Back to basics: Roles and responsibilities in project-based work

Definition of a project by Cambridge Dictionary:

“A piece of planned work or an activity that is finished over a period of time and intended to achieve a particular purpose.”

Within the definition, a project can be a small and simple one-hour task (“Paint the office door red”), or huge and complex (“Build a new power plant”).

Regardless of the size and complexity, in every project, there are always 3 main roles and responsibilities:

  1. Business Responsible: Approves the project and carries the business responsibility
  2. Delivery Manager: Responsible that the project delivers as agreed
  3. Project Team: Executes the expected project work

The names used for different roles can vary a lot depending on the industry, company size, operational model, and location.

Also, the same person can be in multiple roles. In a one-man company, the same person will have all three roles, whereas in a big enterprise with hundreds of projects the company has typically a more complicated process defined.

But ultimately every project still has the same roles and responsibilities:

  1. A named person has to be responsible for the business
  2. A named person has to be responsible for the delivery
  3. A named person or a defined team has to do the actual work

When more than one organization is working together, e.g. in a client-contractor relationship, the same roles, and responsibilities, are replicated to each organization.

Both parties must have named both the project owner and project manager, and their responsibilities defined and agreed. Depending on the setup, Project Team may be only on one party, or both parties contribute resources.

[picture of general 2 client-contractor setup]

Sounds simple and self-evident, but in the real world endlessly disagreements, confusion, and inefficiency have been caused by not defining these roles and responsibilities clearly and making sure everyone involved knows, understands, and agrees to them.

Even in the agile software development with the self-organizing teams’ approach, ultimately someone has to be responsible.

Traditionally in the waterfall model, the term and role Project Manager was used.

YDIN Delivery Model

Roles and responsibilities in practice: