Blog

How to structure roles and responsibilities for your project success

Business development
Management
by Don Lowe CEO
| 6 min read

The success of any project requires each team member to take responsibility. As with any company, individuals need to be in the role they are qualified to play. I am a great believer in the use of well-defined roles and responsibilities, as this helps to cover all the activities that need to be carried out for a project to be successful.

What happens when you do not have well-defined roles and responsibilities? Any time there’s a lack of clarity, people waste energy dealing with things that don’t matter. They argue over things that are not important, fail to focus on jobs that are important, and miss out on opportunities. Because of that, some of the work is missed as no one is accountable. Not having well-defined roles can lead to duplication of work, delays in delivery, or even project failure.

Instead of that, well-formed role descriptions have a couple of useful functions. They help people to understand exactly what is expected of them in a particular role and gives them a clear sense of purpose. Employes know which roles (people) will do the work they are dependent on. Well-formed role descriptions increase flexibility in a team or organisation as one person can fill more than one role, or one role can have more than one person allocated, depending on the complexity and size of each individual project.

Make your life easy, allocate each person to the right role

Define roles and responsibilities, and allocate the right people to each role then their energy becomes accessible for doing the work that needs to be done.

Example of the roles that can be involved in a project organisation based on the PRINCE2 methodology

Example of a Scrum organisation

What is important is that the different interest groups are represented appropriately within the project organisation. Having the right people in the project organisation is a necessary condition for effective project management and delivering the project output in a cost-effective way.

Project Board

The project board comprises of the project executive, a product owner/senior user and the senior supplier, as a group and individually they must have the following attributes:

  • Authority
  • Credibility
  • Ability to delegate
  • Availability

The project board must be actively involved in the project and give direction; this is structured in the core process of directing a project.

Project Executive Role

The project executive represents the business interests and has ultimate responsibility for business success. You can allocate more than one role to an individual. For example, when appropriate, one person can have the project executive role and the product owner role.

When the project is part of a program, the project executive may also be part of the program board for the duration of the project. In smaller programs, the program executive (or senior responsible owner (SRO)) may also take the project executive role.

Product Owner / Senior User Role

The product owner should come from the business/organisation department that will use the projects end product. In the ideal world, the product owner will be available to the project organisation whenever needed. In the real world, the product owner often has other responsibilities, in this case, it is important that a suitable deputy can represent the product owner.

In the program setting, the product owner will also be a suitable business change manager (BCM) or a member of the business change team. In the project context, the product owner has the responsibility of identifying and defining benefits at the beginning and during the project, then tracking the achievement of outcomes and realisation of benefits post project.

Senior Supplier Role

Represents the interests of the supplier organisation and makes sure that the supplier makes the right resources available to the project.

Project Manager Role

The project manager takes care of the day-to-day management of the project on behalf of the project board. The project manager must make sure that the project has a viable business case and that the output from the project will deliver the capability required by the business (product owner).

The project manager must facilitate the work of the production team, helping to remove constraints and ensure the flow of communication. Once a work package is agreed with the production team, let the production team work out how they will deliver within the agreed tolerances. Be available to help team members as and when necessary.

Business Analyst Role

In a smaller project, the business analyst role can be taken on primarily by the project manager. It is becoming more and more common to have a person allocated to the business analyst role. The business analyst reports to the project manager and takes care of making sure the project delivers business value.

Technical Team Leader Role (Scrum Master)

The technical team leader has responsibility for all the team members work in the production team, this will include the users who are working with the production team for the period they are required. For those who like to work with scrum, I equate the technical team leader as the scrum master.

User Role

It is not uncommon for projects to be run without the involvement of the end-users, this is especially true in the software industry. Experience has shown that there is a distinct advantage to have end-users involved in the development of new products that they will then work with in the business environment.

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