Roles and responsibilities in project team

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Developed by Jan Talas



Defining roles and responsibilities is an important part of a successful collaboration among team members. Roles are rather general descriptions and do not state specific activities, whereas responsibilities are concrete tasks expected of a person. Some roles are more concentrated on office activities, while others on technology, research and development. Project team members may have different skills, qualifications and practical experience, and may be presented full or part-time. Some team members may be hired only for a particular project task(s). PMBOK® Guide (2013, 5th ed.) shows the relevance of diverse teams: "Although specific roles and responsibilities for the project team members are assigned, the involvement of all team members in project planning and decision making is beneficial."[1] The appropriate project team members can be hired once the roles are clearly and precisely defined. Planning, monitoring or guidance will have no effect if the team can not collaborate or if the team members are not aware of what is expected of them. Therefore, responsibilities and accountabilities must be determined for higher productivity, better results and better communication with fewer misunderstandings and disruptions. Good match between work and a person decreases the number of errors and mistakes.[2]

This article focuses on people perspective as an aspect of project management and provides an overview of roles and their responsibilities within a project team. Team compositions and organisation charts are also mentioned. Members of a project team can use this article to identify the team structure, to understand their role and allocated responsibilities or to deepen their knowledge of the subject. The model can be used in any industry where people are presented to perform teamwork in a project. For example in civil engineering, constructions, mechanical engineering, information technology etc. Effective collaboration is crucial to the success of a project.

Big Idea

Definitions and Importance

These definitions can be found in the PMBOK® Guide (2013, 5th ed.):[3]

  • Role - "The function assumed by or assigned to a person in the project. Examples of project roles are civil engineer, business analyst, and testing coordinator. Role clarity concerning authority[glossary 1], responsibilities and boundaries should also be documented."
  • Responsibility - "The assigned duties and work that a project team member is expected to perform in order to complete the project’s activities."

As it can be seen in these definitions, roles and responsibilities are not the same. Responsibilities represent values according to which roles are defined. Depending on the needs of the current state of the project, multiple roles can be related to one job. Each role consists of aligned responsibilities and expectations that can minimally vary during the life cycle of the project.

Personal classification is important as it brings all project stakeholders together. Formal roles and responsibilities are defined to clarify each participant's expectations through the project. This enables management to identify required specifications and competencies for a particular position. It is essential that team members understand their duties and are aware of their level of authority to make decisions when needed. As a result, they can experience advantages such as:[2]

  • Improved teamwork: Team performs better results when individual objectives are assigned and described accurately. Disputes and possible misunderstandings are eliminated, especially those that are authority related.
  • Prosperous teams: Successful teamwork can be only performed when members stay focused on tasks they are responsible for and do not interfere their surroundings.
  • Effectiveness and efficiency: All mentioned above contribute to better quality of work, higher productivity and overall vital environment.

Project team structure

A project is typically a unique set of processes, into which more organisations and groups may contribute. The management structures of parties involved in the project are likely to be different with authorities, priorities, objectives and interests to protect.[4]

It is not simple to define one universal structure that is applicable to projects of any kind. As mentioned before, a project is unique and so is the team structure.

A possible way to design a team formation can be inspired by PMBOK® Guide (2013, 5th ed.) where the Project management staff is the main representative, and one level lower is the Project staff. Besides these stakeholders, Supporting experts, User or Customer Representatives, Sellers, Business partners and Business partners members are involved in the entire spectrum.[5]

Elementary team organisation can be derived from an article about Project Team Roles and Responsibilities published by Villanova University. The article describes only five roles - Project project manager, project team member, project sponsor, executive sponsor and business analysts.[6]

Figure 1: Project Team Structure, inspired from the PRINCE2™ (ed. 2009)

More coherent and complex structure can be developed according to team roles and responsibilities characterizations described in the PRINCE2™ (ed. 2009) book.[7] It covers all possible stakeholders and shows the overall complexity of the entire system. A model of this type can be viewed as a top-down hierarchy:

