Project Roles - Because Not Everything Always Goes According to Plan

In this article, you will learn more about project roles and the 3 roles you should definitely fill in a project.

Table of contents
  1. What are project roles?
  2. Why are project roles so important?
  3. Which roles are there in a project?
  4. What tasks and functions do the respective project roles have?
  5. How are roles distributed in the project?
  6. How can project roles be adjusted and developed over time?
  7. Which tools/software are important for work in one project?
  8. Conclusion

Let's be honest: Deadlines are essentially there to provide guidance, to motivate, and admittedly also to be moved occasionally. To prevent the latter from becoming an uncomfortable pussyfooting where everyone tries to shirk responsibility, there is a simple solution: clearly defined project roles.

Because when deadlines are not met, it can not only be annoying and unpleasant but also really expensive. Deterrent examples can be found in major construction projects that have blown the original target mark in terms of time and budget (BER Airport, Elbphilharmonie, Stuttgart21/24…). With well-thought-out project management, this would certainly not have happened – and that's exactly why project management is important.

To prevent you from becoming part of such a chaotic project, you should definitely – even for small projects – define all necessary roles and responsibilities in the project. We will explain in detail which ones they are and how they are best distributed.

What are project roles?

Project roles are clearly defined responsibilities within a project team. By means of project roles team members are assigned certain areas of responsibility according to their competences and abilities in order to be able to push the project forward as best as possible. Plus, everyone knows exactly what to do and most importantly, who to contact if there are any questions or problems.

Why are project roles so important?

"I thought you were taking care of it?!"does this sentence sound familiar? We have all probably had such a moment in which we assumed that someone will take care of it. And in the end, as expected, "someone" unfortunately turned out to be "no one".

No wonder, because a lack of sense of responsibility is indeed one of the reasons why projects fail. And especially with highly specialised and complex tasks, expert individuals are needed who can complement a project team with their specialist competences.

To ensure that your project is a success and does not unnecessarily stall, project roles are absolutely important and provide for:

  • Avoidance of responsibility gaps

  • Efficient use of specialised competencies 

  • Reducing conflicts and stress through clear responsibilities

  • Risk Management

Which roles are there in a project?

The design of project roles not only differs depending on the type and scope of a project, it also depends on the respective company structure. In classical project management there are at least three roles:

  • Client

  • Project leader / -manager

  • Project team / -employees

For larger projects, additional roles may be necessary, such as these:

  • Project / Steering Committee

  • Controller

  • Quality Manager

Every project is different and has different requirements, so this list is only a guide on possible useful roles.

However, what is always important is that your project team is only as large as absolutely necessary. An "excessively" large project team can lead to longer coordination processes and cost nerves, strength and ultimately also money.

So, before the start of the project, take plenty of time to think about which roles are necessary to ensure the success of your project.

What tasks and functions do the respective project roles have?

The purpose of project roles is for work packages and responsibilities to be distributed as best as possible on various members of the project team. In the following, we have summarised for you which functions the individual project roles comprise:

  •  Client:

    • Assigns and finances the project

    • Superior decision-making authority, esp. over project goals and budget

    • Final acceptance of the project completion

  • Project / Steering Committee

    • Strategic support for the client

    • Support in organisation and problem solving

  • Project leader / -manager

    • Consultation and coordination with the client

    • Coordinates communication between the customer and the project team

    • Planning and control of the project

    • Overviews and coordinates the task packages, project, budget and time plan

    • Risk Management

  • Project team / employees:

  • Specialists or experts in various fields

  • Execution of the assigned tasks / packages

  • Controller:

    • Monitoring and controlling the progress of the project, sometimes also the finances

  • Quality Manager:

    • Ensuring the achievement of the quality goals

    • Initiating measures to improve quality in the project

In smaller projects, the controlling and quality management are usually taken over by the project manager. However, it is important to note here that there are really sufficient capacities available, so that another team member can take on these tasks if necessary.

How are roles distributed in the project?

Good, now we know why project roles are important and what tasks and functions they entail. But how are the roles sensibly distributed within the team?

It is important to set up the team as diverse as possible. This means that your team consists to the greatest possible extent of people with various core competences and experiences.

