Project Management: Roles and Responsibilities

​Successful, on-time projects are the result of careful planning and collaboration by project team members. Projects can’t move forward without each key member, but it’s not always clear who those members are or what roles they play. Let’s take a look at the key roles that drive projects to completion.

Project Manager

The Project Manager (PM) plays a primary role in the project and is responsible for its successful completion. The PM’s main function is to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget. PMs also make sure projects are given sufficient resources while managing relationships with project team members and stakeholders. They measure risk and report on any challenges that may extend the project end date, so issues can be resolved and the project can remain on track.

Project Sponsor

The Project Sponsor is the driver of the project and is typically a member of upper management empowered to make decisions on behalf of the Executive Sponsor. Project Sponsors work closely with PMs. They legitimize the project’s objectives and participate in high-level project planning. In addition, they often help resolve conflicts and remove obstacles throughout the project, signing off on approval requests as needed to advance projects to the next phase.

Executive Sponsor

The Executive Sponsor is the senior executive responsible for the success of the project. He or she is the visible champion of the project with the senior management team, acting as the ultimate decision-maker with final approval on all phases, deliverables, and scope changes.

Project Team Member

Project Team Members may work on one or more phases of a project and come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. They may be in-house staff or external consultants, full or part time. The roles of team members can vary from one project to the next, but all roles are important to the project’s success because team members complete the majority of the required work.

Ad Hoc Team Member

Ad Hoc Team Members perform many of the same functions as regular team members, but are only required to attend meetings as needed. Ad Hoc Team Members will usually be listed as the “C” in the RACI structure, as they will be consulted when issues arise within their areas of expertise. Many times, these members are considered subject matter experts (SMEs).

Project Lead (Clinical and/or Technical)

The Project Lead drives the part of a project directly related to their experience when that experience is required to move the project forward. Many times, the Project Lead is also considered the SME and is relied upon for their expertise in working through difficult situations. Sometimes, when clinical or technical expertise is required for a longer period a sub-team or workgroup may be formed to work through the difficult tasks. In such a case, the Project Lead would be the leader of the sub-team.


According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), 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. Stakeholders are invested in the project and may be affected (whether negatively or positively) by the project at any point along the way, so their input can directly impact the outcome. Good stakeholder management and regular communication encourages collaboration among stakeholders and project team members. This is important since they will have a stake in the outcome.