  1. Project Board
  2. Executive, Senior User(s), Senior Supplier(s)
  3. Project Manager
  4. Team Manager/Package owner[glossary 2]
-Project Team Members

Also involved, but not in the main hierarchy model:

-Project Assurance
-Change Authority
-Project Support

Roles and responsibilities

Individual roles and responsibilities within a project team are in this article described according to the Project Team Structure model, as it frames all possible project stakeholders. Because projects across the industrial spectrum differ from each other, not all stated positions are essential to the respective projects. Short-term projects with modest scope, low risks and small budget do not usually demand the action of additional members such as Change Authority or Project Assurance. Presence of these stakeholders would increase project costs while their advance and contribution to the project deliverables would be minimal.

Project Board

The Project Board is responsible for the success of the project and has the authority to make key decisions, thereby determining the direction. It operates according to instructions from corporate or programme management. The Project Board has three roles: Executive, Senior User(s) and Senior Supplier(s). All stakeholders are involved to maximize the chance of success as all interests are represented. Executive represents the Business Case[glossary 3], Senior User(s) specify the business requirement, and Senior Suppliers(s) provide the products or services to meet the business requirement. The Project Board has the authority to assign tasks to Project Assurance or a Change Authority as a response to the complexity, scale and risks of the project.[7]

Managing Succesful Projects with PRINCE2™ (ed. 2009) divides general responsibilities of The Project Board into 3 groups:[7]

  1. During start-up and initiation
    • Authorize deviation from tolerances with corporate or programme management
    • Confirm the Project Initiation Documentation
    • Approve the start of the project
  2. During the project
    • Provide the Project Manager with direction and guidance
    • Assure decisions are made to benefit the project objectives at all levels
    • Communicate with stakeholders
    • Approve changes (unless delegated to a ChangeAuthority)
    • Monitor and manage risks
    • Approve completion
  3. At the end of the project
    • Ensure that all requirements have been met
    • Approve the final project product
    • Accept the End Project Report Report with all necessary documentation
    • Confirm project closure and inform corporate or programme management


The Executive role can be understood as a role of an Executive project sponsor. This position is superior to the role of a project manager and requires full commitment essential to the success of a project. An Executive is responsible for the Business Case and provides the direct link between the project management and upper management levels. He/she also authorizes and governs the funding for the project and manages the environment where project activities are performed. [8]

"The Project Board is not a democracy controlled by votes. The Executive is the ultimate decision maker and is supported in the decision making by the Senior User and Senior Supplier." Defined by PRINCE2™ (ed. 2009).[9]

General responsibilities:[9]
  • Design the Project Manager and the project management team
  • Monitore and control the progress of the project and Business Case
  • Supervise the budget for the project
  • Maintain the accountability of Senior User for overseeing of objectives defined in Business Case
  • Maintain the accountability of Senior Supplier for the quality of created products and resources
  • Response to problematic events and ensure that project maintains in progress

Senior User(s)

The Senior User(s) represents everybody who will benefit from the use of project's products and plays an important role at The Project Board. The role ensures that project objectives will be achieved as it was defined in the Business Case and all requirements will be met as well as the quality and functionality of the final product. Depending on the complexity, scope, risks and importance of the project, more than one user may be needed to represent all users interests. It is usually effective to keep the number of users low to accelerate the decision-making process and eliminate the risk of any conflicts.[9]

General responsibilities:[10]
  • Deliver required products' quality, functionality and usability
  • Approve conditions for acceptance of the project
  • Supervise the realization of required benefits
  • Liaison with Users
  • Control the flow and availability of user resources
  • Guide and advise user management during the project

Senior Supplier(s)

The Senior Supplier(s) represents any person or body of people that provide the project with goods or services and is present at The Project Board. The role's main responsibility is to ensure all delivered products meet the requirements regarding quality. Moreover, Senior Supplier is the key supervisor of all technical matters and is accountable for their proper operation. More people may be needed to cover all supplier interests.[11]

General responsibilities:[10]

  • Confirm the feasibility of project goals
  • Control the availability of required resources
  • Approve quality of products provided by suppliers
  • Ensure the project's approach is viable
  • Solve possible conflicts in the matter of supplier requirements and preferences

Project Manager

The Project Manager operates on behalf of Project Board and provides a direct link between strategic management and the team that is responsible for successful delivery of project products. [12] The primary objective of this role is to engage in daily activities to verify goals are achieved with required quality, on time, within a budget and have expected benefit.

