Roles and responsibilities of the Senior Responsible Owner

The Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) is the visible owner of the overall business change, accountable for successful delivery and is recognised throughout the organisation as the key leadership figure in driving the change forward.


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 Senior Responsible Owner (SRO). The role of SRO as a single, senior, accountable figure was formalised in Dear Accounting Officer (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 of the SRO role

In PRINCE2 projects the SRO is sometimes called the Project Executive. The SRO is the individual responsible for ensuring that a programme or 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
  • 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. The person must be senior and have the necessary authority to make key decisions.

Ideally, the responsibilities of an SRO should be explicitly included in their personal objectives. They should remain in place throughout the lifetime of a programme or project, and beyond, until benefits realisation takes place. In some cases this responsibility could span a number of years. Changes at SRO level should only be considered when a distinct phase of benefit delivery has been completed - or in extenuating circumstances.

The SRO should be prepared to make decisions and should be proactive in providing leadership and direction throughout the life of the programme or project. They should be responsible for ensuring the organisation can fully exploit the outcome of the change so that projected benefits are delivered.

The SRO is recognised as a key role in existing programme and project management methodologies such as Managing Successful Programmes and PRINCE2 and, for construction procurement projects, Achieving Excellence. As owner of the business change the SRO is the chair of the programme board or project board.

Specific responsibilities of the SRO

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

  • ensure that a programme or project meets its objectives and delivers projected benefits
  • ensure agreement amongst stakeholders as to what the objectives and benefits are
  • ensure strategic fit of programme or project objectives and benefits
  • obtain commitment from stakeholders to the delivery of the benefits
  • monitor delivery of objectives and benefits, taking appropriate action where necessary to ensure their successful delivery
  • ensure the programme or project is subject to review at appropriate stages
  • ensure that, if appropriate, the programme or project is subject to Gateway review at key decision points identified in the NI 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 or 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 or project during its initiation and definition
  • secure the necessary investment for the business change
  • develop a programme or project organisational structure and logical plans
  • ensure that a coherent organisational structure and logical plans are maintained

Monitoring and control of progress

The SRO must:

  • monitor and control the progress of the business change at a strategic level (at an operational level this is the responsibility of the programme manager or the project manager who are responsible for providing regular reports to the SRO on progress)
  • deal with issues as they arise requiring the SRO's advice, decision-making and communication with senior stakeholders
  • chair the programme or project board
  • oversee and direct the transition from change delivery to business as usual, ensuring that any new capabilities are fully exploited

Formal programme or project closure

At the closure of the programme or project the SRO must:

  • formally close the programme or project, ensuring that lessons learned are documented as part of the end-programme or project evaluation report
  • formally sign off that the programme or project aims and objectives have been met and that lessons learned are documented and disseminated
  • plan the post programme or project reviews, including assessment of the benefits realisation process

Post implementation review

Following implementation, the SRO should:

  • 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
  • refer serious problems upwards to top management or Ministers as necessary, and to suppliers and delivery agents in a timely manner
  • consult regularly with those delivering change, stakeholders and sponsors
  • ensure the communication processes are effective and linkages are maintained between change teams and the organisation's strategic direction
  • maintain regular dialogue with the supplier or delivery agent to minimise and resolve problems between customer and supplier

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 or project
  • be a senior reputable figure (a peer) approved by the organisation’s management board and have delegated authority to be SRO for the programme or project
  • be active and engaged, not just a figurehead
  • have sufficient experience and training to carry out SRO responsibilities

An SRO must be someone who can:

  • broker relationships with stakeholders within and outside a programme or project
  • deploy delegated authority to ensure that the programme or project achieves its objectives
  • provide advice and guidance to programme and project managers as necessary
  • acknowledge their own skills or knowledge gaps and structure the board and programme or project 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 or project
  • represent the interests of the programme or project through effective networking with peers and key stakeholders
  • be honest and frank about programme or project progress
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