The Essential Roles Within a Project Management Team

Team gathered to work on a project
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The types of projects that professional project managers run are usually large scale and complicated. They require the input of many people, including you as project manager.

Roles Within a Professional Project Management Team

The following roles typically make up a professional project management team:

Project Sponsor

Often in a large organization, a high-level person, possibly a senior manager or director, will act as the project sponsor. This role can often be like the working relationship a chairman of a company would take with a CEO: that of critical friend/moral support/key communicator to a variety of audiences (taking on the appropriate role depending on the context). But the role is slightly more complex than this.

The project sponsor is your advocate at the highest level, working with you more closely than anyone else in the senior management team. They present your progress to the senior management and are responsible, with you, for the success or otherwise of the project.

They have a wider view of what is going on across the organization as a whole and can see where the project fits into the bigger picture. They will be able to steer the project to achieve its goals as set out by the senior management and within the context of the organization’s direction of travel. They can make arrangements for additional resources to be made available and open doors which may be shut to you as project manager due to your relative lack of seniority.

Essentially the project sponsor exists to take ownership of the business opportunity or need and take it forward to ensure the issues are dealt with and the benefits realized while being able to resolve matters outside of the control of the project manager.

Project Manager

The project manager is the center of this project. They need to know what the goals are, and where this fits in the bigger picture while at the same time having a handle on much of the detail at every stage.

This person is the planner (including maintaining the Gantt chart), the organizer and implementer and the one who has to have the project management skills to ensure everything, including success, is measured and reported accurately.

Finally, they need to be an objective judge of much of what is going on, while at the same time being at the subjective heart of all which is happening.

Project Customer/Client

This is the person who is responsible for paying for the work. Often this is the team responsible for the problem or opportunity the project has been established to look at. They are the people with most to gain from the project, hence it is their budget which is at risk.


When your project requires niche skill sets, these are often found outside of your organization’s in-house staff. Materials required for a project often also come from outside your organization–whether paper stock, asphalt or aerial photography drones.

These additional skills or materials will often be vital to the success of a project. Not having the correct professional or the bricks arriving too late (or early) can have a detrimental effect on the success of your project.

The Project Board

The groups mentioned prior usually form the Project Board. The board usually has key people who can be seen to represent the different interests in the project. These are often viewed in groups made up of:

  • Supplier groups
  • User groups

The board is usually chaired by the project sponsor and is the forum where the project is driven forward to a conclusion. The project manager is part of this group and uses it to communicate with these key stakeholders, report back and take direction on how the project needs to develop.

Project Coordinator

Big projects may also benefit from a project coordinator to help with the admin. This ensures the mundane, yet vital, tasks get done. This can cover minutes of meetings, invoicing, or the stationery order.

Project managers can sometimes be tempted to just do these simple tasks themselves, but each can be a drain on time. You should be managing the project, not managing the admin — that is an important skill set, but project managers should know when to delegate.