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Project Owner – Should we keep using that term?

Working as a consultant / Advisor in project management, taught me we can use different terms to mean the same thing provided we set the right controls. Unfortunately, I have seen less controls than expected when terminology has been used in building PM systems, PM Methodologies’ and PM systems when describing terms like owners.  In my view duplication of the meanings is not any shortfalls from the English language, it is more about different perceptions of contexts we see as normally we look from different angles or perspectives. My rule of thumb is the lesser the ways a term can be understood when working in Project management, the better the outcome is, or at least the better we are using a common language.

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Some enterprises may call the project manager as the project owner, although both take up responsibilities towards their projects – Still in my view ownership is one side of the big world of management, so why are we underestimating? I believe we are more focusing on the willingness to take initiative, hence we call her a project owner. But this deep sense of responsibility if I may call, can also come from a responsible manager, why do we insist on using the owner term.

I went further and found some enterprises or organizations naming the following: Project owner, Risk owner, Process owner, and in some cases best practice owner. The usage of such terms in my view is more about a relevant title that carries a standing a little higher than the name, sometimes to offset the lack of compensation for being an owner, in other occasions just because no one made a point as why it shouldn’t be that way. I do appreciate ownership myself very much and do believe an owner is there to enhance a practice or a standard, still, I managed to weigh those privileges with the confusion or perhaps lesser clarities, in addition to the fact that ownership regardless of how long it could take will eventually come to an end, simply based on new realities, new technologies and because the definition of success of the ownership changed.

I would not be in favor of using the project owner’s term or using it, I think it is more about putting the right controls when we develop our procedures, and when we write our policies, so we have them less ambiguous and it all helps to make our lives become easier when we manage projects.

Yasar Ajlouni

Seasoned program management professional and engineering graduate since 1982 LIT USA •35 Plus years of experience, in several industries including Aviation, Military, Manufacturing, Utilities, Nuclear, and Real Estate •Retired Brigadier from the Royal Jordanian Air Force ( 1982-2006) •Masters Degree in Engineering from Kings College London 1993 •Have almost 10 Plus years in PMO experience in MENA, UAE, and KSA ( 2008-2020) •Serval Certifications including, PMP, MSP, PMOC, PMO VALUE RING CP, Certified Innovation Manager, Digital Business Transformation Management, Accredited Customer Experience Master, Foundational Certification in Agile Scrum. •Author of several PM articles •Speaker and a member of PMI Thought leadership Committee •Passionate Father for two engineers.