Functional structures, matrixes, and task-forces are possible options for the management of the so-called project macro-organizations. Beside it, though, we must also consider the micro-organization that does not focus on organizational units but on individuals and their responsibilities. Depending on the size and complexity, a project may require from a few actors up to thousands of people, each of them with specific competencies and responsibilities. We will now define the fundamental roles we can find in every project and the relationships among these roles. Let's start by saying that each project must have a customer. In project management, the term customer often leads to unpleasant misunderstandings. If a company sells projects (such as bridges, electric plants, or consulting projects), it is clear that the customer is the one who buys the project. In the case of a company selling products and services as a result of continuative processes (for example, in the automotive or banking sector) the customer is different and there is the risk of confusing the company customer who buys the product with the project customer who commissioned the project. For example, in the automotive industry, who buys the car is the company customer, while the project customer will be the marketing department asking for a new vehicle with given characteristics. We will now focus our attention on the project customer. The customer of a project can be either external to the enterprise (typically if the company generates its profits from the project) or internal to the enterprise (if the company sells on the market products or services deriving from repetitive and standardized processes). Moreover, there are all those projects that companies carry out without a market and turnover objective, such as organizational changes, communication, or implementation of new tools to support business processes. In all these cases, the customer will be internal. Finally, we often distinguish between customer and user, meaning that the former is the one who buys the project, but it may not be the one who uses the output. For our discussion, this critical distinction is negligible, so we will generically speak about the customer. A second essential role that exists in every project is that of sponsor. The sponsor is always internal to the company and represents who decides to allocate resources to develop the project. The customer, especially if external, can ask the company to do a project, but the decision to actually do it (or even merely to submit a proposal) is a decision internal to the company. The sponsor is the ultimate project decision-maker in the organization and is responsible for providing the resources for its development. This refers to the budget but not only. In the case of matrix-based projects, the sponsor is also the one who ensures that the various functions provide the necessary human resources in quantity and quality. In
other words, it is the representative of the project towards top management and responsible for creating high-level engagement on the project. During the project, the sponsor is the person the Project Manager can contact when some decisions go beyond her possibilities. In particular, the sponsor must be involved when the project is significantly far from the plan in terms of time, cost, or quality. On behalf of the company, the sponsor has to approve which variable to sacrifice in favor of others. This implies making decisions like: Whether it is better to spend more but finish on time. Whether it is better to finish on time but to release a simpler output than expected. Whether it is better to go late respecting the budget constraints. These decisions go beyond the Project manager's responsibilities. The Project Manager's role is to propose alternatives, but the sponsor chooses which ones to implement for the customer. The role of the sponsor is essential for the proper management of the projects. Notwithstanding, in many organizations, this role is not clearly identified. As a result, project managers are asked to make strategic decisions and activities that often go beyond their range of action. The third essential role of each project is the project manager. The project manager's responsibilities can be easily synthesized in a simple formula: she is responsible to achieve the project objectives. In the past, this meant that the Project Manager was responsible for achieving Scope, Time, and Cost. Today, we prefer to say that she is accountable for customer satisfaction. Beware because this sentence can hide some pitfalls. In some cases, it is not clear who is the main actor to be satisfied. When the sponsor and customer are the same person, as in the case of many internal projects, the problem does not really exist. However, if the customer is external, some misunderstandings can arise. It is easy to understand that if the project manager can guarantee scope, costs, and quality, the external customer will be happy and the sponsor likewise. However, if to obtain the correct output on time, an extra budget is needed, leading to a margin reduction, accepting this reduction would lead to the customer satisfaction and sponsor dissatisfaction. To understand the right decision to make, Project Managers should always remember that their most relevant stakeholder is the internal sponsor rather than the external customer. In other words, a project manager should do her best to satisfy both the external customer and the sponsor. Still, if their goals get into a trade-off, the project manager should carefully discuss with the sponsor how to manage the decision. Customer, sponsor, and project manager roles are always present in all projects. However, in some cases, two or even all the three roles can be played by the same person, generating the typical confusion of medium-small enterprises. At the same time, I may be the client who wants the project, the sponsor who decides that this project is reasonable and thus allocates the resources to it, and the executor of the project (alone or coordinating a team). These cases might be confusing, and I must always ask myself which role I am holding before making a decision. I want to dedicate a final note to the functional managers. When projects are matrix-based in a functional company, functional managers have the role of providing know-how and resources to projects. Often it happens, especially in medium and small enterprises, that the functional managers participate directly to projects. This, in principle, is not a mistake, but it is a practice that may imply considerable risks. Functional managers' role is to manage the functions, make them grow, and become more efficient and effective. All these activities are essential and consume a remarkable amount of time. As a result, functional managers working on projects are likely to become bottlenecks and slow the projects down. In many cases, then, functional managers delegate resources to the project. It is extremely important that this delegation is true and not only formal. Suppose the resource that participates in the project meetings does not have a decision-making delegation but must always ask the hierarchical manager how to proceed. In that case, the project becomes unmanageable, and both the effectiveness and the efficiency are irremediably compromised.