Understanding Your Project Team's Roles And Responsibilities


Project Team

The smooth, timely, and successful completion of any project certainly requires the sourcing and selection of the right people and placing them into a clearly defined, well organized, and competent Project Team. Under the leadership and direction of its Project Manager, this team is responsible for the planning and execution of the work detailed within a project's plan. The Project Manager works toward ensuring that their efforts are closely aligned to the client's expectations and established budgets, timelines, and quality requirements.

The size and formation of a Project Team would depend on the nature, complexity, budget, and scope of the project being undertaken. Its members may be drawn from different organizations, departments, or locations around the world, with each bringing their own experience, knowledge, and skills to bear. With a diverse and suitable mix of personalities, competences, capabilities, and influence, a project team can be led to work efficiently and effectively together toward the goals and objectives of the project.

The responsibility for putting such a team together typically falls to the Project Manager. In some circumstances however, the responsibility resides with the Project's Owner or Executive Sponsor. The Project Manager is still required to ensure that each role and its responsibilities are clearly defined and communicated, the organizational structure kept as straightforward as possible, and the outcomes and expectations conveyed as early as possible. We have outlined within, the more common project team roles and who would be responsible for what with the aim of helping you to better understand the team that would be required to undertake your next project. It is important to note that many of the roles identified, can be filled by one or more individuals constituting a team or by an organization, such as a consulting or design firm. 

The Client
The Client is the person, organization, or entity requesting and for whom the project will be undertaken, completed, and delivered. They are responsible for defining the project's goals, objectives, requirements, desired outcomes, and overall timelines. Clients tend to provide the finances required, obtain any applicable permissions or statutory approvals, choose some of the Project Team's members, grant authorizations, sign off on deliverables, engage some of the external stakeholders (such as the media), and take ownership of the project upon completion, acceptance, and handover. 

Though there are exceptions, once a project is handed over to the Client, it becomes the Owner; and thus responsible for the operation, maintenance, management, and eventual disposal of the asset, product, or work delivered by the project. With an understanding that Clients may not always have the tools, equipment, knowledge, expertise, or personnel to undertake a given project, it may also enter in partnerships with other entities, led by an Executive Sponsor. 

The Executive Sponsor
In many organizations, the Executive Sponsor is typically a high ranking manager with discernable interest in a project's outcome. He is responsible for securing the necessary spending authority and resources, signing off on goals and objectives, being the project's most visible and vocal champion, and keeping abreast of all major project activities, milestones, and progress. The Executive Sponsor would make pivotal decisions, grant approvals for scope changes, and sign off on completed phases of work. Furthermore, he would also provide support for the Project Sponsor and assign where applicable, some of his responsibilities. 

The Project Sponsor
Similar to that of the Executive Sponsor, the Project Sponsor is another senior manager who is involved more with leading the initiation of a project and having accountability for its overall performance. He will engage in much of the high level planning and development, definition of the scope and deliverables, ensure the availability of the required resources, maintain communication with all senior management and key stakeholders, help to resolve major conflicts, and eliminate obstacles to the project's success. He will typically provide support to the Project Manager and chair the Project Steering Committee. 

The Project Steering Committee
A Project Steering Committee is frequently formed when undertaking a large project involving multiple organizations, business units, or individuals who all have a significant stake in the outcome and success of a project. The Steering Committee represents an important group within the project's governance structure and is responsible for providing strategic oversight, advising the Project Team, deliberating and making decisions on pivotal issues, ensuring that deliverables are preserved, and project outcomes realized. The Project Steering Committee similarly monitors risks, quality, timelines, and scope changes and is not involved with the actual management of the project. This is where the Project Manager comes in. 

The Project Manager
Reporting to the Project Sponsor and accountable to the Steering Committee, the Project Manager is responsible for the planning, execution, management, and completion of a project. Project Managers are organized, understand the strategic relevance and importance of projects, communicate clear objectives, effectively manage change and complexity, and employ a wide range of tools and techniques to deliver targeted results. 

