Module B1: Who is on the project team and what are their roles?

Module Status: Drafting in Progress | Ready for Testing | Tested
Current Module Downloads: Module B1 Activity Worksheet and Excel Worksheet

Identifying Project Team Members

Identifying the current members of a project team, associating them with their specific responsibilities, and then writing this staffing information down in a safe place is critical to the ongoing sustainability of a digital project. Keeping such records is useful not only for clarifying the duties of current team members, but also for providing documentation that may be required by future project managers or custodians. Additionally, knowing who is on your team and what they are responsible for doing allows you to better control access to the various technical systems and project assets under your team’s control, allowing you to keep your project as open as you like, and yet as secure as is necessary.

In this module, identifying who is on your team and defining the overarching responsibilities of each team member is the main priority. In the next module (Module B2), you’ll be asked to think through the different parts of your project’s technological infrastructure and the sort of work it does for you. In the final module of this section (Module B3), you’ll do the more focused, granular work of mapping the responsibilities of the appropriate project members onto the ongoing technical requirements of those specific technologies.

The exercise we have designed for this module is aimed at pooling all of the institutional knowledge of the assembled group in order to produce the most inclusive and exhaustive list of project participants possible. From there you can, as a group, do the work of identifying and/or defining the specific roles and responsibilities for both the key team players as well as all of the other stakeholders.

All this said, it is sometimes hard to define who exactly is on “your team.” We would like you to think very broadly about this subject. You should include here everyone with a stake in your work. These stakeholders might range from your department or division heads to any user groups (as identified and discussed Module A3) that contribute directly to the project, say, via crowdsourcing. They can also include any corporate bodies that “do work” for your project such as Google, GitHub, web hosting services, or the like.

Once the exhaustive project team has been identified, it will be important to ask:

  • What are the precise responsibilities of each team member on the project?
  • How is each person funded?
  • How long is this funding (and/or assigned attention) expected to persist?

Institutional Partners

Note that is important to keep in mind that members of the project team can also be institutional partners and representatives of institutional infrastructure. To reveal these stakeholders, it is worth considering what aspects of the project are reliant on institutional support. For example, does the institution allow for administrative staff time to be spent on this project? Do they provide equipment, digital space for storage, or physical space for meetings or outreach? Are you relying on institutional IT service providers for your server space?

Institutional support can play a large role in how a project is run in both formal and informal ways, and is critical to call out this participation proactively. Doing so can help you avoid unnecessary sustainability pitfalls associated with loss of funding and institutional regime change. When you know where your support is, you can make contingency plans for its eventual evolution.

Extra-Institutional Partners

Also note that there are also possible members of your team that are not employed by your own institution. Frequent examples of this sort of team member might include collaborators from other institutions, collaborators who are independent contractors, external server space providers, and web-hosting services. Please consider everyone who contributes to the content, context, and structure of your project to be part of the team. They will all have critical information to contribute to your project and sustainability work to do.

Project Charters

When it comes to assigning roles to the members of your team, one common way to codify roles and work assignments within Digital Humanities projects is the Project Charter. The Project Charter is a guiding document generated (ideally) at the start of a project and is updated periodically. Indeed, you can take advantage of the three-year cycle of  the Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap to also refresh your Project Charter.

In its basic form, Project Charters generally include the project name and scope, the names and roles of project members, a timeline, and expected deliverables. It provides team members with an opportunity to explicitly think through and discuss aspects of project management and collaboration that are often implicit, and therefore can be easily forgotten. When maintained as a living document, the charter is an active reminder of project goals, priorities, and policies, and can be used to document how each of these changes over the course of the project from start to finish. For more on project charters, including templates and examples, see: Bethany Nowviskie’s Charter-ing a Path; Emory University’s Creating a Project Charter; Stewart Varner’s Project Charter; and the Digital Humanities Library Group Project Charter.

Additional Resources

“DHLG Project Charter.” University of Florida Developing Librarian. Accessed September 23, 2022..

Koeser, Rebecca Sutton. “Document ALL the Things!” The Center for Digital Humanities @ Princeton. October 12, 2019.

Leon, Sharon. “Project Management for Humanists: Preparing Future Primary Investigators.” Alt-Academy: A Media Commons Project. May 6, 2011.

Nowviskie, Bethany. “Charter-ing a Path.” Bethany Nowviskie. 2014.

Rodgers, Stephanie. “Creating a Project Charter.” PM4DH: Project Management for Digital Humanities. June 3, 2016.

Siemens, Lynn. “Project Management.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. 2020.

(Module last updated September 2022)

Next Module: Module B2: What is the technological infrastructure of the project?
Back to Section B Overview