8 project team roles for successful digitalization projects

Why these roles are important in the project team and what you need them for

Project execution requires the collaboration of multiple people with different skills and experience. In order to complete the project effectively and successfully, these individuals must be assigned to specific roles within the project team. In this article, I would like to discuss the most important roles in complex digitization projects.

Why roles in the project team are important

Project execution requires the collaboration of multiple people with different skills and experience. In order to complete the project effectively and successfully, these individuals must be assigned to specific roles within the project team. Assigning roles within the team allows responsibilities to be clearly defined, tasks and objectives to be distributed, and the project to be completed in an orderly manner. In this regard, roles within the project team are essential to ensure that the project is completed successfully and that the set goals are achieved. In this context, it is important to understand the roles in the project team and their importance to ensure that the team works effectively and the project is completed successfully.

In this article, I will focus on the most important roles in complex digitization projects, such as order management digitization. There will be a detailed role description of each role after an introduction in Chapter 1 with an indication of when the role is needed in the project. In Chapter 3, there is a brief conclusion on the topic. The article is intended as a reference tool when looking for a definition quickly.

Project – vs. day-to-day

But this is only part of the truth. Project business is grabbing an ever-increasing share of you and your colleagues’ work time. There seem to be endless meetings. In most of them you don’t have to say anything. And usually nothing else to contribute. In that time, you could focus on more important things. And you should. But the reality is different.

Projects are considered a panacea and yet most fail. I’ve already written an article on the topic describing how they can turn around a crisis project in 5 simple steps. If you were asked to make an investment that would go under at over 80%. Would you invest then? Probably not, or only with little investment depending on your risk tolerance.

But in fact, companies pour more and more resources into the investment called “project”, but projects do not run more successfully as a result. On the contrary. More resources means more inefficient work in most project phases, and this increases the probability that the project will not be successful. This is where the different roles of your project team come into play.

Objectives of the role distribution in the project

Different roles are necessary in projects for different reasons:

  1. Effective use of resources: By defining different roles, the team can work together more effectively, as each employee has a specific task that matches their expertise and skills.
  2. Clarity of responsibilities: Defining different roles clarifies who has what responsibilities within the team, who needs to make what decisions, and who is responsible for what part of the project. This avoids confusion and allows the team to work more efficiently.
  3. Subject-specific knowledge: By introducing roles with specific competencies and skills, experts in their respective fields can better handle the specific requirements and challenges of the project.
  4. Risk reduction: By introducing different roles, such as a project manager, a technical expert, and a financial expert, a broader range of risks can be captured and minimized. This can help minimize risks that arise from poor decisions or ignorance.
  5. Better collaboration: by introducing different roles, a team can better collaborate and focus on their specific tasks. This can help improve communication and collaboration within the team and increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the project.

Overall, various roles are required in projects to ensure that the project is completed effectively and efficiently. The roles help to clearly define responsibilities and tasks within the team and help to ensure that the team works together and towards its goals.

The 8 different roles in a project team

1. Project Lead resp. Scrum Master & Product Owner

The project leader (or project lead) is responsible for managing a classically planned project and coordinates the work of the team. He or she ensures that the project is completed within the time frame, budget and requirements.

The role of the project lead can vary from organization to organization. However, in general, a project lead focuses more on the operational side of a project, while a project manager focuses more on the strategic side. A project lead is typically responsible for carrying out tasks within the project team and works closely with the project manager to ensure that the project is completed successfully. The project lead also monitors the progress of the project and identifies issues that need to be addressed in order to successfully complete the project.

The situation is different in agile projects, where a scrum master and a product owner usually manage the project.

The Scrum Master and Product Owner are two important roles in the agile Scrum framework used to run software projects. Their tasks are as follows:

  • The Scrum Master: The Scrum Master is a servant leader who supports the Scrum team in implementing the Scrum framework and guides the team in improving the way it works. The Scrum Master fosters collaboration within the team and ensures that obstacles that impede the team’s progress are quickly resolved. The Scrum Master is also responsible for ensuring that the team adheres to Scrum practices and rules.
  • The Product Owner: The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the business value of the product. The Product Owner is responsible for ensuring that the team understands what the end product should be and what functionalities it should include. The Product Owner prioritizes the functionalities of the product in the form of a Product Backlog and ensures that the team understands and implements the priorities. The product owner also ensures that the requirements for the product are clear and unambiguous and that the product ultimately meets the needs of the users.

