Last edited 19 Jul 2021

Senior responsible owner

On publicly-funded projects, the senior responsible owner (SRO) (sometimes referred to as the 'project owner') is:

'...the individual responsible for the success of the project...'

(ref. Achieving Excellence Guide 2 - Project Organisation)

'...responsible for ensuring that a programme of change or a project meets its objectives and delivers the projected benefits. The SRO should be the owner of the overall business change that is being supported by the project and should ensure that the change maintains its business focus, has clear authority and that the context, including risks, is actively managed. This individual must be senior and must take personal responsibility for successful delivery of the project. They should be recognised as the owner throughout the organisation.'

(ref. OGC Gateway Process Review 1: Business justification.)

The senior responsible owner has ownership of the project at a senior level (equivalent to the board director responsible for the project in the private sector). Their responsibilities are strategic rather than day to day.

The senior responsible owner's responsibilities are:

  1. the business needs to be addressed by the project
  2. the resources available to the project sponsor, internally and externally
  3. the authority delegated to the project sponsor for decision making
  4. the project sponsor's responsibilities in relation to health and safety regulations (see AE10:Health and safety).

(ref. OGC Achieving Excellence Guide 2 - Project Organisation.)

For additional roles specific to construction procurement, see OGC Construction projects: A manager’s checklist.

The relationship between the senior responsible owner and the rest of the project team is illustrated in OGC guidance as shown below:


Illustration reproduced with permission from OGC (ref. OGC Guide 2: Project organisation: roles and responsibilities.)

Gateway reviews are initiated by the senior responsible owner, and they are responsible for the review reports and any recommended remedial action (See the article on the OGC for more information).

NB: The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has now been absorbed into the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) within the Cabinet Office. OGC guidance has been archived.

The Green Book, Central Government Guidance On Appraisal And Evaluation, Published by HM Treasury in 2020, suggests the Senior Responsible Owner: ‘…is the person to whom the project or programme manager reports, they "own" the proposal on behalf of the originating organisation but do not take part in its detailed day to day running. They have overall responsibility for asking questions, keeping it on track, dealing with significant external problems and making strategic decisions on submission for approval or not.’

Project Routemap, Setting up projects for success, Organisational Design & Development, UK Module, published by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, states: ‘All UK government projects will have a senior responsible owner. They are accountable to the sponsor organisation for a programme or project meeting its objectives, delivering the projected outcomes and realising the required benefits. The senior responsible owner is the owner of the business case and accountable for governance. The senior responsible owner of a government major project is ultimately accountable to Parliament.’

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