Here are a few important criteria you should consider to help you distribute the project roles:

  • Individual strengths and weaknesses: When distributing the roles, it is crucial to take into account the core competencies and experiences of individuals.

  • Training and work experience:Depending on the subject area and responsibility, specific/profound expertise is a must.

  • Workload and availability:Checking if there are time capacities available and/or if there are longer absences that need to be planned.

  • Personal interests:Not a must, but definitely a very big "nice to have" if personal interests and talents also harmonise with the role.

Take plenty of time with the team for the distribution of project roles and talk to your colleagues to find out who is the most sensible choice for which role.

For example, some people have trouble dealing with short-term plan changes and have difficulties adjusting to "unforeseen" situations. On the other hand, they are in their element when it comes to long-term planning and anticipatory organising. If you consider such peculiarities in your planning, it not only contributes to project success, but also to the satisfaction of project members. And in the end, work is also easier when it is fun and suits one's own abilities.

How can project roles be adjusted and developed over time?

Projects can change during the course of time – and the roles may need to adjust to these changes. Therefore, it is wise that you regularly check if it's necessary to reassign tasks, adjust roles or pull in additional team members.

Therefore, definitely exchange information continuously and regularly within the project, to identify problems or bottlenecks in time and to implement role adjustments flexibly. This way you can handle changing requirements in a forward-looking manner in the best case scenario.

Which tools/software are important for work in one project?

There are many tasks and deadlines in project management. Luckily, there are many useful tools such as and software solutions that support you in maintaining an overview and help you with efficient workflows in project management.

The various tasks in project management, where software can support you, include:

  • Task management

  • Time and resource management

  • Reporting and analysis

  • Communication

  • Risk management

  • Document management

  • Budget and financial management

The choice of the right tools depends on the specific requirements and tasks. Therefore, you should definitely consider the needs of your team and the project before deciding on a specific software.

Here are our top 5 tools and softwares to ease your project work:

It can be quite useful to use several tools, besides for different areas of responsibilities (e.g. for budget and financial management). On the one hand for functional reasons, but also for data protection reasons. If that's the case and different tools are used by you, clearly define which tool is used for which function. For example, where task-related communication should take place, where the task progress for customers should be documented, or where data should be stored.

The right choice of suitable project management tools should not be underestimated. Inform yourself thoroughly before deciding on a solution. Also, feel free to have a look at the OMR reviews article on the 7 best project management tools.

What you can also do is to test some of the best free project management softwares. Some of them may be limited in their functionalities, but by trying them out you still get a good impression of the "look & feel" of the software. And if the tool suits you and your team, you can usually just book the complete service package.


Let's face it: project work can be stressful. To prevent your workplace from becoming a piñata of note papers and colleagues ducking when asked about project progress, project roles are an indispensable instrument for effective project management.

Don't forget that project implementation is not a “one human show”, but rather a combination of several project participants and smart heads, who bring their ideas and abilities in a targeted way.

Clearly defined roles reduce stress, increase the satisfaction of team members, and ensure that you can finish projects on schedule and efficiently as a team. In short, project roles secure the success of the entire project. So take the time with your team to define and distribute the roles together!

Simone Wanda Lühr
Simone Wanda Lühr

Simone Wanda Lühr ist Projektmanagerin bei Claneo, einer Search- und Content-Marketing-Agentur aus Berlin. Seit 2022 unterstützt sie Claneo bei Kundinnenprojekten, koordiniert Aufgaben und sorgt dafür, dass sowohl Kundinnen als auch Projektteams wissen, was bis wann zu tun ist und das Endergebnis stimmt.

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Laura Birth
Laura Birth

Laura Birth ist Projektmanagerin und Teamleitung des Projektmanagement-Teams bei Claneo, einer Search- und Content-Marketing-Agentur aus Berlin. Mit ihrer langjährigen Agenturerfahrung im Bereich Projektmanagement unterstützt sie Claneo seit Januar 2021 und sorgt u.a. dafür, dass Qualitätsstandards und Deadlines bei Kund*innenprojekten eingehalten werden.

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