General responsibilities:[7]

  • Lead and motivate the team
  • Communication across structural levels
  • Manage the team behaviour and performance
  • Control the production of project products, supervise the progress
  • Approve Work Packages[glossary 4]
  • Preparation of documents (reports and records)

Team Manager

The Team Manager, also known as a Package Owner, is responsible for successful delivery of particular project objectives, which have been allocated to the team. He is accountable for monitoring and evaluating of individual work, resolving possible conflicts, implementing changes and managing overall team progress.[13]

General responsibilities:[7]

  • Create and confirm plan with the Project Manager
  • Track, manage, control team activities
  • Report to the Project Manager
  • Identify risks, deviations from required standard, delays and inappropriate team behaviour
  • Assist the Project Manager when necessary
  • Document and report all assigned issues

Project Assurance

The role of Project Assurance assesses risks and evaluates all project's processes and overall viability. Furthermore, it helps to identify anticipated project's benefits and threads. This function is independent of the Project Manager and reports directly to the Project Board, who has the authority to delegate tasks to Project Assurance. [14]

General responsibilities:[14]

  • Assess and monitor the risks of the project
  • Provide independent process evaluation
  • Provide advice, guidance information, findings
  • Oversee performance and work activities
  • Report to Project Board
  • Control the acceptance of individual solutions

Change Authority

Based on the scope, complexity, risks and importance of a project, decisions regarding changes may be delegated to a Change Authority. This role can be performed by a Project Manager in certain phases of a project.[7]

General responsibilities:[7]

  • Assess, confirm or reject all change proposals within the constraints laid down by the Project Board
  • Representing the business, user and supplier stakeholder interests
  • Alert the Project Board if budget limits regarding the change are likely to be excluded

Project Support

Project support functions are usually provided by specific resources when external expertise is needed. Such roles can represent contracting, financing, logistics, legal, safety or quality control. According to the complexity and scope of the project, project support roles may be required full time or only when their contribution to a project is necessary.[5]

General responsibilities:[5]

  • Benefit the project with expertise and special skills
  • Administrative support


Organization Charts and Position Description

Many tools and techniques may help to apply the knowledge of roles and responsibilities to real projects. The purpose is to make sure there is a team leader assigned to a specific work package, and all team members understand their roles, duties and level of authority. The three main categories covering the majority of models to record team roles and responsibilities are hierarchical, matrix, and text-oriented. [15]

Hiearchical chart

Hierarchical chart enables to design a top-down organisational structure where each employee has a direct supervisor. This type of chart displays levels of authority, responsibilities, who reports to who, and thus speeds up information flow and communication:[15]

  1. Work breakdown structure (WBS) - Shows how deliverables are divided among different teams.
  2. Organizational breakdown structure(OBS) - Work is allocated to a particular department, unit or team.
  3. Resource breakdown structure (RBS) - Resources are grouped according to their function and resource type.
Figure 2: Hierarchical chart, inspired by the PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition

Matrix chart

Table 1: RACI chart, inspired by the PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition

The most popular matrix based chart RAM - responsibility assignment matrix is defined by PMBOK® Guide (2013, 5th ed.) as "a grid that shows the project resources assigned to each work package."[16] It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of team members for individual tasks. RAM is an adaptable chart, that can at higher levels serve as a summary of work assigned to a particular group. More straightforward RAM is used when roles, responsibilities and levels of authority among team members are to be specified. An ordinary type of matrix chart is RACI chart, which PMBOK® Guide (2013, 5th. ed.) defines as "a common type of RAM that uses responsible, accountable, consult and inform statuses to define the involvement of stakeholders in project activities."[17] A RACI has a great utilisation when roles and responsibilities need to be described unambiguously. For example when team members are from different departments or organisations.