Furthermore, the Project Manager will detail the project's scope, ensure that deliverables are kept, provide the required resources to the project, see that daily activities and tasks are planned and executed, determine the methodologies to be used and followed, monitor and evaluate performance, maintain quality standards and requirements, develop and follow the schedule and budgets, oversee procurement, assess and analyze risk, preserve continuous communication and reporting among all stakeholders, identify and resolve issues, escalate matters for resolution where needed, capture lessons learnt, negotiate and manage contractual relationships, set milestones, review and approve change orders, identify and assemble project team members, motivate and coach teammates, measure the impact of the project on the wider environment, and always retain clear sighting of the overall project and its goals. Given the scope of work that may be involved, the Project Manager may apportion or assign some its responsibilities to one or more Project Team Leaders. 

The Project Team Leader
Larger projects may require a Project Team Leader that will report directly to the Project Manager. On smaller projects, the Project Manager would typically fill or cover both roles. The Team Leader is responsible for supporting the Project Manager, contributing effort toward project objectives and specific deliverables, providing technical leadership and excellence, managing specific activities relating to his core competences and capabilities, participating in the development of project plans and schedules, coordinating testing and documentation, and managing the team's performance. The Project Team Leader would furthermore gather intelligence about impending risks and issues, provide guidance to project team on work breakdowns, and offer solutions to specific challenges that may arise in the execution of work.

The Project Team Members
The bulk of work done on projects is performed by its Project Team Members. Assigned by the Project Manager, Team Members will undertake the various tasks and activities which help to produce the desired deliverables and outcomes. Selected based on their skills, competences, and disciplines, Project Team members can be divided into two groups, Core and Extended. Core Team Members often have a full time roles whilst Extended Team Members may be involved on a part time or as-needed basis. 

Notwithstanding, Project Team Members are responsible for understanding and appreciating the project's goals and objectives, completing assignments within stipulated timeframes, reporting on progress and issues, maintaining quality standards and requirements, engaging and collaborating with other members as a part of an effective team, identifying and mitigating risks, and exercising a professional work ethic at all times. As previously noted, the Project Manager should ensure that his team's efforts and performance are closely aligned to the project's goals, requirements, specifications, standards, and objectives. 

The Stakeholder
A stakeholder is any entity, organization, group, or individual who has a vested interest in the project, its goals, impact, deliverables, and outcomes. Internal or external to the project team and organization, they do include all of the persons identified above and extend outward to government agencies and organizations, suppliers, shareholders, financial institutions, employees, the media, wider industry, and the natural environment. Within the wide range of stakeholders a project may have, it would be prudent to pay closer attention to your Key Stakeholders, who if their support were to be withdrawn from the project, would cause it to fail. 

Stakeholders do need to be identified and analyzed prior to a project's initiation, and then managed throughout its lifecycle. They are responsible for understanding the nature, purpose, and objectives of the project; communicating progress, risks, and issues; committing the resources required, and taking ownership for their respective deliverables. 

The Vendor or Supplier
Vendors or suppliers are the external organizations or entities contracted by the project to provide any additional support, products, services, or materials required on the project. They may be sub-contractors, hardware and equipment providers, software vendors, or even caterers. Whatever their specific role, vendors and suppliers are required to maintain an effective working relationship with the rest of the Project Team and both understand and comply with all of the legal requirements, standards, specifications, details, and costs associated with that which is being provided for the project. On some projects, they may be involved in helping to develop specifications and provide technical support and advice. 

In addition to the more common or core roles identified above, it is perfectly acceptable for Project Teams to be formed based on the nature and demands of the project, requiring other more specialist roles. Some of these include Users, Business Analysts, Researchers, Architects, Programme Managers, Subject Matter Experts (SME's), Quality Control Professionals, Health and Safety Specialists, Lawyers, Testers, Programmers, Designers, Coordinators, Civil Engineers, Investors, Facilitators, Trainers or Educators, and Software Developers.

Teams are more likely to work together toward the successful completion of any project, providing that they all understand and are clear on their respective roles and responsibilities, and interdependencies with others. With time, collaboration, and integration, teams do achieve a level of maturity and cohesion, which allow it to perform at its full potential.