For Agile & Classical Project Management

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Project Roles & Responsibilities



Prof. Dr. Ulrich Anders

Project tend to be complex and require many activities. In order to be efficient it makes sense to specify roles and responsibilities so that task ownership is clear. In every company this job only needs to be performed once. On this basis it is then much more easy to allocate roles to people.

Not every role requires its own person. On the contrary, not every role is a full time job, so it is quite common that people assume several roles. The only condition in this regard is that people should not take roles that require a conflict of interest. For instance, a Product Manager who is the responsible for the project progress should typically not have the role of a Project Controller who evaluates the project progress.

Here is a list of the typical project roles with their responsibilities:

  • The Customer is the external or internal customer of the project who in the end will one way or another pay for the result of the project. If the customer is a set of to be targeted customers who are not yet known to the project this role can be given to a person who represents this set of customers.
  • The Project Sponsor is usually the person in whose area the project responsibilities sits. The Project Owner has either initiated the project or it was given to this person. The budget and resources often mainly stem from the project sponsor’s area and are »owned« by the Project Sponsor. Typically the Project Manager or Product Owner report to the Project Sponsor. The project owner also has the responsibility to embed the project into the organization. If obstacles occur in the context of the project, the project owner is the main responsible to initiate the resolution if this is not performed by the Steering Committee.

  • The Project Steering Committee is typically comprised of several senior line managers that have a stake in the project either by profiting from the result of the project or by being impacted by the change incurred. The task of the Steering Committee is to give support, remove hurdles that the project (manager) is facing, resolve (prioritization) conflicts, overcome constraint, supervise the general progress and initiate necessary actions.

  • The Project Manager|Owner is the responsible for delivering the project. (S)he does so by organizing the resources in the project and taking the necessary decisions. The project manager is usually a superior to a project team. In agile setups the role of a project manager does not exist. Nevertheless in agile context a person is needed who installs the Product Owner, Agile Master and the Core Team. As agile concepts are typically based on the concept of ownership the task of setting up the team is performed by the Project Owner.

  • The Product Owner is a role in agile setups. The product owner is responsible for the product. (S)he represents the product to the (internal or external) customer. Within the development team the product owner prioritizes features and versions. The Product Owner is not a superior to a team member.
  • The Project Controller is responsible for keeping track of the project status as independently and objectively as possible. (S)he should be the single source of truth for all status information. In agile projects this role does not exist in standard setups even though it is very important. If the role of a Project Controller is not implemented then the tasks of this role should be assumed by the Agile (Scrum, Kanban) Master.

  • The Agile (Scrum, Kanban) Master is responsible for supporting the team in all aspects that make the team effort most efficient. This can be a coaching of the team or individual members, conflict resolution, the organization of infrastructure, or support in any necessary area. If the role of the Project Controller has not been assigned the Agile Master carries out the project evaluation and status reporting on behalf of the team.

  • The Project Team Members make the project happen in its core and do the operational work. They are also responsible for proper documentation and manuals. In agile setups project team members organize the work allocation within their team autonomously.

  • Larger projects usually have a significant impact in an organization and therefore bring several stakeholders. Also the project result may lead to significant changes in the organization itself. The Delegate for Change Management acts more on the context of the project by making sure that stakeholders are aligned with the project and that the organizational change that may be the consequence of the project is running as smoothly as possible. This is a role which can be assumed next to other roles.

  • Quality Management is a special challenge in a project. The Delegate for Quality Management has to ensure that the scope of the project is not changing such that it puts the whole project in jeopardy. This is a role which can be assumed next to other roles. Scope creep is that more and more scope is added, whereas scope bleed is that scope is continuously reduced. Furthermore this role also need to ensure that the defined quality is delivered in every deliverable, quality assured and signed off. The quality assurance must not be done by the person him-/herself but this person makes sure that a working process is in place.

  • The Delegate for Risk Management has to make sure that significant, tangible, and material issues that are realistically threatening the project success are attended to. Risk Management is not writing risks up but is trying to find solutions for before mentioned issues in order to reduce their likelihood or severity. This is a role which can be assumed next to other roles. The Delegate for Risk Management is typically more concerned with issues arising from the context of the project rather than from within the project which rather is the task of the project manager or the agile team.

  • The Delegate for Knowledge Management has to make sure that the necessary knowledge is available to all persons involved in the project. (S)he has to find a data repository, structure the information, provide for the necessary information, design the push and pull processes on documentation and finally has to ensure that the acquired knowledge and is handed over from the project to the successor (e.g. customer or line function). This is a role which can be assumed next to other roles.

  • Some companies have Coaches and Mentors. The support project managers or people involved in their roles, help to train them and also contribute to overcoming any kind of difficulties. They may also review a project to get a second oversight opinion.

  • Companies who are have a higher level of project management maturity usually have dedicated people in the HR departments and in a Project Management Center of Competence. These people look into trainings, skill building, team developments. They support networking amongst project people across projects. They also debrief project people to make use of valuable past project experiences for future projects. Finally they maintain all documents, guidelines, procedures and standards. They also do software selection as a service to all projects and make sure that the chosen software is most useful and serves the needs.

© Prof. Dr. Ulrich Anders

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Last change: 2022-01-02|00:58

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