Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI Matrix)
Developed by Charles-Henri Orson Flavien Gayot
A Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), also known as RACI matrix or ARCI matrix or linear responsibility chart (LRC), is a project management tool mainly used to define the roles and the responsibilities in a very simple and straightforward way for each task of a project. It is used to have an overview of the projects (or processes) which require cross-collaboration with multiple departments. The output is a matrix presenting the different tasks on the first column, every participant in the project on the first line then for each task, each participant is given a status. It is fast and easy to use, and is perfectly suitable for group work at university. An RAM template and example will be provided to gain a deep understanding and will describe the project management simulation the class participated in.
Existing problems in PM
In projects, members do not necessarily knows the tasks and responsibilities of one another, either due to a poor management, to an unusual project, to when teams are allowed to self-organize, etc.
The problem at hand is that people either do not work together, share knowledge or have responsibilities to deliver a task. It is indeed frequent to assume that somebody else is taking care of a particular task or work, which is not the case in reality.
In addition, pointing fingers and blaming afterwards for a task that is not properly done is unfortunately common.
The more complex, time-sensitive or mission-critical is a project, the more worthy it is to take the time to think through the roles that the team members must play in every task that the team undertakes. It is worthy too when team members have not collaborated before, either in an academic context or in the case of a cross-functional collaboration.
If not everything is clear for everyone, there will most likely be gaps, duplication and confusion. As a result, working in the team will become frustrating and inefficient. In brief, the main problems the RACI matrix aims to solve are poor performance of a team due to unclear responsibilities and accountabilities and poor teammate communication.
Use and Examples
The most commonly used responsibility assignment matrix is the RACI matrix. RACI stands for the four keys:
- That has to do the task (Compulsory)
- That is ultimately answerable for the work, that has authority for delegating the "Responsibles" (Compulsory, only one)
- That can be consulted if necessary (typically experts), with who a "two-way" communication is needed.
- That need to be keep up-to-date on progress, with who a "one-way" communication is needed.
Using a RAM
Below is an example of a RAM.
On the first column, all the tasks are listed, according to the former division according to the Work Breakdown Structure or a similar method. Thus, a RACI matrix can be used locally on a small branch of the WBS, which is useful for local communication and assignments, or globally which enable to check the integrity of the roles all over the project. On the first row, there are the names or the job positions (depending on the style of management) of everybody involved in accomplishing the stated tasks. In the table, we find the initial for the level of involvement and accountability of every one, for every task to be done. For example, for the task “manage activities”:
- Louis is Accountable, ultimately responsible for the achievement of the task.
- Edvinas is Responsible, helping Louis to achieve the task.
- Gaëtan is Consultant, because he is accountable on a task directly linked to Activities, so a permanent consultation, a two-way communication is needed.
- Charles and Elektra are Informed about the status of the task
Downloading the template
To create your own RACI matrix/RAM, just download this template, which provide a few improvements compared a basic matrix done by hand. You can download this Excel spreadsheet here: RACI Matrix Template
Using the template
- Step 1
Once downloaded and opened, the first sheet is called “Start Here”. A table like this should appear:
From there, fill out the “Name or Job Function” column with everyone involved in the project. Once done, choose the “Levels of Responsibilities”. By default, it is R,A,C,I but it is meant to be flexible to fit the management style of the company, see Alternatives. You can also type a quick description of what each letter stands for, so that anyone can understand right away what every letter and role means. This is important, as the matrix is a tool intended for everyone in the team, not only managers.
- Step 2
- Go to the “RAM | RACI matrix “sheet and develop a complete list of task and deliverables for the project. It should be the same breakdown than the one in the WBS (if any). Enter them in the first column.
- Step 3
- Discuss with all team members how they will contribute to each project deliverables.
- For each of their assignments, discuss the level of their responsibility and authority, as well as the specific work they will perform. Also, discuss with them the dependency and required interactions with others to achieve their activities. If doing so reveal some people that are connected to the project, add them now. If it reveal some dependency toward a unidentified service, ask people with similar experiences.
