Portfolio and Project Management Project Roles

Although the project manager is most often thought of when considering project-related roles, there are other players involved who fill roles related to the project's effort. The roles often overlap depending on the phase of the project. The most common roles related to projects are as follows:

Project Steering Committee

The Project Steering Committee provides recommendations to the Project Sponsor and university leadership regarding project initiation or continuance, management, baselines (e.g. performance, cost, and schedule), periodic reviews, and any additional follow-up actions required to ensure the success of the project. The committee may also be involved in charter and objective approval, as well as deliverable acceptance, depending upon the nature of the project. The necessity to have a steering committee varies depending on the complexity, cost, scope, and impact of the project; not all projects will have a steering committee.

ITS Project Owner

A Mason IT Project, regardless of whether it is initiated within or external to Information Technology Services (ITS), is assigned an ITS Project Owner if it requires any assistance or interaction from ITS.  The ITS Project Owner coordinates project the project on behalf of ITS by securing necessary resources, monitoring the project’s progress relative to other ITS projects, and serving as an escalation path for the project sponsor when needed.  As with the Project Sponsor, the ITS Project Owner must be at the director level or higher.  For projects originating within ITS, the same person may act as both the Project Sponsor and the ITS Project Owner.

Project Manager

The Project Manager, assigned by the project sponsor and/or the ITS Project Owner, is responsible for managing and completing the project on behalf of the sponsor and George Mason University. Approval of the project charter grants authority to the project manager to staff the project team, procure resources, and utilize the systems necessary to complete the project objectives. Certain projects require that project managers be either Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) qualified or Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) certified. Project managers are typically managers within their organization and/or project managers from the ITS Portfolio and Project Management Office (PPMO).


Stakeholders are persons and organizations (e.g., customers, sponsors, performing organizations, and the public) actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be affected positively or negatively by execution or completion of the project. Typical stakeholders for most projects at George Mason University include academic departments, administrative units, the greater university community and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the customer who provided the impetus for the project. Stakeholders will vary by project. The project sponsor and manager must identify stakeholders at the forefront of the project.


In the context of a project, customers comprise a special group of stakeholders who will be the end- users of the system or service developed by the project. During the project, they may be involved in design and testing activities. Working on projects that affect the entire university community can pose challenges to scheduling, communication, and receipt of input. Given the nature of the academic calendar and certain groups’ limited availability, project managers should consider how to appropriately engage various user groups throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Project Team

The Project Team is composed of individuals that report, typically indirectly (i.e., dotted line report), either part time or full time to the project manager for the duration of the project and are responsible for performing project tasks. Within a project team there are specific roles including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Project Team Leaders: Project teams may be divided into various functional or logistical sub-teams. Project Team Leaders are staff members responsible for leading sub-teams and coordinating activities with the project manager. For larger projects, the project manager may have a Project Leadership Team or Project Coordination Team. This team consists of project team leaders and the project manager for the purpose of coordinating activities.
  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): Subject Matter Experts are individuals retained on a project due to their high level of knowledge, experience or specialized training. An SME can be either internal or external to the organization and serves on a project team as the expert on a particular system, application, or in a specific functional area.
  • Operations Staff: Representative(s) of an operations staff serve as members of a project team to help ensure that the deliverable(s) of the project can be transitioned into ongoing operations.
  • Customer Representative: Customer representatives serve as members of a project team to provide clarification on project requirements.
  • Vendors: Project leaders, with the approval of the sponsor, may bring in vendors to provide specialized skill sets to a project team.

ITS Portfolio and Project Management Office

The ITS Portfolio and Project Management Office (PPMO) supports consistent project management practices for project teams, enabling project leaders to deliver the value promised to customers. It provides project managers for selected IT projects, conducts project management training and assists with project documentation, project management tools, and communication between various projects and project teams. The office oversees the IT Project Management Framework to ensure it remains current and aligns with the structure of the organization. It also oversees the online tools and PPMO website which support the Framework.