Together, Scrum Master and Product Owner form the so-called Scrum triumvirate with the goal of realizing a successful project in which the Scrum team and its stakeholders are in harmony.

When is a project lead or Scrum Master & Product Owner needed?

The roles of project manager or scrum master and product owner are required throughout the project.

2. Project Manager

The project manager is responsible for coordinating project planning and execution, defining work packages, planning resources and identifying risks.

He or she therefore works more on a strategic level, with the project manager acting on the operational project level.

A project manager has the following responsibilities:

  • Defining the project goals and creating the project plan
  • Creating schedules and budgets
  • Coordinating resources and teams
  • Monitoring progress and identifying risks and issues
  • Develop action plans to resolve issues
  • Ensure communication between project stakeholders
  • Managing changes and adjusting the project plan accordingly
  • Closing the project and evaluating the success of the project

Overall, the roles of project manager and project leader are closely related and there is overlap in their tasks. In many organizations, however, the terms are used interchangeably or only one of the two roles is defined.

In an organization with various, complex digitization initiatives and projects, however, a structure with project managers and project leaders is essential.

This is because the project manager also has the task, if necessary, of representing the interests of the project in other bodies outside the project. This includes, among other things, reporting at program level and active exchange with other project managers and project leaders. A project manager can also oversee several projects at the same time.

When is a project manager needed?

The project manager role is required throughout the project lifecycle.

3. Business Analyst

The Business Analyst (BA) is responsible for understanding the business requirements and ensuring that the project meets the requirements.

The tasks of a BA in a digitization project typically include:

  • Gathering information and data to identify business requirements and processes.
  • Creation of requirements documents and requirements management
  • Design and creation of process and workflow diagrams
  • Evaluate technical solutions in terms of meeting business requirements
  • Identification of improvement opportunities and support in
  • Definition of solutions to make processes more efficient
  • Develop strategies to implement business requirements
  • Work closely with stakeholders, including the project team, to ensure requirements are fully and accurately understood
  • In agile projects, the business analyst is a key point of contact, especially for the product owner

Overall, the Business Analyst is a key role in a digitization project as he or she helps ensure that the technology is aligned with the needs and goals of the business. The BA ensures that the company’s business requirements are captured and implemented correctly and effectively in the digital solution to achieve the project’s goals.

It is important that the business analyst works closely with the business departments involved. After all, only if the end users of a new software solution to be introduced are involved in the conception phase at an early stage can acceptance within the organization arise.

When is a business analyst needed?

The business analyst must be available full time, especially when recording requirements for software functionality. He hands over his elaborations to the project team, which were ideally created together with the business department, and ensures a good transfer of knowledge. During the course of the project, he should always be available as a sparring partner for questions. In agile projects, it is advisable to involve the business analyst in the creation of user stories.

4. Solution Architect

The Solution Architect is responsible for the design and development of the project’s IT architecture. He or she ensures that the systems and applications can be integrated into the company’s existing IT ecosystem and meet the required requirements and standards.

To this end, he or she analyzes the requirements for the future IT architecture and thus coordinates with his or her colleagues in IT on various topics. These include:

  • System design: here it is ensured that the future software solution is properly integrated into the IT system environment.
  • Technology selection: the solution architect is responsible for selecting suitable technologies for the existing project. In doing so, he usually follows a strategic guideline.
  • Cooperation with the development team: coordination between the development team(s) is immensely important. Here the Solution Architect plays an important role, because only he should centrally represent the requirements for the IT architecture and ensure that the developers follow and implement these requirements.
  • Risk management: The Solution Architect identifies and evaluates potential risks in connection with the IT solution and recommends measures for risk mitigation.
  • Documentation: The Solution Architect documents the design and technical specifications of the IT solution to ensure that the developers fully understand and can implement the requirements of the project.

