Ten Roles in Project Management

If you had to generalize about project management roles inside every performing organization, what roles should them be? I always answer there is just 10 roles: 5 from the demand management side and other 5 from the supply management side. I would like to validate this assumption with your comments below.

According to the PMI® PMBOK® Guide, a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. Any project needing a professional management -not just like a set of tasks- implies teamwork and accountability to finish on time, on budget, meeting quality requirements, etc. Therefore, we have at least 2 mandatory roles: the people doing the actual teamwork — Team Members — and the person directing and managing project work and controlling that management goals are met — the Project Manager.

According to the PMI® PMBOK® Guide, the Project Manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.

Team Members are individuals who support the project manager in performing the work of the project to achieve its objectives.

Projects are always performed somewhere. If there is an internal project developed with internal resources, these resources would belong to a certain business unit inside the organization. If there is a project for a customer, the seller will use resources from a business unit as well. If the project is cross-departmental, good practice is to have one business unit showing leadership and accountability. This make me conclude that there is always a Business Unit responsible, being the head person a quite differentiated role that we can call Functional Manager.

Functional Manager’s main interest is authorized and control BU’s resource usage against BU’s business goals or budget. According to PMBOK® Guide, a Functional Manager is someone with management authority over an organizational unit within a functional organization. The manager of any group that actually makes a product or performs a service. Sometimes called a line manager.

In consulting management is quite common using client-supplier terminology to delineate corporate functions and processes. Project management also use this kind of terminology, project demand management and project supply management, to specialize project functions in two groups: 1) those that propose projects and monitor projects performance —demand management, and 2) those using resources to execute projects — supply management.

I can see clearly that Project Managers and Team Members are on the supply management side. Functional Managers are on the demand management side.

Let’s explain a bit project demand management:

Performing organizations have roles focused on project demand management. All possible projects that could be proposed need to be compared and prioritized, since it is pointless to execute each of them. There should not be enough resources, though. These demand managers are not keen to the word “project”, they prefer words like idea, initiative, request, investment, proposal, commercial bid, etc. Project managers usually says “the project is initiating” when the project is not authorized yet, and that confuses demand management people.

I think is useful to adapt terminology here. I use the word Request for any demand management item and Project to any supply management item — I mean the same, just with different words. Lifecycle states are better understood as well:

We could identify another specific role, named Requester for the person who ask for a new project, work hard to get it approved, and then just need to be informed on completion.

In project selling organizations, Requester is normally the sales person managing the project selling lifecycle. Analogously, client organizations use the same term for the people requesting new internal projects. Both Requesters and Project Managers manage requests and projects in a similar way:

A Requester can tag a request as proposed if it is not won/authorized yet, in progress if it is being executed, and closed when it is done. Sometimes, requests are set on hold, waiting a more convenient time to decide. When requests are lost or not authorized, it can be tagged as rejected.

In a symmetrical way, the Project Manager is aware that the project is not authorized if it is tagged as initiating. When authorized, two states are possible: planning when the project is not allowing resource/budget consumption, executing otherwise. When the project is tagged as closing, no more hours/expenses will be approved. Finally, when the project is archived, project documentation is closed and no further updates are allowed.

Let’s continue now with the Resource Manager role:

Many organizations have a particular role to manage resource pools assignable to projects, this is the Resource Manager. Among his or her responsibilities are capacity planning to ensure there will be available resources to meet projects demands. The most important indicator for them is the utilization rate, which they need to keep between certain levels according to professional categories. They also have shared responsibilities with HR: recruiting, professional career planning, training, incentive policies, leaves, absences, etc.

Another role should be the Stakeholder:

According to the PMBOK® Guide, a Stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.

Now we get to the Sponsor:

Projects are formally authorized by the Sponsor. According to the PMBOK® Guide, is a person or group who provides resources and support for the project, program, or portfolio and is accountable for enabling success.

Somebody with the proper authority in the organization should sign the project charter in order to authorize the project. The sense of this authorization is more or less the following:

“As organization, we have committed to expend organization’s money and employee’s time to get this project done, instead of other proposed projects, because at the moment we made our decision, this was the most aligned, profitable and opportunistic to favor the organization strategic interests.”

Another role could be the PMO, again in the demand management side because they help with the administrative work, especially at the beginning of the project:

According to the PMBOK® Guide, a Project Management Office (PMO) is an organizational structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

On the other hand, from the supply management side, we have also two roles focused on program and portfolio management. According to the PMBOK® Guide:

  • A program is a group of related projects, subprograms, and program activities managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.
  • A portfolio is a group of projects, programs, subportfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.

Therefore we have two more roles in supply management: Program Manager and Portfolio Manager. We can observe a hierarchy among PfM > PgM > PM: Any project can belong to zero or one program and to zero, one or more portfolios. At the same time, a program can belong to zero, one or more portfolios.

From your actual experience in project management, what do you think of this role list? Would you add any other role? Any comment welcome. Thank you!

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