- Step 4
- Prepare an initial draft of the RAM.
- On your RAM, fill the cells formed by the intersection of each row and column, enter the roles for each person (based on the earlier discussions your team). The template offers a drop-down menu to select roles to make it easier.
- Step 5
- Have the people whom you consulted in Step 3 review and approve the draft chart.
- If people agree with the chart, It is recommanded to make them sign as a final approval. If they express concerns about some aspects, ask them to note their concerns.
- Step 5 bis
- In case of some team members not approving the draft chart, revise the matrix to address their concerns.
- For any changes to the RAM, get the approval of all your team members, particularly if they already approved a prior version.
- Step 6
- Go back to Step 5 and continue the process until everyone you consulted in Step 3 approves the chart.
- When approved by everyone, the responsibility assignment matrix is finished and will be shared with all participants. It is useful to pin it on the shared project board.
- Step 7
- If changes occur during the project, update the matrix and go back to Step 5.
- A few checks before validation
- At least one person must be assigned for “R” and “A” roles. If the task is simple though, there is no need of an “A” role.
- Only one person can be assigned as “A”. Responsibilities can be shared but accountabilities have to be unique. This is all the more relevant when this organization chart is flat, which is quite often in Denmark, because the direct supervisor might not be aware of the task.
- If there are many people in the “C” category, figure out if all of them need to be in the loop. Consider moving some of them to the “I” category. Also keep the “I” category to a minimum to reduce e-mail (or Slack) spamming.
Complex projects and Hierarchy of RAM
For complex projects, the RAM will be quite large because of the number of people involved. As a result, the identification of new and former participants and the constant update of the matrix will take a lot of time. However, a wrong RAM will result in overlooked activities and duplicated efforts.
To solve this issue, many companies use a hierarchy of charts when the same RAM contain more than 50 activities. This hierarchy starts with a high-level matrix that identifies the roles for higher-level components in the Work Breakdown Structure (for example, project phases or major deliverables). The sub-levels develop separate charts for lower-level deliverables and work packages.
Using the game simulation as an example
In the provided template, the example taken is the one from the simulation game run in class at the beginning of the semester. For those who have not done it, here is the game in brief. It was a project management simulation on a turn-per-turn model for the construction of new offices. Each team had to build their offices by ordering procurement, hiring, laying off, allocating and deallocating workers, taking and refunding a loan while being affected by external events. The final score is then calculated according to the profit made, the initial bid and the rapidity of the project execution. Every turn had a limited time therefore, being organized was compulsory.
To optimize the process of each turn (it is interesting to notice how a turn look like an increment in an agile system in many aspects), the group distributed the tasks during a preparation meeting during which everyone agreed on the tasks to be done and how to split them. That is the moment where we filled out the RACI matrix.
In preparation for the beginning of the simulation game, the team members had to review what they had to do and master before the game starts. The RACI matrix gave that information right away, it was represented by the “R” and “A”
During the game, it was used to see who to consult when to take decisions that would affect multiple parties. That created a smooth controlling framework that enabled fast decision-making, which was the core of the game. For instance:
- ”Entering the consultancy cost if needed” is a very simple task. It does not include three members of the group. However, Elektra is accountable for it (and automatically responsible for doing it) and Charles is kept informed because he needs to know the available money to be able to act for the “Defining when a loan is repaid” task. Nevertheless, he is not Consulted, because he cannot bring any information to Elektra about this topic.
- ”Defining loan value” is another interesting task. Charles is ultimately responsible for guaranteeing there is the right amount of money in the bank account. However, the partial amounts calculations are made by Louis, Gaetan and Edvinas, who are responsible for providing the right figures. The final decision is then up to Charles who will conclude this action.
At the end of the game, it could have been used to review the performances of each team member.
Alternatives and Variations
A responsibility assignment matrix is a tool designed to fit every project, so multiple alternatives exist to answer the need of the project manager to either fit the company management culture around projects or simply to grasp the complexity or the specificities of a project.
