Mastering the Basics of Project Management: The Key Project Roles

There are many project roles with some having a greater involvement as the project progresses. However, there are 3 key project characters that need to be appointed early. In this post We will describe the 3 project roles and the differences between each one.

The project roles

The Sponsor: The Sponsor should be a Director of the organisation. They need to be someone with financial authority and be able to allocate extra resources to the project. The Sponsor should have a settled interest in the successful outcome of the project.  The project Manager need to identify who the sponsor of the project is and ensure that he or she understands their role.

Project Role of The Sponsor:

  • Responsible To The Board For Delivery
  • Owns The Project Budget
  • Responsible For Benefits Realisation
  • Authorises Project Scope
  • Approves Project Documents
  • Authorises Project Changes
  • Confirms and supports the Project Plan
  • Gives approval to proceed to execution


  • Validates Deliverable Completion

Business Lead: The Business Lead will be more junior in the organisation than the Sponsor. They will need to have significant experience as their role will be to implement the project on behalf of the Sponsor. The main difference between the Sponsor and the Business Lead is the Sponsor will have financial approval and not be involved on the project everyday.

Project Role of The Business Lead

  • Responsible To The Sponsor
  • Has Vested Interest In Success
  • Can Answer Queries
  • Shapes The Solution
  • Works With The Project Manager
  • Has Day To Day Involvement In The Project

Project Manager: The Project Manager will work day to day with the Business Lead on the delivery of the project. The main difference between the Business Lead and the Project Manager is the project manager will handle the day to day completion of tasks. The Business Lead is the subject matter expect who can answer an queries on Operational process and how the end product should look and feel.

Project Role of The Project Manager

  • Responsible for day to day delivery
  • Captures and mitigates risk
  • Records and ensures issues are resolved
  • Produces and manages the schedule
  • Ensures tasks are completed
  • Keeps project within agreed time, cost, quality and scope
  • Updates project stakeholders
  • Ensuring appropriate communication between the members of the project team and other project stakeholders including, where appropriate, the end users;
  • Completing the project milestone reports prior to meeting with the independent reviewer at key milestones;

Stakeholders are all those groups, units, individuals, or organizations, internal or external to our organization, which are impacted by, or can impact, the outcomes of the project. This includes the Project Team, Sponsors, Steering Committee, Customers, and Customer co-workers who will be affected by the change in Customer work practices due to the new product or service; Customer managers affected by modified workflows or logistics; Customer correspondents affected by the quantity or quality of newly available information; and other similarly affected groups. Key Stakeholders are a subset of Stakeholders who, if their support were to be withdrawn, would cause the project to fail.

A Stakeholder’s role includes:

  • ƒ Confirming the project context
  • ƒ Validating the scope and approach
  • ƒ Confirming and supports project changes
  • ƒ Confirming and supports the project plan
  • ƒ Gives approval to proceed to execution
  • ƒ Validates deliverable completion

Other Important Project Roles:

The Steering Committee generally includes management representatives from the key organizations involved in the project oversight and control, and any other key stakeholder groups that have special interest in the outcome of the project. The Steering committee acts individually and collectively as a vocal and visible project champion throughout their representative organizations; generally they approve project deliverables, help resolve issues and policy decisions, approve scope changes, and provide direction and guidance to the project. Depending on how the project is organized, the steering committee can be involved in providing resources, assist in securing funding, act as liaisons to executive groups and sponsors, and fill other roles as defined by the project.

Customers comprise the business units that identified the need for the product or service the project will develop. Customers can be at all levels of an organization. Since it is frequently not feasible for all the Customers to be directly involved in the project, the following roles are identified:

  • Customer Representatives are members of the Customer community who are identified and made available to the project for their subject matter expertise. Their responsibility is to accurately represent their business units’ needs to the Project Team, and to validate the deliverables that describe the product or service that the project will produce. Customer Representatives are also expected to bring information about the project back to the Customer community. Towards the end of the project, Customer Representatives will test the product or service the project is developing, using and evaluating it while providing feedback to the Project Team.
  • Customer Decision-Makers are those members of the Customer community who have been designated to make project decisions on behalf of major business units that will use, or will be affected by, the product or service the project will deliver. Customer Decision-Makers are responsible for achieving consensus of their business unit on project issues and outputs, and communicating it to the Project Manager. They attend project meetings as requested by the Project Manager, review and approve process deliverables, and provide subject matter expertise to the Project Team. On some projects they may also serve as Customer Representatives or be part of the Steering Committee.

Vendors are contracted to provide additional products or services the project will require and are another member of the Project Team.

My experience as a project manager taught me that it is important to define the main actors of a project right at the beginning, if possible at the same time or shortly after the definition of project scope. With this information, I can create a document called  matrix of responsibilities,(as know as Project Roles and Responsibilities Document) which clearly define the role of each involved in the project and what activities and supplies are your responsibility. Here, you will find a good example of how to document your responsibility matrix.


2 thoughts on “Mastering the Basics of Project Management: The Key Project Roles

  1. Pingback: Mastering the Basics of Project Management: The Complete Series [Updated on March 18th, 2013] | Nelson Biagio Jr

  2. Pingback: Mastering the Basics of Project Management: The Complete Series [Updated on March 25th, 2013] | Nelson Biagio Jr

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