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Senior Responsible Owner

Background

In May 2000 a report, entitled 'Successful IT: Modernising Government in Action' (also known as the McCartney Report), made a number of recommendations including the establishment of a new management role - that of the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO). The role of Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) as a single, senior, accountable figure was formalised in Dear Accounting Office (DAO) 33/03 within the NI public sector and is now a key feature of good governance for all types of Programmes and Projects.

Purpose

In PRINCE2 projects the SRO is sometimes called the Project Executive. The SRO is the individual responsible for ensuring that a Programme/Project meets its objectives and delivers the projected benefits. The SRO:

  • is the visible owner of the overall business change;
  • should be recognised throughout the organisation; and
  • is the key leadership figure in driving it forward.

The SRO must ensure that the change process maintains its business focus, has clear authority and that the overall context, including risk, is actively managed.  This individual must be senior and have the necessary authority to make key decisions.

Ideally an individual's responsibilities as an SRO should be explicitly included in their personal objectives. Ideally this individual should remain in place throughout the lifetime of the Programme/Project and beyond until benefits realisation takes place. In some cases this responsibility could span a number of years. Other than in extenuating circumstances, changes at SRO level should only be considered when a distinct phase of benefit delivery has been completed.

The SRO should be prepared to take decisions and should be proactive in providing leadership and direction throughout the life of the Programme/Project.  They should be responsible for ensuring the organisation can fully exploit the outcome of the change such that the projected benefits are delivered as a result.

The SRO is recognised as a key role in existing Programme & Project management methodologies such as Office of Government Commerce’s (OGC) Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) and PRINCE2 (also known as the Executive) and for construction procurement projects Achieving Excellence (AE).  The SRO, as owner of the business change, is the chair of the Programme/Project Board.

Specific responsibilities

The SRO should perform the following key, high-level functions:-

  • ensure that a Programme/Project meets its objectives and delivers the projected benefits;
  • ensure agreement amongst stakeholders as to what the objectives and benefits are;
  • ensure strategic fit of the Programme/Project objectives and benefits;
  • obtain commitment from stakeholders to the delivery of the benefits;
  • monitor delivery of the objectives and benefits taking appropriate action where necessary to ensure their successful delivery;
  • ensure that the Programme/Project is subject to review at appropriate stages;
  • ensure that, if appropriate, the Programme/Project is subject to Gateway Review at the key decision points identified in the Gateway Review process;
  • make certain that any recommendations or concerns from Gateway Reviews are met or addressed before progressing to the next stage;
  • own the Programme/Project Brief and Business Case;
  • ensure that the aims of the planned change continue to be aligned with the direction of the business and establish a firm basis for the Programme/Project during its initiation and definition;
  • secure the necessary investment for the business change;
  • develop the Programme/Project organisation structure and logical plans; and
  • ensure that there is a coherent organisation structure and logical plan(s).

Monitoring and control of progress

  • monitoring and controlling the progress of the business change at a strategic level (at an operational level this is the responsibility of Programme or Project Managers who are responsible for providing regular reports to the SRO on progress);
  • dealing with issues as they arise requiring the SRO's advice, decision-making and communication with senior stakeholders;
  • chairing the Programme/Project Board; and
  • overseeing and directing the transition from change delivery to business as usual, ensuring that any new capabilities are fully exploited.

Formal Programme/Project closure

  • formally closing the Programme/Project and ensuring that the lessons learned are documented as part of the End Programme/Project' evaluation report;
  • formally signing off by that the Programme’s aims and objectives have been met and that lessons learned are documented and disseminated; and
  • planning the post Programme/Project review(s) including assessment of the benefits realisation process.

Post Implementation Review

  • ensure that the post implementation review takes place, the output is forwarded to the appropriate stakeholders and that the benefits have been realised: the SRO is responsible for commissioning and chairing these reviews and ensuring the relevant personnel are consulted and involved in the review process;
  • problem resolution and referral;
  • referring serious problems upwards to top management and/or Ministers as necessary and to suppliers and delivery agents, in a timely manner;
  • regular consultation will be required between those delivering the change and the stakeholders and sponsors;
  • ensure that the communication processes are effective and linkages are maintained between the change team/s and the organisation's strategic direction; and
  • regular dialogue with the supplier or delivery agents senior representatives to minimise customer-supplier problems by timely resolution.

What behaviours and characteristics should an SRO have?

An SRO needs to:

  • take responsibility - including putting things right when they go wrong, and ensuring that recognition is given when they go right;
  • have a good understanding of the business issues associated with the Programme/Project;
  • be a senior reputable figure (a peer) approved by the organisation’s Management Board and have delegated authority to be the SRO for the Programme/Project;
  • be active and engaged, not just a figurehead; and
  • have sufficient experience and training to carry out SRO responsibilities.

An SRO must be someone who can:

  • broker relationships with stakeholders within and outside the Programme/Project;
  • deploy delegated authority to ensure that the Programme/Project achieves its objectives;
  • provide advice and guidance to the Programme/Project Manager(s) as necessary;
  • acknowledge their own skill/knowledge gaps and structure the Board and Programme/Project management team accordingly;
  • give the time required to perform the role effectively;
  • negotiate well and influence people;
  • be aware of the broader perspective and how it affects the Programme/Project;
  • represent the interests of the Programme/Project through effective networking with peers and key stakeholders; and
  • be honest and frank about Programme/Project progress.