Core Roles for Project Teams
Project teams can be just a few people or many hundreds of people, working across many professional disciplines. However, here are some core roles for project teams that are required on every team.
1. Project Manager
Every project needs a project manager, but you might actually have more than one.
There could be a client project manager, vendor project managers and an in-house project manager as well. Project structures can get complicated in large-scale projects like construction. There may also be a program team overseeing a number of projects that all contribute to a common broader business goal.
If you have multiple people in project delivery roles, make sure there is clarity about what they are responsible for and their sphere of influence.
You’ll normally find there is one ‘prime’ project manager, who probably works for the client.
2. Project Sponsor
Projects also need someone in the sponsorship role. Again, you may have a client sponsor and an in-house sponsor if you are working in a multi-vendor situation. As long as responsibilities are clear, those relationships can work well, creating a powerful team to provide oversight and governance.
The project sponsor is normally a decision-making role that provides access to funding and resources. A senior executive in the organization is likely to fill the role. They are often accountable for the benefits or the outputs and outcome of the project or program.
It may be beneficial to have someone acting as a ‘day-to-day’ sponsor for practical guidance and support on a regular basis, and then an executive sponsor for decisions that need more senior input.
The sponsor’s role is part of the governance structure for the project so as long as it is clear and the set up is working, that’s fine. Ideally, you don’t want too many people trying to act as a sponsor as that can slow down decision making.
Projects are delivered for someone or some organization, and the project team needs a representative of the client to keep the focus on the ‘why’ of the project. The client rep acts as the voice of the customer, helping to shape decisions.
The client rep could be the sponsor from the customer’s side or the customer project manager, but is also likely to include subject matter experts. You might need more than one person in this role.
You don’t have to have the same person for the duration of the project, although that could help with continuity. If it makes sense to bring in different experts at different stages in the project, then do that.
The supplier is the group providing the services. In a construction project, you might be a small electrical firm providing wiring for a larger build. So it’s feasible that you are the vendor in this scenario.
However, think about whether having the vendor project manager on the team is enough, or whether you need additional representation from other experts. In addition, there might be several vendors working on the project. They might all be represented on the core project team.
The logistics of team meetings in a multi-vendor project can be challenging, so if that is the case, our tip is to consider the project communications plan. Streamline the meetings so only the essential people need to be there, perhaps having separate meetings with each vendor about their area of responsibility.
There could also be internal ‘suppliers’ like the legal team or in-house counsel, or marketing staff. They could play a large or small role on the project but shouldn’t be forgotten.
5. Individual Contributors
Project teams rely heavily on individual subject matter experts: those people in the business who have deep domain knowledge. They might not lead a team, or perhaps they do. But they are critical to the project’s success because of what they know and the role they play.
If their expertise is required throughout the project, you might have them on the project team as a permanent member, attending all team meetings and being actively part of the project management effort. If they need to contribute for a shorter period, you can bring them into the team as required.
Subject matter experts can be internal to your organization, part of another organization working on the project, or completely separate. For example, you might need to be bring in an expert consultancy on earned value management certification to get you going on the project. Once the earned value systems are in place and certified, they may not need to be part of the team any longer but the work they contributed sets the project up for success.
Get the right people and Core roles for Project Teams
Your project will need a blend of permanent, contractor, in-house and external staff, all working together to ensure that the end result is good quality and fit for purpose. A range of skills takes care of the process and project management as well as the individual expertise to create the deliverables.
Project teams work best when everyone knows how they are expected to contribute and are empowered to do that. They need the tools, training and equipment to deliver the project professionally. With the right people and the right environment, your team can make amazing things happen.
If you need extra people on your team, talk to us about staff augmentation.