collaboration roles

Collaboration roles that drive results

Reading time: about 7 min

Organizing collaboration is essential. Whenever you plan and manage a project, this is how you can ensure that your team and your stakeholders are able to hit the ground running. Instead of granting everyone the same access to the project, defining roles and responsibilities allows you to control access and share the context and information that makes the most sense for each role. 

Given the magnitude of many projects and a need to draw on multiple areas of expertise, having a robust collaboration plan provides your organization with flexibility. Collaboration promotes buy-in and gives stakeholders an opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways. 

Let’s review common collaboration roles, how they manifest on Agile teams, and the stages of team formation so that you can ensure you’re optimizing your own team’s organization. 

Collaboration roles

Collaboration works best if the team can stay productive, focused, communicative, and energized throughout the project lifecycle. By using clearly-defined roles, you as the project manager or project owner can ensure that everyone has access to the resources and support they need at the right times. 

If these roles are self-defined or thrown together without sufficient planning and consideration, your team runs the risk of allowing your circumstances to define your collaboration. A project manager could be forced to pick up extra responsibilities in the absence of clear direction. 

Common team project roles


The project owner carries ultimate responsibility for the project and makes final decisions. They carry the vision for the team and bring others together around a shared goal. Ensuring alignment across the team and with stakeholders is a key part of this role. 

Since project owners have ultimate responsibility, they need strong visibility and clarity throughout the project. (Pro tip: visualizing project status and workflows can make a world of difference.) If you are the project owner, do whatever you can do to establish strong communication and provide your team with the support they need. 


On the team, you’ll usually find several performers who carry out the tasks associated with the project. These team members work very directly on implementation with support from subject matter experts (as appropriate). 

Performers’ direct work on the project gives them an on-the-ground perspective and experience that makes their input valuable. When collaborating with others, they may have a more restricted view, however, and not necessarily see the bigger picture. Setting the vision for performers may help keep their sense of collaboration strong and focused. 


Subject matter experts are an essential part of the project and help to answer questions, build-out the details within a roadmap, give insight through sharing best practices, and offer alternatives whenever others in the team need an expert’s perspective. 

Experts are often in-house but could also be brought alongside in-house teams. Specialized projects may require outside experts who collaborate with your organization or work with specific contacts. 

As experts, these team members have highly valuable insight to share with the project owner and performers. 


Your organization likely has multiple stakeholders who have a strong interest in the project itself but a more detached role in the project planning and execution. These are typically the people the project owner reports to with ongoing status updates about milestones and progress. 

Since no two stakeholders play an identical role in the organization or in a project, how you define their contribution to the project can vary. A senior executive stakeholder may need frequent updates on how the project is going, for instance, while a team leader in a different department may provide essential data for your project and need updates only at relevant milestones. 

Agile teams and swarming 

“Swarming” around a project is popular in some Agile and scrum methodologies whenever work requires real-time, fluid collaboration. 

This style of project management involves various team members and stakeholders attacking a project systematically with less of an emphasis on formal roles and responsibilities. Since roles are loosely defined, the team is more flexible and can adapt quickly to changing requirements or to a more complex collaborative project. 

Although swarming sounds like it’s incompatible with defined roles, you can utilize a swarm approach with your team by organizing around a swarming pattern or a particular scenario: 

  • Swarming patterns: A project with simplified collaborative roles or paired team members can bring more organization to your collaboration together. For instance, pair several performer roles together with an expert. 
  • Swarming theme: You can also follow stricter roles while choosing specific themes to swarm around whenever team members reach milestones early or have extra bandwidth. For example, you could break off a portion of the project and have everyone tackle it whenever they can outside of their formal roles. 

3 phases of team formation 

When you begin collaboration on a new project or with a new team, you’ll move through different stages as you bring this team together. Each team’s specific tasks and activities are unique and reflect the responsibilities your project requires to meet your goals. 

Transition phase

This first phase is all about planning your team’s collaboration, organizing your plan, and establishing team member roles. This may also include early fact finding and project planning. 

  • Choosing roles: Before the collaboration can begin, you’ll need to choose roles around your goals. Look at existing roles and backgrounds of team members to see how they relate to your project. Past experience can be particularly valuable as you move forward. 
  • Delegating tasks: Starting with specific tasks, begin crafting a breakdown of responsibilities according to role. Delegate tasks and determine how you’ll coordinate activity across the project. 
  • Granting access permissions: Make it simple for your team to share essential documentation and information. Keeping all your documentation on the cloud in a shared workspace is often the best approach. Making decisions around authorization before you begin collaborating simplifies the interpersonal and action phases. 

Interpersonal phase

Overlapping with the transition and action phases, the interpersonal phase reflects the communication, conflict management, stakeholder management, and team-building that occur throughout your project. 

  • Stakeholder management: By managing expectations and defining contributions, you can more effectively bring outside stakeholders into your project. Your stakeholder management planning should account for differences in roles, responsibilities, influence, and importance to your overall project. 
  • Communication planning: Your collaboration needs strong communication between team members, with outside stakeholders, sponsors, and executive teams. Take time to create a communication plan to make sure you’re communicating the right things to the right people at the right times. 
  • Motivation building and encouragement: Keeping your team motivated should be a central part of your interpersonal strategy. Lost motivation can be hard to recover later, meaning that you’ll likely get the best results if you start early and intentionally. 

Action phase

As you begin collaborating together, you’ll be communicating and coordinating roles. You may decide to revisit established roles based on new findings and based on your progress. 

  • Activity coordination: Managing your team’s activities is an ongoing process. 
  • Monitoring milestones: As you make progress towards your team’s goals for the project, you’ll be monitoring and making notes. You can adjust accordingly if significant changes arise. 

Using Lucidchart to define roles and improve collaboration

With Lucidchart, you can visualize and share data with team members and outside stakeholders. Create a space online for your team to collaborate, share data, make comments, and investigate details as you make progress towards your goals. 

collaboration roles

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