Overall, the solution architect is an important role in a digitization project. He or she ensures that the project’s IT infrastructure and applications meet the customer’s requirements and provide an effective and efficient solution to achieve the project goal.

When is a Solution Architect needed?

The Solution Architect is needed above all at the beginning of a project, namely during the requirements definition. He plays a role in the selection phase of a software as well as during implementation and testing. However, after the requirements definition and the possible tender or supplier search, the solution architect only has to be available for specific questions.

5. System Engineer

The System Engineer is responsible for planning, implementing, and maintaining the project’s IT infrastructure. He or she ensures that the hardware and software for the project provide the necessary capacity and performance to meet the requirements of the project.

The required activities are typically:

  1. System planning: The main task here is to plan the system architecture. It is important here that the customer’s requirements are taken into account.
  2. System integration: The system engineer ensures that the system components can interact properly with each other. This mainly involves interfaces to surrounding systems. In addition to the pure integration, the system engineer is responsible for how efficiently the system modules interact with each other in order to ensure system performance and stability.
  3. System implementation: This refers to the installation of the complete software or individual modules. Implementation includes installation, configuration and a test phase before the system goes live.
  4. System monitoring: This refers to the continuous monitoring by suitable monitoring systems in order to detect and eliminate errors at an early stage.
  5. System optimization: The system engineer optimizes the system to improve performance and availability. He or she analyzes system performance and, if necessary, carries out system adjustments and upgrades to ensure that the system functions optimally.

When is a system engineer needed?

The system engineer is needed throughout the entire life cycle of a software. In most cases, responsibility then passes to a single person or to a group after go-live in productive operation, who then take care of the maintenance, optimization and debugging of the software on an ongoing basis.

6. Software Developer

Software developers are responsible for the new or further development of software, but also interfaces. Roughly, developers can be divided into backend, frontend, and, in case the developer masters both sides, full-stack developers. In some cases, in addition to the developer of native mobile applications, there are also divisions according to the product that is to be produced.

In complex digitization projects, there is usually a team more or less available, either employed by the company itself, or one provided by the software supplier for the duration of the implementation project.

The tasks of a software developer can be classified as follows:

  • Design and development of applications: The developer is responsible for creating the software described in the requirements. To do this, he must analyze the requirements of the project and translate the system design into code.
  • Adaptation and integration: The developer may also have to adapt existing systems and integrate them into new systems. For this, he must have a thorough knowledge of databases, interfaces and other technological aspects.
  • Testing: a developer is also responsible for testing the applications and systems to ensure that they meet the requirements and are free from bugs. Scheduling developers for the testing phase is the responsibility of the test manager, which is described in the next point. The test manager can organize employees from the business department for the so-called User Acceptance Test (UAT), also called user test or acceptance test.
  • Support & Maintenance: After the project is completed, the developer is responsible for maintaining the applications and systems and for debugging them if necessary. To do this, he or she must correct any errors or problems and make changes if the customer requests it. Usually, a software maintenance contract has been concluded for this purpose and service level agreements have been made in it, which describe, for example, how quickly the developer must react when an error occurs (time to react).
  • Documentation: Another important aspect of the developer’s job is to document the work he or she performs on the project. This includes documenting code, configurations, test results, and other aspects of the project. In practice, this is the most neglected point.
    When is a software developer needed?

Developers are needed throughout the entire lifecycle of a software product. At the beginning, they implement the customer’s requirements, test them and transfer them to productive operation. Afterwards, they maintain and debug the software.

7. Test Manager

The test manager is responsible for ensuring that the software is properly tested to ensure that it meets the requirements.

In doing so, the test manager should perform the following tasks:

  • Test Plan Creation: The test manager creates a comprehensive test plan that describes the objectives, scope, timeframe, and methods for each test cycle. In doing so, he must take into account the customer’s requirements and the system’s specifications.
  • Monitoring and controlling test activities: The test manager monitors and controls test activities to ensure they are in accordance with the test plan. This includes identifying test scenarios, scheduling tests, and allocating test resources.
  • Execution of tests: The test manager is also responsible for executing tests to ensure that the system functions without errors. In doing so, he/she must ensure that all functions, requirements and scenarios are tested and that the tests are performed according to the test plan.
  • Reporting: The test manager prepares reports on the test results and informs the project team about the progress of the tests and any problems. He/she makes recommendations on how to fix errors and informs the project team about possible risks and problems that occurred during the tests.
  • Coordination with other teams: the Test Manager also coordinates with other teams to ensure that all tests are performed properly. S/he works closely with the project manager, developer, and other team members to ensure that tests are completed on time.