Text-oriented format

Text-oriented formats are used when a precise job description is required. Document of this type consists of information about responsibilities, authority, competences, qualifications and expectations. Such a form can be maintained and developed through time and used by managers as a template for new projects.[16]


There are some limitations regarding roles and responsibilities. The topic itself is broad and has a general use which means not one right solution exists. The appropriate approach depends on many different factors - risks, scale, budget, number of stakeholders, complexity or uncertainty. However, there are certain circumstances under which the knowledge can be applied.

  1. Resource requirements: The quantity of all required resources must be determined for each work process. Only then human resource planning can assess how many employees, what skills and specialisations will be required for project success.[18]
  2. Right tool choice: Mentioned organisational charts vary from each other and are used for different purposes. A hierarchical chart is a graphical option well-describing positions, relationships and levels of authority, whereas matrix table shows connections between either people and their work or people and their roles and responsibilities. Text formats may be used for very detailed work descriptions.[16]
  3. Success is not guaranteed: The knowledge and right application of the subject do not guarantee the success of a project. Roles and responsibilities may be defined precisely and well presented to the team members. However, it depends on how people perform their roles, whether they follow approved structure and whether they act within their level of authority and do not abuse it. People are driven by their emotions, personality, prejudice, conviction and intuition, which influences their behaviour and performance. This may result in stepping out of their assigned roles.


  1. Authority - The right to apply project resources, make decisions, sign approvals, accept deliverables, and influence others to carry out the work of the project.
  2. Package Owner: A person responsible for particular work activities and tasks related to a specific part of a project.
  3. Business Case - A documented economic feasibility study used to establish validity of the benefits of components without sufficient definition and that is used for the authorisation of further project management activities.
  4. Work Package: The work and tasks at the bottom level of work breakdown structure.


  1. Page 255, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  2. 2.0 2.1 How to Define Roles, Responsibilities and Handovers. Cleverism. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  3. Page 264, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  4. Page 12, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Page 36, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  6. Project Team Roles and Responsibilities. Villanova University. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Page 269-275, Appendix C: Roles and responsibilities, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  8. Jones, C. (2006). Project sponsorship—managing the executive role in project excellence. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2006—North America, Seattle, WA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Page 270, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Page 271, 2009 ed. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  11. The Role of the Senior Supplier in PRINCE2 Projects. Your Project Manager. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  12. Page 16-17, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  13. Page 279, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Tilk, D. (2002). Project success through project assurance. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium, San Antonio, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Page 261, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Page 262, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  17. Page 557, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)
  18. Page 260, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013)

Annotated bibliography

Murray, Andy & Co. (2009), pages 269-275: Managing successful projects with PRINCE2, 5th edition, United Kingdom, TSO: This book provides an appendix that summarises all possible project stakeholder roles and explains their relevance and connections between them. Each role is described in detail with a wide range of responsibilities.

Project Management Institute. (2013) pages 255-286: A guide to the project management body of knowledge : (PMBOK® Guide), 5th edition: This guide contains essential information on processes and practices of project management. The content is based on knowledge and experience of project managers. The 9th chapter is devoted to the topic of Project Human Resource Management. This part of the book focuses on identifying and documenting of project roles and responsibilities, and on developing and managing of project teams with the use of contemporary tools and techniques. The readers can advance their understanding of the importance of human activities for the success of a project. Labuschagne, L., Cooke-Davies, T., Crawford, L., Hobbs, J. B., & Remington, K. (2006). Exploring the role of the project sponsor. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2006—North America, Seattle, WA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.: This link refers to an article reporting on a research project that was supported by the Project Management Institute (PMI®). The research project analysed the role of Executive Sponsor. The article provides profound and coherent insight into the problematic of the Executive role in a project, explains its importance and connections to other roles and describes key responsibilities.

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