Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Question 9: Have you clearly defined the project roles and responsibilities?

Project Manager building an organisation chart

21 Ways to Excel at Project Management

Good Practice: The project manager must make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined for the project. The organisational structure should be kept as-simple-as-possible.

The following structure works well on large projects:

Executive Sponsor

  • Highest ranking manager on the project.
  • Vocal champion for the project at executive level.
  • Secures budget for the project.
  • The final decision-maker for the project.

Business Sponsor

  • Champion of the project who receives regular updates.
  • Approves the project’s goals and objectives.
  • Attends regular project review meetings.
  • An important decision-maker for the project.
  • Usually chairs the Steering Committee.

Steering Committee (also known as the Project Board)

  • Composed of senior managers from the business.
  • Responsible for oversight, control and key project decisions.
  • Meets every 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Helps resolve issues, approve scope changes and offers guidance and direction.

Project Team

  • Responsible for planning and executing the project.
  • Led by the Project Manager, who reports to the Steering Committee.
  • Must include a User Representative.
  • Must include Vendor Representatives.
  • Must include technical expertise.

User Group

  • Led by the User Representative.
  • Must include subject matter experts (SMEs) from the business.
  • Responsible for user acceptance testing the product or service.


  • Contracted to supply products and services to the project.

The roles and responsibilities for managing the project must be fully documented and adapted to suit the size and complexity of the project and the skills of the organisation.

Common Mistakes

  • No clear ownership for the project.
  • Lack of leadership and commitment from the Steering Committee.
  • Roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.
  • Disconnection between the Project Team and Steering Committee, such as, discussions not open and honest.

Note: Comment from a project team member ...I was never quite sure what I was supposed to be doing...

One of the many roles of the Project Manager is to actively 'drive' the Steering Committee, making sure that regular meetings take place, providing clear agendas, making sure that key decisions are made, and actions are followed up.

Warning Sign! The Business Sponsor fails to attend scheduled project review meetings.