Assembling a Project Team: Roles, Responsibilities & Best Practices


Projects, no matter the size and scope, are complex. If they weren’t, they might as well be tasks on a to-do list. Luckily, project management is a team effort—for every project, there’s a project team working together to make deliverables a reality. But how do project teams come together? Not on their own! There are many ways to form a project team and many factors to take into account.

What Is a Project Team?

A project team is a cross-functional group of individuals that are working together towards a common goal. This can include executives, a project manager, team leaders from different departments and team members. How this project team operates depends on how it’s organized, which can take the form of different project organizational structures. While the project manager is a must-have role, there are other important members to consider for your project team.

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Team Charter Template

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Project Team Roles

Every organization executes projects of some sort. For that reason, it’s important that you develop your team management skills, whether you’re a project manager, business owner, program manager, or anyone who’s leading projects.

There are several types of project team structures, but normally, projects are headed by the project manager, though they also can be led by an executive. Project managers are in charge of project planning, scheduling, budgeting and tracking. To do so, they use project management software. Ideally, project management software allows for team collaboration as well as planning so teams can be at their best, as with ProjectManager.

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Here are some of the most common project team roles so you can get started with assembling your project management team.

Project Sponsor

A project sponsor is an individual who assumes accountability for a project and acts as a representative of the organization. He or she is in charge of the project vision and governance. Project sponsors are usually senior managers who have a higher authority than project managers. In fact, project sponsors select project managers for their projects during the project initiation phase.

Project Manager

Without a doubt, the project manager is the most fundamental project management role, as he or she guides the team through the project life cycle through thoughtful decision-making. As stated above, project managers are in charge of creating a project plan, leading project team members, monitoring the project health and overseeing the creation of project management documentation. In addition, project managers are a liaison between the project team and project stakeholders.

Project Team Member

Project team members are individuals with a specific skill set who are needed for the completion of project tasks. Project team members can take many shapes depending on your industry, but in most cases, they are responsible for producing project deliverables, meeting project milestones and reporting to the project manager.

Project Leader

A project leader is a project management expert that leads project teams through the project life cycle like a project manager would, only that the two roles mainly differ in that a project leader is people-oriented while the project manager is results-oriented. This means that while many of their responsibilities overlap, the project leader is more focused on motivating teams by using leadership techniques such as servant leadership.

Project Stakeholders

Project stakeholders can also take many forms, as they are anyone who is impacted either directly or indirectly by your project. Project stakeholders can be internal such as project team members, employees and the change control board, or external such as communities, clients or governments.

Business Analyst

A business analyst specializes in improving the overall efficiency and productivity of a business. They can help project teams better determine the best course of action when executing projects, as they have a thorough understanding of how businesses operate which can greatly help your project team achieve its goals.

Steering Committee

A steering committee is a group of executives and business leaders who oversee projects from a business management standpoint and protect the interests of project stakeholders such as business owners. Therefore, the steering committee outlines the general strategic direction of projects to ensure they align with the larger business objectives of the organization.

Change Control Board

The change control board is a group of project team members who are subject matter experts in key areas of the project. Their main responsibility is to approve or reject any potential changes to the project plan, which is of great importance in project management as unexpected changes can lead to project failure.

Team Charter Template

A team charter is one key project management document that’s created during the project planning stage to set clear guidelines for managing teams. This free team charter template for Word helps you define the roles, responsibilities, objectives and structure of your project team.

What Is the Project Team Structure?

Managing all of your team members can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you use the right organizational structure for your project management team. Once you’ve built a team, you can use project planning software such as ProjectManager to manage your team member’s workload, automate workflows and collaborate with team members in real time.

Types of Project Team Structure

There are three main types of project team structures, which mainly differ on the degree of authority that’s given to the project manager and how teams are configured. Here’s a brief description of each of these project team structure types.

Project-Based Team Structure

This is the most traditional project team structure that’s used in most projects. In this type of project team, the project manager is given the most authority over team members and they all report to him or her. This individual is also in charge of creating a project plan and schedule, assembling a team, assigning tasks and responsibilities and overseeing the project every step of the way. For this reason, we characterize this type of structure as “projectized” because the structure of the team is driven by the demands of the individual project.

Functional Project Team Structure

In a functional project team structure, there are multiple functional managers that oversee their teams instead of just one project manager. As the name suggests, those teams accomplish specific functions for an organization, such as marketing, sales or product development.

Below each leader, the next tier is made up of a group of team members. For example, the tier below a marketing leader might be made of a content writer, an editor, an email manager, etc. These team members report to their respective leaders, and the leaders report to the project manager at the top. Having such a structure is important for team management.

Matrix-Based Project Team Structure

A matrix-based organizational team structure is a hybrid between project and functional project team structures. It’s typically used by larger organizations that execute programs and project portfolios that require leadership from leaders other than project managers such as executives, functional managers, program managers and portfolio managers. In this project team structure, the project manager has less authority and leads a team that reports to other leaders.

