Simple Strategies to Assign Project Roles and Responsibilities

It takes a lot of varied roles and responsibilities to deliver the typical IT project.  You have technical, planning, customer liasion and administrative roles to fill - to name a few.  Project success depends upon your ability (and willingness) to determine, assign and allocate these varied roles and responsibilities based on actual project needs and existing resource capabilities.  Read on to learn more.

First Steps: Aligning "R and R" with Project Needs

In order to develop and define project management responsibilities designed to suit the needs of any given project, you must first have a good grasp on those needs. This understanding must go beyond the specific technical elements of the project, and into the core issue of project management (i.e. what will it take to drive the project to success?).  (Also Read: Using the Responsibilities Framework)

Is there a customer? Strange as it may seem, not every IT project will have a specific customer. Ultimately, the business itself is the ultimate IT project customer, but for certain technology projects, such as server or infrastructure upgrades, there may be no specific end-user group involved. In these projects, end-user communications and relationship management skills may take a back seat to pure technical and time management skills, and therefore, project assignments can be made accordingly.

Are external consultants or vendors involved? In this case, the internal IT project manager may need to fill a liaison role, and communications and organizational responsibilities will become a primary factor in project success.

What is the technology role? Considering the extent to which technology is now used in business, the IT organization is often called upon to play a role in non-technology projects ... those which rely on technology for the results, but do not focus on technology itself as the result. In these cases, IT usually plays a support role in the overall project, but the technology elements become a sub-project of the whole. This can mandate a dual role for the IT project manager .... to manage the sub-project, and play a secondary, support role in the primary project. This can be the most challenging IT project assignment of all.

Responsibility Breakdown: 5 Categories for IT Projects

Considering project needs and internal staff capabilities, you will then need to identify the project management responsibilities required to drive the project to success:

A. Technical Responsibilities:

Does the project manager have to have specific technical skills or expertise to manage this project?

  • Identify technical requirements.
  • Define scope, goals, and deliverables.
  • Identify resource requirements.
  • Select the project team.
  • Estimate time, costs and schedules.
  • Prepare and present the project plan.

B. Execution Responsibilities:

What execution responsibilities will be required to manage this project?

  • Maintain and monitor the project plan.
  • Approve, reject and apply change requests.
  • Monitor and resolve open issues.
  • Track project progress.
  • Manage the project budget.
  • Manage vendor and supply relationships.

C. Communications Responsibilities:

Communications with the Project Customer (End-User):

  • Does this project have a specific customer?
  • What types of communications will be required?
  • Interviews to obtain requirements.
  • Negotiation of requirements, acceptance criteria, schedules and scope changes.
  • Problems and issues communication.
  • Status reporting.

Communications with the Project Sponsor / Management:

What types of communications will be required?

  • Negotiations for resources (staff and funding).
  • Status reporting.
  • Problem escalation.
  • Coordination with a project steering committee.

D. Staff Responsibilities:

What staff management responsibilities will be required?

  • How large is the project team?
  • Will all team members report directly to the project manager or to project team leaders?
  • Will project team members continue to report directly to line managers during the term of the project?
  • Will the project manager be responsible for evaluating staff performance?
  • Will the project manager have the authority to remove or reassign project team members?

E. Management Expertise:

Depending on the size, complexity and visibility of the project, should the project manager have extensive management experience, or can an inexperienced manager be assigned?  

Continue for more on project roles and responsibilities with our next featured article Preparing Project Job Profiles and Descriptions.

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Featured Management Topic: Project Fast Tracking

Strategic fast tracking is a streamlined project management process, used to level the playing field when "project problems" get in the way of on-time success. Our informative "fast tracking" article series explains more:

Part 1: What is Strategic Fast Tracking?

Part 2: Evaluating Projects for Fast-Track-Ability

Part 3: Pinpointing Project Priorities

Get an illustrated view of the fast tracking process in the "Step-by-Step to a Fast Tracked Project" infographic.

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