Who is involved?
The project manager has the authority to run the project on a day-to-day basis, within agreed constraints (such as budget and time, for instance). It is the project manager’s prime responsibility to make sure that the project delivers what is expected of it to the required quality standard, and within budget and timescale.
Essentially, the project manager takes the funding and idea and converts it into outputs that will enable the sponsor to receive a return on the investment. The project manager makes it happen. This is a challenging role and calls for someone who knows about project management, has technical skills and, very importantly, has people skills. The project manager must be focused on delivery of the outputs and may be committed full time or part time to the project, depending on its size and complexity.
We’ve assumed that if you are reading this topic, it’s likely that you are a project manager, but most projects will involve the following people to a greater or lesser degree. Whichever of these roles you are fulfilling, this topic should still help you to understand what is involved.
The project manager should concentrate on building a good relationship with the project sponsor and keep the sponsor supportive and committed.
The ‘owner’ or ‘sponsor’ of a project plays a critical role. They are ultimately responsible for the project and should be supported by other members of a project board or committee. It is their role to ensure that the project is focused at all times on achieving its objective and thereby delivering the anticipated benefits. In this sense, the project sponsor ‘owns’ the project’s business case. So the sponsor is responsible for monitoring the project context to make sure the benefits are still realisable and the Business case is still valid as the project proceeds. The creation of a good working relationship between the project sponsor and the project manager is a critical element in the likely success of the project. The project manager reports to the sponsor (who usually carries more status and is likely to be more senior than the project manager). In fact, in many organisations and for many important projects, the owner is likely to be a board member. In the public sector this role is often called the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO).
Work package manager
Projects are often split down into what are called ‘work packages’. These are discrete amounts of work which can be individually assigned by the project manager. The person responsible for carrying out this work is sometimes called a work package manager or team manager. Work packages are commonly used when contractors or sub-contractors are involved in a project.
Team members may be full-time, part-time or on secondment. Between them they should have all the skills necessary to create the project’s planned deliverable. Clearly, the timing of the availability of part-time members can be critical to the overall timescale of the project.
Project board or committee
The project sponsor should be supported by a project board or committee. This should be comprised of representatives from the key stakeholders: the people who will use the project deliverable and the people who will supply it (the users and suppliers). The board or committee, which the sponsor should chair, is responsible to the organisation’s senior management for the overall direction and management of the project. It is also the project’s public ‘face’ and should actively disseminate information on the project and its progress.
Users are exactly what the name suggests – the people who will actually use the project deliverable, be it a new IT system, a marketing brochure or a new factory. They are a critical stakeholder, because if the deliverable doesn’t meet their needs it is unlikely to be used (at least properly) and the benefits are unlikely to be realised.
Customers can also be users, but they may be the people ‘buying’ the project on behalf of other users. So, customers may be an internal department (for example, IT) who are buying a new product (for example, an IT system) from an external supplier on behalf of other departments who will actually use the product. It is a grave error to involve the customers but not the users.
Suppliers are also important stakeholders. They need to be involved in the project all the way through because they are the ones, internal or external, who will provide the project’s output(s). As suppliers, they can have a huge influence on the delivery timescale according to how much resource they can (or will) bring to bear. That is why they, and the ultimate users, should be represented on the project board or committee.
Contractor is a generic term for anyone ‘contracted’ to carry out project work. Contractors are external resources bought in to carry out all or part of the project work under contract. These can vary from individuals who are working as the project manager, either as part of a project team or on a work package, to a main contractor who is project managing the whole project. While individuals are usually contracted on a day-rate basis, they can be asked for a fixed fee for a fixed scope of work. In the case of a corporate contractor, there is a spectrum of contract terms, ranging from fully reimbursable to lump sum, fixed price with many variations in between – usually based around a target price with a share of any savings. The more the contract form tends to the reimbursable end, the greater the likelihood of needing more client management staff to oversee the contract and control its expenditure.
Stakeholder is the generic term used for anyone or any corporate group having a vested interest in the outcome of the project. Obvious stakeholders in projects are the client, the customer and end users, the project management team, the project team (anyone working on any part of the project), work package teams, and those affected by the project, such as adjacent property owners, businesses, or other lobby groups. In the case of ‘public’ projects, the stakeholder list can grow considerably, to include politicians, the media and many more lobby groups.
Every stakeholder group needs to be identified and their likely degree of influence on and attitude to the project thought through and documented in a stakeholder map. This will help the project team determine the best way of maximising stakeholder support, neutralising opposition and minimising hostility.
History has demonstrated that stakeholders can have a serious impact on the successful delivery of projects and the effective management of stakeholders is therefore crucial. See stakeholders.