How to Assemble a Project Team

Assembling a project team is just as much about selecting team members as it is about fleshing out the project’s organizational structure. Regardless of the organizational structure you choose, this entails setting up rules and procedures, defining expectations and establishing communication. If these things aren’t clearly defined before the project begins, they’ll inevitably lead to trouble down the road.

Related: Free Team Charter Template

Three Key Steps to Create a Project Team

As we said, assembling a project team looks different depending on the project and organizational structure. With that in mind, here are a few universally helpful details to focus on when assembling your team.

  1. Select a cross-functional group of team members: Many projects require multiple departments working together to achieve deliverables. Within the project team structure, each department should be headed by a leader who manages a team of individuals. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of assembling the team, decide which departments to involve and who will lead them.
  2. Define roles and responsibilities: Project managers should be able to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of their team members. Typically this information is documented in a team charter, but there are other project planning tools you can use such as a responsibility assignment matrix or RACI chart. This tool lets you determine who’s responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for each project task, which improves your project team’s efficiency.
  3. Clearly define expectations: The best way to establish communication and keep the project running smoothly is by clearly defining expectations. The most successful projects are led by project managers who lay down ground rules and define expectations from the get-go. These rules can include clear boundaries, steps to take if something goes wrong and more. We recommend putting these things in writing and keeping the document somewhere the whole team can reference.
  4. Set project goals & objectives: The best way to establish communication and keep the project running smoothly is by clearly defining expectations in both your project team and project stakeholders. The most successful projects are led by project managers who lay down ground rules and define project constraints, assumptions and expectations from the get-go.
  5. Create a communication plan: Because the project team structure involves so many tiers of individuals, it’s extremely important to keep communication fluid by making a project communication plan. Otherwise, the team will begin to feel like multiple, independent departments working toward different project goals. The best way to prevent this from happening is by setting a cadence for project meetings, requiring status reports, scheduling interdepartmental collaboration time and any number of other project reporting ideas.

How to Improve Team Collaboration

Improving team collaboration is easier said than done, and assuming that perfect collaboration happens all on its own is a big mistake. Successful team collaboration is the culmination of thoughtful strategies and adapting to challenges. If you’re asking yourself where to start, consider these three tips.

  • Choose the right type of project organizational structure: We’ve talked about the inner workings and benefits of a project team structure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for every team or project. If collaboration becomes an issue, it might be time to consider restructuring. There’s no “golden” organizational structure that works perfectly, one hundred percent of the time.
  • Create a communication plan: One of the first steps toward improving collaboration is getting everyone on the same page. Within a project team structure, this means making sure different teams have the same information and know exactly how to communicate with one another to ask questions, express ideas, etc. When this is the case, and the project is made up of various teams and team leaders, a plan for communication lets everyone know exactly how to work together.
  • Choose smart team management solutions: Teams are always growing, but that doesn’t mean we all go to the same office. Team management tools empower the modern team—made up of individuals in different departments, or even different time zones. Because of this evolution, we need technology that makes collaboration and communication easier than ever. Team management tools create a digital space for everyone to collaborate and see what others are working on.

ProjectManager Makes your Project Team Better

ProjectManager offers the smartest team management solutions around, connecting everyone on the team, improving collaboration and cutting down on confusion. Every aspect of our project management software was built with project teams in mind, and we’ve made it easy to collaborate on any and everything you need, like tasks, Gantt charts and more.

Use Multiple Project Management Tools

Not every team member works in the same way. Managers love to use Gantt charts to plan, manage and track work, but, depending on the team, Gantt charts have too much information that isn’t useful to a team member. That’s why we offer multiple project views, which all update in real time so everyone is always working from the same page. Agile teams gravitate to kanban boards to manage their backlog and collaborate on sprints while developers tend to use our robust task lists. Stakeholders usually want to ensure milestones are being met so they prefer our calendar view.

Kanban board in ProjectManager

Track Costs with Workload Charts and Timesheets

Managers want to keep teams productive and working at capacity. They don’t want to get in the way, but they also need to have transparency into what the team is doing in order to make sure they’re staying on schedule. Our resource management features help managers stay connected but out of the way. They can view color-coded workload charts to balance team workload. If not, they can reallocate resources right from that page. Our secure timesheets not only streamline payroll but give managers a view into what percentage of their tasks they’ve completed. There are also reports that can be generated for workload and timesheets.

Timesheet view in ProjectManager

Use Robust Team Management Features

Need to know the right person to ask a question? Use the Team page to see what everyone on your team is working on and who might have the answer. When you’re building a new team for a project, you can see a roster or individuals broken down into departments or filter individuals by certain skills.

ProjectManager's team page

When you’ve built your “dream team,” communicate via comments and tags, rather than long, messy email chains. When you’re mentioned in a comment, you’ll receive a notification and an email so you never miss a question or update.

ProjectManager is the perfect tool for in-office or distributed teams. There are features that can take your project from planning to putting together a project team, to execution, monitoring and reporting. See for yourself how our software can help you manage and support your virtual teams today by trying ProjectManager for free.