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3 - Project Roles

The Role of the Project Board

The Project Manager is responsible for the day to day management of the project, but the Project Board is accountable for the success (or failure) of the project.  Project Boards direct the project and Project Managers manage the project.  Collectively and individually Project Board members must:

  • Accept and demonstrate ownership of the project
  • Provide a common direction, which can mean difficult compromises between the members
  • Delegate effectively – both to the Project Manager and to others that may undertake support and independent checking of the progress of the project on their behalf
  • Ensure that the project management team is recognised and respected so there are no conflicts with line management
  • Commit resources – Project Board members must collectively be able to deliver all the resources required for the success of the project
  • Ensure effective decision making – taking key decisions at critical points in the project but delegating decisions to the Project Manager or other key expert officers acting on their behalf where appropriate
  • Support the Project Manager e.g. allow time for planning, be accessible and available, ensure the Project Manager is able to carry out the project in terms of experience and skills and/or by putting appropriate support and project assurance in place

A Project Board is made up of three crucial roles that must be represented in decision making in order to make the project a success. However, the Project Board is not a democracy and the Sponsor has the final say in decision making.  These three Project Board roles should normally be filled by officers rather than Members.


represents the interests of the business, meaning the corporate Council interests.  Accountable for:

  • Ensuring that the products of the project will meet a business need and justify the investment required
  • Ensuring that the project will provide value for money
  • Balancing the demands of business, user and supplier

Senior User(s)

Represents all those who will use the project’s products, those who will use the products to realise benefits and those for whom the products will achieve an objective.  This may be more than one person but should not be split among too many people. Accountable for:

  • Specifying the desired outputs and ensuring that the project delivers them
  • Ensuring that forecast benefits in the Business Case that were the basis of the approval of the project are delivered.  This is often after the project has been completed

Senior Supplier(s)

Represents the interests of those designing, developing, facilitating, procuring and implementing the project’s products.  If necessary, this role may be fulfilled by more than one person and could be an external company or internal departments e.g. IT, Procurement, HR, Business Improvement etc.  Accountable for:

  • Quality of products – reliable, properly integrated, can be maintained efficiently
  • Providing supplier resources
  • Ensuring that proposals for designing and developing the products are feasible and realistic

Whilst project boards must have the interests of the business, user and supplier represented, one person can represent more than one interest e.g. the Project Sponsor and Senior User roles can often be combined.  Project Boards should have at least two members – if one person can represent all three interests (business, user and supplier), the work can be managed as a line management task.  The Project Manager should not be a Project Board member as well.  It is also essential that there is only one Sponsor and one Project Manager.*

Whilst more than one Senior User and/or Supplier can be appointed, the recommended maximum number of Project Board members is five. If it is not possible to effectively represent all user or supplier interests, user and/or supplier advisory boards can be set up.  These are chaired respectively by the Senior User and Senior Supplier and enable these individuals to establish a consistent approach to the project and represent this at Project Board meetings.

It is essential that the Project Board members understand their roles collectively and individually.  Written role descriptions (a bit like job descriptions) can be useful for this.  A role description can also be written for the Project Manager by the Sponsor. These role descriptions are created at the Starting up a Project phase.

Ideally Project Board members should be assigned to stay with the project from beginning to end.  However, it is also important that the right people are represented at the right time.  When procuring the services of a major external supplier a Procurement representative might fulfil the Senior Supplier role, being joined by later by a representative from the selected supplier.

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