Responsibility Matrix (or RACI model): Why and How

Often challenged, the RACI is in fact just a list of “who does what”. It is a relatively elementary, yet powerful tool. It shows the degree of responsibility of all the persons involved in the project.

While the main critic to the RACI is that it takes too much time to compile (which in most cases is untrue), the real point is that it will clearly define the roles of different actors, leaving no doubts about the role of each of them.

A RACI is, basically, a matrix with tasks set as rows and names as columns headers. Each interception is filled with one of the following roles:

R for Responsible: The person(s) who must execute the task

A for Accountable: The task owner. The person who will oversee the task. Each task can have only one owner.

C for Consulted: All those who can provide information or advice to better perform the task or to handle exceptions or issues.

I for Informed: All those who are informed on the evolution of the task.

RACI matrix

There is an option to also include the S role, in which case we have an RASCI matrix. S stands for Supported – all those who deliver resources or material to the project.

RASCI matrix

Sometimes you can find the combinations. For example, we can have A/R which means that the task owner is also one of those who will perform the task.

While it’s possible to find other combinations like A/C, C/I, C/S or I/S, I would suggest not to use them since, at the end of the day, they don’t make much sense. For example, if you are Accountable (A), it is only natural that you are Consulted (C) since you will be the one taking the decisions. By the same token, if you are Consulted (C) you will automatically be Informed (I).

You can leave some intersections blank, meaning that the person is not involved in the task.

A, R, C and I should always receive the information on the ongoing task.

Why Do We Need It?

The main function of the Responsibility Matrix is to define:

  • Who is in the project
  • What is the role of each person on the task level
  • Act as a reference for any actor external to the project

You must be sure that every person that has a role in the project is mentioned in the RACI. By doing so, you can easily avoid misunderstandings about what’s expected from each actor. It will also be useful in case of replacement of one of the team members.

A more complex model may include a “Who is Who” part with information on each actor such as:

  • Name
  • Function
  • Manager
  • Company or Department
  • Contact (mail address and/or telephone)
  • Location or Time Zone
  • Start and End Date of availability for the project
  • Specific Skills or Competencies

or even several RACI matrices for different stages of the project.

You can use this approach on a complex project with international teams, several suppliers, evolving teams or any other case that the situation is not easily summarised.

How to Create the RACI Matrix

Using the RACI model will help you define the task owner (Accountable) and, by doing so, there will be no misunderstanding on who will have the lead on this task.

For complex, structured activities I suggest either to have a separate RACI, considering the activity a sub-project, or to keep it simple and assign the task to the project manager or the team leader of this specific part.

If the main activity is development, a good approach consists of having a Team Leader with A/R and the rest of the developing team with S making no distinctions. This will simplify the RACI and allow load balancing inside the team. In some cases, it may also help to avoid conflicts between team members by keeping everyone in the same role.

In many cases, Project Managers use Job Title or Role instead of the name of the person. To be honest I am really against this practice.

There are many reasons for this. First of all, there is the psychological effect. Having people’s names on the document instead of just job titles creates a different level of involvement.

Also in many companies, people have different roles that are not reflected in their job title. If Mark is doing both analysis and development does it fall under the Analyst or the Developer column?

In addition, if the HW installation team is composed of three different persons it may be confusing to have only one column for all of them.

Of course, in some cases, this will not be possible. Then it would be better to assign the task to the manager or team leader and have the team as S. It will then fall to the respective management to organise the work.

In conclusion, the RACI model is an excellent communication tool, both inside and outside the project itself, and once established, it can be applied not only to project but also to all the activities or processes inside the company.

The greatest challenge you can come across using this tool is having to explain this to those who are facing the RACI for the first time. But once this is done, you will find out that it’s easy to create and apply it.

You can download a template both in Excel format from our site.

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