When nothing is specified for a role, it is equivalent to the initial RACI meaning. Here are a few relevant alternatives .
- This is a version designed for organizations where multiple stakeholders have a right to review and veto the progress of the activities, due to the collaborative nature of the culture.
- The equivalent of Responsible
- Person reviewing the result of the activity (other than the Accountable). He or she has a right of veto; his or her advice is binding.
- Person consulted to give advice based upon recognized expertise. The advice is non-binding.
This alternative splits the Consulted as Control and Suggest to separate the impact of each participant, binding or non-binding.
- Sometimes known as RASIC'', it adds a level of hierarchy within the Responsible, by splitting them into :
- Person responsible for the task as it was envisioned by the Accountable.
- Person allocated to the Responsible. Contrary to Consulted, who only provide input, support help the accomplishment of the task.
Its use is relevant for complex projects where creating a hierarchy of chart is necessary or for very hierarchic companies. However, its use deviate from the original goal of the matrix, which aimed to erase barriers between hierarchy levels to improve communication. In this alternative, the mix of hierarchy and consultancy can create unproductive situations.
- This is alternative version  is more result-oriented and replaces the Consulted with:
- Person which plays a supporting role in the realisation of the task.
It is a mix between the previous alternative and the original RACI. It is useful in big organizations that require another level of hierarchy in the matrix, but this matrix is detrimental to the communication as the Consulted role is gone.
- This is an expanded version of the standard RACI, with an additional participation type:
- Quality Review
- Person who checks whether the product meets the quality requirements.
This matrix can be relevant for processes and production, but can be very useful in lean companies that have switched to short iteration development cycle, in particular for software-based companies where code quality can be reviewed.
- This is an expanded version, adding two roles:
- Person who checks whether the product meets the acceptance criteria of the product description.
- Person who ultimately approves the verify decision and authorize the group of task completion.
This matrix is relevant in case of bureaucratic organisations or industries with high requirement degrees (defence, medicine…), where the traceability of every development and the compliance with regulation are fundamental.
- This variation is made to clarify decision making.
- Person conducting the task, able to re-open closed discussions and have the ability to find resources.
- Equivalent of Accountable
- Equivalent of Responsible, can work on a task but cannot re-open a discussion.
This matrix is relevant in a context where power is split among many stakeholders in order to avoid conflicts to rise.
- Another variation, made by Bain & Company.is RAPID®.
- Person helping with the decision-making around the task.
- Person, that has to validate the task at the end, useful for situations where some form of regulatory sign-off is required (cf. RACI-VS). Have to be consulted during the task completion.
- Equivalent of Responsible.
- Person that can help by giving inputs.
- Equivalent of Accountable.
This alternative is quite different from the others as it is designed for higher-level tasks or group of several tasks. However, it lists quite well all the available resources and how they can be used.
- Another tool used in organisation design or roles analysis.
- Equivalent of Accountable
- Equivalent of Signatory, ultimate control the task.
- Equivalent of Responsible
- Person who can help with the task.
This matrix is used to reflect the hierarchy but is detrimental of communication.
- This alternative is made to put into writing who has the decision power.
- Person authorized to approve an answer to the decision.
- Person responsible for recommending an answer to the decision.
Such a matrix is useful for high-level program management where responsibilities and roles are often unclear when the organisation organigram is flat.
The alternatives presented a different set of use for the RAM. It is true that a RACI matrix is a hybrid tool that presents elements of communication mixed with elements of hierarchy and responsibilities. Therefore, it is sometimes seen as a catchall tool. The variations are mainly about putting the emphasis on one or the other, either giving a focus on clearer communication or giving a focus on hierarchy definition and resource allocation. That is why a RACI matrix cannot replace basic organisation tools as an organigram and has to be used as a complement, easily understandable and quick to use, by team members.
Another concern is about updating the matrix. Not keeping up-to-date such a matrix can have disastrous consequences upon the projects if workers rely on it to determine their work plans.
