Project Team Roles


Role Confusion

Around 1870 David Livingstone and his team of porters was clearing a path through the Congolese jungle with machetes, hoping to find the source of the Nile. The head porter's job was to manage - ensuring that machetes stayed sharp, the porters had enough water, and were generally able to continue clearing a path through the jungle.

Livingstone's job, as the leader, was to climb a tree and look around to make sure the jungle was being cleared in the right place.

This seperation between management and leadership seems obvious. And yet all too often we happily entrust the delivery of complex IT projects to project managers.

Other team roles aren't much better. Developers often test their own software. Network administrators decide on application security measures. Salesmen dictate project schedules. It's surprising sometimes, that anything ships.

Team Roles

Below is a list of project team roles, loosely based on the MSF Team Model from 2003 (the MSF model a bit dated now, but still very much worth a read). The list contains my preferred approach to structuring a project team:

Product management

Goal: Satisfied customers.

Functional Areas   Responsibilities
Marketing   Develops and maintains the business case
Business value   Drives the project vision/scope
Customer advocate   Manages customer requirements
Product planning   Manages customer expectations
  Manages features/schedule/resources trade-off decisions
  Manages marketing and public relations
  Develops, maintains, and executes the communications plan
  Manages risk


Goal: Delivering a successful solution within project constraints.

Functional Areas   Responsibilities
Technical leadership   Manages the product specification
Process assurance   Drives implementation of critical trade-off decisions
Quality assurance   Facilitates communication and negotiation within the team
  Develops the project schedule
  Develops, maintains, and executes the project plan
  Manages risk

Project Management

Goal: Managing the solution within project constraints.

Functional Areas   Responsibilities
Resource management   Manages development process to ship product on time
Project management   Maintains the project schedule
Administrative services   Reports project status
  Manages risk

[To be completed...]

Team Size

The team roles should scale. This means that for larger projects, teams can be split into feature teams...

Feature teams

..or, for smaller projets, roles can be combined:

  Arch.   Proj.
  Dev.   UX   Test   Ops
 Product Management    N   N   N   U   P   U
 Architecture   N   N   P   U   U   P
 Project Management   N   N   N   U   U   P
 Development   N   P   N   P   N   P
 User Experience   U   U   U   P   P   U
 Test   P   U   U   N   P   P
 Operations   U   P   P   U   P   P  

Where P = possible, U = unlikely, and N = not.

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