Overall, the test manager plays an important role in ensuring the quality of the final product or system. He is responsible for developing, monitoring and executing tests and works closely with other teams to ensure that the system meets the customer’s requirements and functions without errors.

When is a test manager needed?

The test manager becomes active in the project at the latest when development activities begin and plans the test phase. The closer the development team gets to completing the product or individual, testable components, the more detailed the test manager plans the test phase and organizes resources from IT and business for testing. In larger organizations, a team of testers is available for this purpose. In addition to the IT integration tests, the user acceptance test (UAT) is the main part of the test manager’s work.

8. Data Analyst

A Data Analyst plays an important role in a digitization project, especially if the project involves data analytics or data-driven decisions. The Data Analyst’s primary role is to collect, analyze, and interpret business data to provide valuable insights to the business.

Here are some specific tasks that a Data Analyst performs in a digitization project:

  • Data collection and processing: The Data Analyst collects and processes data from various sources such as internal systems, public sources and social media platforms. He or she must ensure that data quality is high and that all data is accurate and complete.
  • Data Analysis: the Data Analyst applies analytical techniques to interpret data and gain insights. S/he must be able to build complex data models and algorithms to identify trends and patterns.
  • Report Creation: The Data Analyst creates reports to present his findings and make recommendations. These reports often include data visualizations to make the results easy to understand.
  • Collaborating with other teams: the Data Analyst works closely with other teams such as project management, development, and other analytics teams to ensure that analytics results are in line with project requirements and goals.

When is a data analyst needed?

Whenever a digitization project requires the processing and analysis of large amounts of data, a data analyst is essential. This is especially true for projects involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, Big Data and other data-driven technologies. The Data Analyst helps turn the data into valuable insights and decisions that can be of great benefit to the business. Thus, a single point in time cannot be clearly identified. Most often, however, the Data Analyst finds his or her use in complex digitization projects involving data migration from existing systems.

These roles are just a few examples of the IT-specific roles in a digitization project. The exact roles depend on the specific requirements of the project, and there is usually also overlap between roles. It is important that the project team has all the necessary skills and knowledge to implement the project successfully.

So many roles – do I really need them all?

The answer here is quite clearly: Yes and No! Or, as the lawyers would say: It depends.

Because, in fact, it depends on your project. You should ask yourself questions like:

  • How big is the project?
  • What is to be achieved?
  • How much budget is available?
  • How many resources can I allocate to the project?
  • etc.

In the end, you should be able to come to a classification by T-shirt size. Is it a S, M or L project? Maybe even XL?

It will help you that individual team members can usually take on multiple roles. Especially when resources are tight, this is important. Buying in external experts is another way to get additional resources into the project. This is an option especially for shorter assignments and more specific subject areas, such as data analysis.

In the end, you need to carry out the software implementation and your digitization project according to process steps and project phases that logically build on each other. How quickly you get through these phases is not determined by the number of resources alone, but above all by efficient control and communication by a capable project manager. This will lead you and your project to success.

You now know the different roles in a digitization project. As the decision-maker, however, you have overall responsibility for your projects. In order to maintain an overview here and, above all, to avoid being one of the 80% of failed projects in practice, I recommend my article as a guide for your digitization.

Francesco ist seit 2011 Unternehmer und Unternehmensberater und hat schon Prozesse digitalisiert, als die Digitalisierung noch einen Exotenstatus hatte. Für ihn sind die Menschen und die Simplifizierung Erfolgsfaktoren bei der Umsetzung. Seine Spezialität liegt in der Digitalisierung der Auftragsmanagementprozesse für dezentral organisierte Service-Unternehmen.

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