One of the principles of project management is that the project must have clear roles and responsibilities. 

Roles are about relationship behaviour: how you interact with others. For example, if you are a waiter in a restaurant, your role is to make sure that the diners enjoy themselves. 

Responsibilities are about what you do as part of your job. If you are a waiter in a restaurant, your responsibilities include taking orders, serving food, etc. 

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Key stakeholders, roles and responsibilities in the project

This article covers the roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders that are part of every project. If there are other stakeholders in the project, their roles and responsibilities also need to be clearly defined. 

1. Project Sponsor 

Role of the Project Sponsor 

  • a person who owns the project and is its “flag bearer” 
  • owns the business case (especially expected benefits) and is responsible for keeping the project viable 
  • supports the authority of the Project Manager 
  • this role can be combined with the role of the Senior Product Owner and/or the Senior Supplier 
  • in order to have clear roles and responsibilities, there is only one Project Sponsor per project 

Responsibilities of the Project Sponsor 

  • a person who chairs the Project Steering Committee 
  • provides feedback to the Project Manager regarding their performance 
  • provides information about changes in the company’s strategy or external events that could affect the project 
  • provides timely decisions 
  • has the authority to spend money on the project and guards the value gained for that money 
  • is the final judge and escalation point for all “issues” of the project that exceed the authority of the Project Manager 

2. Senior Product Owner 

Can also be known as Senior User or Chief Product Owner. 

Role of the Senior Product Owner 

  • this role can be combined with the role of the Project Sponsor and, in case the Senior Contractor is internal, also of the Senior Contractor 
  • if there are several Senior Product Owners: 
    • it must be clear who is responsible for which product and benefits
    • one can be nominated as “Chief Product Owner” 

Responsibilities of the Senior Product Owner 

  • defines the project end product and major deliverables, including their requirements and acceptance criteria, and accepts them in relation to these criteria 
  • defines the benefits of the project 
  • assesses the requirements for change in terms of benefits 
  • responsible for achieving the benefits of the project by using the project products after their acceptance 
  • an active member of the Project Steering Committee 

3. Senior Supplier 

Role of the Senior Supplier 

  • subordinate to the Project Sponsor 
  • in case the Senior Supplier is internal, then this role can be combined with the role of the Project Sponsor and the Senior Product Owner 
  • if there are multiple Senior Suppliers, it must be clear who is responsible for which products and resources 

Responsibilities of the Senior Supplier 

  • provides the human and other resources needed to deliver project products 
  • confirms whether the products and their modifications are feasible as required and, if necessary, proposes changes to the requirements or the way in which the products are to be created 
  • an active member of the Project Steering Committee 

4. Project Manager 

Often referred to only as PM. 

Role of the Project Manager 

  • subordinate to the Project Sponsor 
  • in order to have clear roles and responsibilities, there should be only one Project Manager per project 

Responsibilities of the Project Manager 

  • plans the project in outline and then in more detail in the phase plans 
  • manages the project on a daily basis on behalf of the Project Sponsor 
  • coordinates the creation and contributes to project plans and strategies 
  • if there are multiple Team Leaders, PM makes sure it is clear who is responsible for which products and work packages 
  • keeps the project “on track” with plans and strategies, manages changes in relation to them 
  • continuously re-evaluates the business case and, if necessary, escalates to the Project Sponsor 

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5. Team Leader 

(optional) 

Role of the Team Leader 

  • subordinate to the Project Manager 
  • leads people who create products 

Responsibilities of the Team Leader 

  • accepts job assignments (often called “work packages”) from the Project Manager 
  • plans the work of the team and monitors the team’s progress in relation to this plan 
  • ensures that the assignments are carried out as agreed with the Project Manager

6. Project Administrator 

(optional) 

Role of the Project Administrator 

  • subordinate to the Project Manager 

Responsibilities of the Project Administrator 

  • provides administrative support to the Project Manager and Team Leader (e.g. updates the time schedule, keeps project documentation up to date) 
  • if there are multiple Project Administrators, it must be clear who is responsible for what tasks and what functions they have 

7. Subject Matter Expert 

Often referred to only as SME. This is an expert on a particular area or topic. 

Role of the Subject Matter Expert 

  • depending on the function, they may report to the Team Leader, the Project Manager or a member of the Project Steering Committee 
  • an expert on project content and/or standards to be met by the project 
  • may have one or more functions, such as: 
    • advisory – advises the Project Manager, Team Leaders or members of the Project Steering Committee on professional matters 
    • supervisory – confirms on behalf of the Project Steering Committee  members whether the project is managed and the products are manufactured in accordance with the relevant standards and agreed baselines, reporting any non-compliance to the Project Steering Committee member for whom they work 

More Subject Matter Experts may and probably will be needed in the project. 

Responsibilities of the Subject Matter Expert 

  • if the Subject Matter Expert has more than one function, it is necessary to ensure that there is no conflict of interest – the Project Manager is responsible for this, who escalates to the Project Sponsor if necessary 

8. Team Member 

Role of a Team Member 

  • subordinate to the Team Leader or the Project Manager 

Responsibilities of a Team Member

  •  people who physically create products or deliverables 

     

Note: This article is based on the Project Management Guide, which is available here as a free e-book under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence defined here and here. Some changes were made compared to the original text. 

 

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Author of the article: Ing. Štefan Ondek, PMP 
Ing. Petr Macek
Štefan Ondek is a project management professional. He is the founder and managing partner of POTIFOB, a group of training and consulting companies helping people and organizations manage their projects, programs, portfolios, changes and IT well. So far, he has personally trained over 3,000 professionals from more than 20 countries in project management. 

Štefan is the author and reviewer of several publications related to project management. For example, he is one of the authors of the PRINCE2® 6th Edition Foundation certification exam, a voluntary proofreader of PMI® PMBOK Guide® 6th Edition, PRINCE2 6th Edition, The Standard for Program Management 4th Edition and the chief proofreader of the 1st Slovak version of the PRINCE2 5th Edition terminology dictionary. 
Štefan holds various certificates including PMI PMP®, PRINCE2®, PRINCE2 Agile® and Agile Scrum Master Approved/Accredited Trainer, PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner, Agile Business Professional, Product Owner and Scrum Master, ITIL 4 Foundation, ITIL 4 DPI and other. 

If you want to contact Štefan, please write to ondek@potifob.com.

PRINCE2®, PRINCE2 Agile®, ITIL®, MSP®, MOP®, P3O® are registered trademarks of AXELOS Limited. PMI® and PMP® are registered trademarks of Project Management Institute, Inc.