  • Control the availability of required resources
  • Approve quality of products provided by suppliers
  • Ensure the project's approach is viable
  • Solve possible conflicts in the matter of supplier requirements and preferences

Project Manager

The Project Manager operates on behalf of Project Board and provides a direct link between strategic management and the team that is responsible for successful delivery of project products. [11] The primary objective of this role is to engage in daily activities to verify goals are achieved with required quality, on time, within a budget and have expected benefit.

General responsibilities:[5]

  • Lead and motivate the team
  • Communication across structural levels
  • Manage the team behaviour and performance
  • Control the production of project products, supervise the progress
  • Approve Work Packages and delegate work to Team Managers
  • Preparation of documents (reports and records)

Team Manager

The Team Manager, also known as Package Owner, is responsible for successful delivery of particular project objectives, that have been allocated to the team. He is accountable for monitoring and evaluating of individual work, resolving possible conflicts, implementing changes and managing overall team progress.[12]

General responsibilities:[5]

  • Create and confirm plan with the Project Manager
  • Track, manage, control team activities
  • Report to the Project Manager
  • Identify risks, deviations from required standard, delays and inappropriate team behaviour
  • Assist the Project Manager when necessary
  • Document and report all assigned issues

Project Assurance

The role of Project Assurance assesses risks and evaluates all project's processes and overall viability. Furthermore, it helps to identify anticipated project's benefits and threads. This function is independent of the Project Manager and reports directly to the Project Board, who has the authority to delegate tasks to Project Assurance. [13]

General responsibilities:

  • Assess and monitor the risks of the project
  • Provide independent process evaluation
  • Provide advice, guidance information, findings
  • Oversee performance and work activities
  • Report to Project Board
  • Controls the acceptance of individual solutions

Change Authority

Based on the scope, complexity, risks and importance of a project, decisions regarding changes may be delegated to a Change Authority. This role can be performed by a Project Manager in certain phases of a project.[5]

General responsibilities:

  • Assess, confirm or reject all change proposals within the constraints laid down by the Project Board
  • Representing the business, user and supplier stakeholder interests
  • Alert the Project Board if budget limits regarding the change are likely to be excluded

Project Support

Project support functions are usually provided by specific resources when external expertise is needed. Such roles can represent contracting, financing, logistics, legal, safety or quality control. According to the complexity and scope of the project, project support roles may be required full time or only when their contribution to a project is necessary. [14]

General responsibilities:

  • Benefit the project with expertise and special skills


Organization Charts and Position Description

Many tools and techniques help to apply the knowledge of roles and responsibilities to real projects. The purpose is to make sure there is a team leader assigned to a specific work package, and all team members understand their roles, duties and level of authority. The three main categories covering the majority of models to record team roles and responsibilities are hierarchical, matrix, and text-oriented. [15]

Hiearchical chart

Hierarchical chart enables to design a top-down organisational structure where each employee has a direct supervisor. This type of chart displays levels of authority, responsibility, who reports to who and thus speeds information flow and communication:[15]

  1. Work breakdown structure (WBS) - Shows how deliverables are divided among different teams.
  2. Organizational breakdown structure(OBS) - Work is allocated to a particular department, unit or team.
  3. Resource breakdown structure (RBS) - Resources are grouped according to function and resource type.

Matrix chart

The most popular matrix based chart RAM - responsibility assignment matrix is defined by PMBOK® Guide as " a grid that shows the project resources assigned to each work package."[16] It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of team members for individual tasks. RAM is an adaptable chart, that can at higher levels serve as a summary of work assigned to a particular group. A more straightforward RAM is used when roles, responsibilities and levels of authority among team members are to be specified. An ordinary type of matrix chart is RACI chart, which PMBOK® Guide defines as " a common type of RAM that uses responsible, accountable, consult and inform statuses to define the involvement of stakeholders in project activities."[17] A RACI has a great utilisation when roles and responsibilities need to be described unambiguously. For example when team members are from different departments or organisations.

Text-oriented format

Text-oriented formats are used when a precise job description is required. Document of this type consists of information about responsibilities, authority, competences, qualifications and expectations. Such a form can be maintained and developed through time and used by managers as a template for new projects.[16]


1. General, cannot be applied ultimately 2. Individual Approach to every project 3. Human factor


  1. Authority - The right to apply project resources, make decisions, sign approvals, accept deliverables, and influence others to carry out the work of the project.


  1. Page 255, 2013 ed. PMBOK® Guide
  2. Page 264, 2013 ed. PMBOK® Guide
  3. Page 12, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  4. Villanova University
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Page 269-275, Appendix C: Roles and responsibilities, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™
  6. Page 37, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide
  7. Jones, C. (2006). Project sponsorship—managing the executive role in project excellence. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2006—North America, Seattle, WA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Page 270, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Page 271, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  10. https://www. Your Project Manager. Retrieved March 2017 by Richard WIllis.
  11. Page 16-17, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide
  12. Page 279, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide
  13. Tilk, D. (2002). Project success through project assurance. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium, San Antonio, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
  14. Page 36, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide
  15. 15.0 15.1 Page 261, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide
  16. 16.0 16.1 Page 262, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide
  17. Page 557, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) Guide


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