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All organizations operate on a hierarchy, but each organization is structured differently, and each staff member’s roles and responsibilities to one another and to the entire company are unique to their respective teams. However, there is an underlying structure that most companies follow, and having a clear picture of this helps your team know who’s who, which translates into more efficient collaboration. When this happens, decisions, delivery, and success become much easier to achieve.
This is where a project organization chart comes into play.
What is a Project Organization Chart?
A project organization chart is a visual reference of a team’s structure. This is used to illustrate a variety of relationships, including reporting and supervision hierarchies, as well as interactions and responsibilities expected of various members of the project framework.
A typical organization chart highlights four major roles:
- The project sponsor
- The project manager
- The project team
- Other stakeholders
The Project Sponsor
The project sponsor acts as a default recipient of a project’s deliverables and often holds the greatest stake in the project’s success. In most scenarios, the project sponsor enables the project either through approval and/or funding—this also gives them relative authority over the major decisions in a project, even higher than that of the project manager. While they often don’t participate, if at all, in a project’s day-to-day operations, it is critical for a project sponsor to have visibility on the project’s status.
For example, a marketing campaign will typically have a marketing/brand representative be the project sponsor, as they are largely accountable for the success of a product or service. The rest of the marketing team reports outputs and metrics back to this representative to gauge whether objectives are achieved.
The Project Manager
The project manager, on the other hand, is responsible for the day-to-day coordination of a project, liaising mainly with the project team and reporting progress to sponsors and stakeholders. Their focus lies on managing budget, scope, and cost to achieve the highest-quality results on a project, in line with its objectives.
Depending on the scale of the project, an entire team of project managers, with a lead project manager, might be required. They are then responsible for facilitating the planning, execution, and delivery of the project.
The Project Team
The project team produces a large portion of the project’s deliverables and reports to the project manager to help keep things on track. The team can be represented by one or multiple departments, and its size varies greatly depending on the needs of the project.
By definition, all the other roles above count as stakeholders, but it may also be important depending on the project to take note of other entities or individuals who hold varying levels of interest and/or power in a project’s outcome. Clients, customers, end users, investors, and vendors are typical inclusions in a project structure. External vendors, organizations, and regulatory agencies may also be in the picture, depending on the type of project being undertaken.
Types of Project Management Structures
There are five primary project management structures observed by organizations, each with their respective uses:
1. Functional organization structure
A functional project management organization chart groups staff members into teams based on shared expertise—we commonly refer to these groups as departments, which then fulfill specific functions in the overall business, like HR, finance, or marketing. Each of these teams has a dedicated manager, who then coordinates resources with the rest of the managers to work on assigned projects. This is one of the most common structures available and allows for efficient cross-functional work.
2. Project-based structure
A projectized structure forgoes the concept of specialized departments, instead primarily grouping staff members into dedicated, often cross-functional, project teams. Project managers hold full authority over these teams in place of functional managers.
While this structure allows for more focus and faster decision-making at the project level, it also requires managers with a wide range of skills, so they can effectively communicate with different experts assigned to the project. It also limits resource sharing, as the skills of one team might not necessarily be transferable to another team or project.
3. Weak matrix structure
All matrix structures use the functional organization as a basis; however, where decision-making authority lies varies.
In a weak matrix structure, the staff members assigned to the project mainly coordinate amongst themselves, with functional managers taking a slight backseat when it comes to major decisions at the project level. While this provides the benefit of faster decision-making in the day-to-day, it runs the risk of overwhelming the staff members with work outside of their area of expertise.
4. Balanced matrix structure
A balanced matrix structure improves on the weak matrix in one key area: one of the staff members is explicitly assigned the role of project manager, often on top of their functional responsibilities. They then closely collaborate with functional managers in managing budget allocations and staff assignments.
5. Strong matrix structure
The strong matrix structure further improves on the previous setup by having dedicated project managers which, at scale, requires the presence of a dedicated project management department in the company. In the same way that functional managers assign their resources to projects, the head of a project management team assigns appropriate project managers to these projects, where they hold most of the authority. The head of project management, along with other functional managers, serves a more supporting role by focusing on resource allocations and expertise over direct project management.
The best project team or organization chart structure for you depends on various factors, such as the project’s scale, your company’s budget as well as the size of your own company. Smaller projects and teams can often succeed with a functional, weak, or balanced matrix structure, as the scale of departmental work may be smaller. At scale, however, a strong matrix structure becomes important to allow flexibility between projects, and the capacity to distribute work between a larger number of specialized resources helps to ensure a higher quality of work.
Why is a Project Organization Chart Important?
Having a clear project organization structure serves as the foundation for project success for the following reasons:
- Communication. A clear structure outlines who reports to whom, and which teams collaborate with one another.
- Delegation. A project organization chart provides clarity on the roles of each stakeholder, and their responsibilities to the company and/or project.
- Efficiency. When responsibilities and lines of communication are clear, the workflow is free to run much more smoothly than if teams were left guessing who’s who in a project. This cascades into fewer roadblocks in the day-to-day, regardless of scale.
Project Organization Chart Templates
Now that we understand the concept and importance of a project organization chart, here are some templates and sources you can use to start building them to suit your company’s needs, all for free.
Miro provides a template you can use directly on their platform to build a chart that matches your own company structure. An advantage to using this template is that Miro’s native features can automate visualizing your team or company hierarchy, allowing you to focus on filling in information like names, roles, and functions instead of manually drawing relationships.
The Tactical Project Manager offers a simple, easy-to-use one-pager that already contains the basic elements for creating a project management organization chart. All you need to do is edit the names and roles on the template to match your organization, along with some slight tweaks like adding more elements depending on your team size.
Canva's template center is home to a wide range of templates based on the fundamental project organization structure. A huge advantage here is that the templates are made by creatives, and you have plenty of visually appealing options right away.
A Structured Approach to Project Management
A project organization structure serves as the framework for making sure your teams understand their roles and responsibilities well. This empowers them to take ownership of their work, as well as to collaborate with confidence in the team and the process. As your team grows, it becomes especially important to build an organizational chart that preserves this confidence. Beyond that, you will need a project management solution that can keep up with your project’s demands.
With Workamajig, the premier marketing management software, you have an all-in-one solution for planning, organizing, and delegating these efforts, and easily transitioning between the phases of every project. Easily adjust your schedule or modify task requirements and assignees to ensure efficiency, and use native reporting tools to measure your progress, as well as identify and address roadblocks along the way.