Five Key Roles and Responsibilities for Software Development Projects Success

One of the keys to successful projects is identifying and documenting the stakeholders. Among the stakeholders of a project are the following five key roles and their corresponding responsibilities. Identifying and documenting clear roles and responsibilities in the project initiation/planning phase will increase your chances of success.

1. Sponsor

The sponsor is the person or group that provides the financial resources for the project. The project sponsor works with the project management team, especially helping with additional project matters such as scope clarification, progress, monitoring, and influencing others in order to benefit the project.

The sponsor leads the project through the engagement/selection process until it is formally authorized. For issues that are beyond the control of the project manager, the sponsor serves as an escalation path. The sponsor may also be involved in other important issues such as authorizing changes in scope, phase-end reviews, and go/no-go decisions when risks are particularly high. The Sponsor acceptance required during the close of project and it should be documented as part of the project closure phase. 

2. Client Project Lead

 There should be one central point of contact to represent the client and accept responsibility for working on the project from the customer’s point of view. A number of these responsibilities should be outlined in the project’s Statement of Work.  At a minimum, the client is responsible for clearly defining the project business requirements and executing user acceptance testing. Its also imperative that the client be significantly involved in designing the solution to confirm it will satisfy the project business requirements. 

3. Project Manager

The project manager is responsible for knowing the “who, what, where, when and why” of the project. This means knowing the stakeholders and how to effectively communicate with each of them. The project manager is also responsible for creating and managing the budget and schedule as well as procedures including scope management, issues management and risk management.

Whether the organizational process involved is more waterfall or agile in nature, once deliverables are defined, it is critical that the project manager actively exercise change management. Change should not be perceived as a negative. Change is inevitable and is acceptable in a project as long as it is managed.  The impact of any change needs to be assessed, measured and communicated. The major factors are typically timeline and cost. If the impact is deemed acceptable by the sponsor, then the change can be incorporated.

Finally, the project manager oversees testing, delivery and formal acceptance by the client. Then the project manager performs a project review with the development team to document lessons learned.

4. Solution Architect

 The Solution Architect functions as the project technical lead. This person translates the business requirements into a technical solution. Because of this responsibility, it is beneficial to have the solution architect involved in the planning phase to hear the business requirements from the client’s point of view and ask questions.

The solution architect is the development team leader and works with the developers to provide technical details and estimates for the proposed solution. This information is used by the project manager to create the Statement of Work and the Work Breakdown Structure documents for the project.  It is critical that the solution architect effectively communicate status to the project manager so that issues or variances can be effectively addressed as soon as possible. The solution architect is also responsible for establishing and enforcing standards and practices with the development team.

5. Developers

The developers are responsible for using the technical requirements from the solution architect to create cost and timeline estimates. The developers are also responsible for building the deliverables and communicating status to the solution architect or project manager. It is critical that the other team members effectively communicate the technical requirements to the developers to reduce risk and provide the project with the greatest chance for success.

In Summary

The key to project success is clear and effective communication. A critical portion of this communication is identifying the stakeholders and their roles. Whatever labels you apply to the roles above, clear communication of expectations and status to the stakeholders throughout the project will increase the chances of your project’s success. 

Good luck with your projects!

Mike Davis

Mike utilizes his experience in organizational communication and technology to translate the needs and priorities between customers and programmers.