Finally, the few level of detail provided by the matrix can be a problem in complex projects in which a lot of person can be consulted or in organisation with both functional and project managers whose authority in the project depend on this matrix and can have conflicting roles when referred to the matrix.
In a nutshell, a few reasons of using a RAM are:
- It lets the organisation know if some people are assigned with too many or too few responsibilities.
- It keeps everybody on the same page on who is accountable for a particular task.
- Keeps all the necessary people in the loop and reduces miscommunications.
- It helps you optimizing communication system to keep those in the “I” category informed (through email or IM), while involving only those in the “C” categories for meetings and interactive communication
When working in team of pairs, like in academic group work, this tool is useful to put everyone in front of their responsibility without the need of a team leader.
In conclusion, RACI matrix is a great project management tool that aims to improve efficiency within the team and helps getting the tasks done faster through pertinent responsibilities, clear process of task resolution, intelligent communication and relevant interactions.
- ↑ Bachelet, Remi. " Conception et planification de projet : outils avancés", Ecole Centrale de Lille, 19 September 2015. Retrieved on 22 September 2015.
- ↑ Gyani, Swapnil. " Benefits of Using the RACI-ARCI Matrix in Project Management ", PM Hut, 17 October 2008. Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
- ↑ Portny, Stanley E. " How to Develop a Responsibility Assignment Matrix", Dummies Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
- ↑ " Responsibility assignment matrix ", Wikipedia.org. Retrieved on 10 September 2015.
- ↑ Hightower, Rose (2008). Internal controls policies and procedures , p. 83. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-470-28717-9.
- ↑ Mikes, Joe . " Continuous Improvement Training ", LCE Training, 2011.
- ↑ Kendrick, Tom (2006). “Results without authority: controlling a project when the team doesn't report to you.” AMACOM Books, division of the American Management Association. p.108 ISBN 0-8144-7343-1.
- ↑ Viswanathan, Balaji. " Understanding Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI Matrix) ", project-management.com, 8 April 2015. Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
↑ Bachelet, Remi. " Conception et planification de projet : outils avancés", Ecole Centrale de Lille, 19 September 2015. Retrieved on 22 September 2015.
A online course made by my former engineering School which present the basics tool of project management. We then used this tool on our 2-year-long project. It made me discover the RACI matrix two years ago.
↑ Gyani, Swapnil. " Benefits of Using the RACI-ARCI Matrix in Project Management ", PM Hut, 17 October 2008. Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
A website dedicated to project management where the author wrote very concise articles about the RAM. A good starting point for my research because the website provide a relevant overview of the important points when creating a RACI matrix.
↑ Portny, Stanley E. " How to Develop a Responsibility Assignment Matrix", Dummies Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
A very good point-by-point method to set-up a RACI matrix.
↑ " Responsibility assignment matrix ", Wikipedia.org. Retrieved on 10 September 2015.
This article provided a relevant set of alternatives to pick from in order to present the best RAM alternatives to the RACI matrix.
↑ Hightower, Rose (2008). Internal controls policies and procedures , p. 83. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-470-28717-9.
A 288 page book about how to set up relevant control policies in a company. Even though this book is completed oriented towards procedures, it presents the RASCI matrix and provide an example based on the overall company (instead of one project), which shows the flexibility of the RACI matrix.
↑ Mikes, Joe . " Continuous Improvement Training ", LCE Training, 2011.
The website explaining thoughtfully the RASI matrix using a production system.
↑ Kendrick, Tom (2006). “ Results without authority: controlling a project when the team doesn't report to you.” AMACOM Books, division of the American Management Association. ISBN 0-8144-7343-1.
A very interesting management book all about managing people when you do not have a formal authority on them (which is relevant in the case of academic group work, and make the book a must-read for students). The matrix has been adapted to this context.
↑ Viswanathan, Balaji. " Understanding Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI Matrix) ", project-management.com, 8 April 2015. Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
A website providing a few basic information on the RACI matrix.