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How a RACI Matrix Can Help Your Project Succeed

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? If so, a RACI matrix for your project might be overdue.

  • ‘My primary stakeholder approved all of the requirements, but now the project sponsor doesn’t agree with what we implemented.’ 
  • ‘I elicited requirements from a large pool of stakeholders and now I can’t get anyone to take ownership of signing off on the documentation.’
  • ‘Development has informed me, after requirements have been signed-off, that one of the requirements that I documented cannot be implemented.’
  • ‘Several of my project’s requirements have not been implemented and a project deadline is coming up.  The developer who was working on those requirements says he doesn’t have time to finish them.’

What is a RACI Matrix?

A RACI matrix is 2-dimensional model that shows how each person in a project role is involved with each project activity. Those labels can be thought of as:

  • R: Responsible - Who will actually be performing this task
  • A: Accountable - Who is ‘on the hook’ for this task?  Who will be called on to answer for it if this activity is missed?
  • C: Contributing (or Consulted) - Who can provide the information needed about this task?
  • I: Informed - Whose work is dependent on having the information that is generated from this activity?

A portion of a sample RACI matrix has been reproduced below:

 

As you can see, this simple, color-coded matrix provides a very clear visual representation of how each role (and the person associated with that role) is expected to interact with the project deliverables.  It also provides a clear depiction of the involvement required from each role to complete each activity.  

Creating the RACI Matrix

To create a RACI matrix, first identify and document all of the critical deliverables for your project.  Deliverables should be represented as columns in your matrix.  These may include concrete deliverables such as documentation or pieces of functionality, but can also be expanded to include the delivery of meetings or decisions that are integral to project completion.  The deliverables included should span the entire project including the Planning, Design, Implementation and Support phases. 

Second, identify all of the roles that are represented on your project.  If your project is being managed by a project manager, they will likely be able to provide you with this information.  In having documented the critical deliverables above, however, you may also identify some project activities for which a role has not been assigned.  Be sure to add those roles to the matrix and raise those issues to your project manager.  After all of the roles have been identified and added as rows in the matrix, it’s a good idea to add the names of the resources who will fill those roles.  Generally, each role should match to a single resource to allow for clear delineation of responsibilities.

Finally, assign a value (R, A, C, or I) to the intersection of each role and deliverable to signify how the resource in that role is expected to interact with that particular activity.  Not every role will have an interaction with every deliverable.  However, it’s important to take care when assigning the interaction levels so as not to overlook places where information dependencies exist.  For example, while it might not be obvious that a Designer would need to be Consulted about a technical specification, changes to the way technology is deployed for a given implementation can have a substantial impact on how information is displayed.  

Analyzing the Matrix

Once your RACI matrix has been completed, it’s time to begin using it as a tool to ensure your project’s success.  Analyzing the contents of the matrix will likely uncover potential questions or issues that should be addressed.  Analysis of the matrix should be a collaborative exercise amongst your team in order to get the discussion started in the right direction and encourage a greater level of commitment from everyone involved.  You’ll want to review the matrix both vertically and horizontally to check for ambiguities and potential issues.

In looking across each row of the matrix, you may identify spaces where:

  • A single role has a large number of Rs.  You may need to consider whether or not it’s possible for an individual to be responsible for so much.   Should additional resources be assigned to the project?  Can these responsibilities be broken down into more manageable tasks?
  • One role has no Rs or As.  Is this role really necessary?  Could processes be restructured in such a way that this resource could be reassigned?
  • All of the As for the project seem to be relegated to one resource.  Is there a risk for a project bottleneck there?  Can any of the decision-making authority for the project be delegated elsewhere?

In looking down each column of the matrix, you may identify spaces where:

  • No R’s have been assigned.  Who is going to do this work?  Is it important enough to remain on the matrix?
  • No A’s have been assigned.  The buck has to stop somewhere for this activity…someone must be accountable.
  • A’s have been assigned to multiple roles.  Are there too many cooks in the kitchen for this task?  Ideally, only one resource should be truly accountable for each activity.  Each resource who is assigned an A on any activity will believe that they have the final say for that task. 
  • Too many C’s.  Are there representatives who could just as easily speak for a large group on this task?  Having a large number of contributors to any one task will definitely slow down your progress. 
  • Numerous I’s/Every row filled in.  Does everyone really need to be involved in this task?  Or are you just trying to cover all your bases by keeping everyone informed.   While it is important to keep project resources in the loop where necessary, it’s not possible for everyone to give appropriate attention to every activity.  Prioritize what folks need to be informed about so that they can be attentive when it's important.

The Value of Applying a RACI Matrix

Having created and analyzed your RACI matrix, you’ll be able to move forward with resolving any of the issues that you discovered.  In doing so, you’ll reduce risk and set expectations correctly amongst your team.  Completed early in a project, a RACI matrix can be very valuable in:

  1. Ensuring that key processes within a project are not overlooked
  2. Guaranteeing that each project process is appropriately staffed
  3. Confirming that all project players have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities
  4. Guarding against overloading any one resource on a project, and
  5. Ensuring that, in the event of turnover, project responsibilities can be quickly and effectively redistributed to a new resource.

A RACI chart is a fairly simple tool that can be employed easily and quickly.  The results of making the effort to complete one, however, can alleviate the kinds of problems that were identified at the beginning of this post as well as many others.

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