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Who’s who in the project zoo? The ten core project roles

Ofer Zwikael (Research School of Management, College of Business and Economics, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Jack R. Meredith (School of Business, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 5 February 2018




The purpose of this paper is to resolve a core issue in project management research and practice – inconsistent terminology of key project roles. This inconsistency has negative consequences on the quality and impact of research in this area.


The authors conducted an analysis of the literature and project management standards to identify both agreed-upon and inconsistent project role terms. Based on role and agency theories, the authors propose a consistent terminology.


The authors found consensus regarding four terms: project manager, project team, project management office, and program manager. However, the authors also found conflicting definitions and misuse concerning other terms, as well as use of the same title for different roles (e.g. customer, sponsor, champion). The authors define the ten core project roles and the two project entities with which they are associated.


The proposed role definitions and clear distinction between the two project entities offer clarity, reliance on existing consensus, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and clear separation of principal and agent roles. The implementation of these definitions will improve communications and enhance quality within and between both the research and the practice communities.



The authors would like to thank Monique Aubry, Kam Jugdev, and John Smyrk for their comments on earlier versions of the paper.


Zwikael, O. and Meredith, J.R. (2018), "Who’s who in the project zoo? The ten core project roles", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 474-492.



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