Right People
Right Places
Right Results

Building A RACI Matrix To Support A Fruitful Project Plan

At the crux of any successful strategy or implementation lies a solid project plan. Behind that solid project plan must be the right number of people in the right places doing the right functions. Using a RACI matrix helps a company determine the appropriate roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the plan to ensure optimal productivity and results without overlap or duplicated efforts.

Having a comprehensive and detailed plan is an essential element for a successful project implementation, but one facet is often missing: clarity of participant roles and responsibilities. Omission or confusion around roles and responsibilities is a frequent cause of delayed or failed projects. Addressing roles and responsibilities is also a critical success factor for projects where the ultimate goal is improving processes for the organization itself. Often, there is no shared understanding of participant roles and responsibilities, and no documentation to support it.

There are at least three circumstances to analyze responsibility assignment to better understand roles and responsibilities and ensure the right people are in the right positions, including:

Sample Initial RACI Matrix

Looking at an example RACI matrix, what observations can be made about the project’s participants and tasks that, left uncorrected, would jeopardize successful project execution?

  1. Examining work processes, both the current state (“as is”) and the future state (“to be”),
  2. Conducting a departmental assessment (reviewing roles within a specific department),
  3. Performing individual assessments (evaluating individual team members on a project).

A simple and effective method to define and document roles and responsibilities is a responsibility assignment matrix, often known as a RACI matrix (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed).

The RACI Matrix

A RACI matrix assigns individuals (or depending on context, entire teams or departments) to tasks/deliverables, resulting in a two-dimensional representation. The roles are characterized as:

  • Responsible “doer” — Those who do the work to complete the task; there is at least one responsible role per task.
  • Accountable “owner” — Those ultimately responsible for the completion of the task, typically having decision authority and the ability to assign or delegate work to the responsible roles. There should only be one accountable role per task.
  • Consulted “in the loop” — Key stakeholders who should be included in decision-making or work activity.
  • Informed “in the picture” — Those who need to know about decisions or actions.

In terms of a RACI matrix, the roles (often from organizational charts) are typically on the horizontal axis, and the tasks/ deliverables (often from a work-breakdown structure or product-breakdown structure) reside on the vertical axis.

Once the roles and tasks deliverables are entered into the matrix format, using R, A, C and I accordingly, each cell of the matrix where more than one role can be assigned should also be filled in with R, A, C and/ or I. This step can be done independently, with individual participant interviews, or via brainstorming sessions with one or more participants. While the initial method will be a result of the particular project needs, the final matrix must be the result of collaboration with all participants.

Once the matrix is initially populated, potential issues will become apparent with the patterns of Rs, As, Cs and Is in the rows and columns.

Vertical Analysis: The Participant
Observation Potential Reason
Lots of Rs Can the participant (the business analyst in the RACI matrix) manage the workload?
No empty spaces Does the participant need to be involved in so many tasks? (Looking at the RACI matrix, perhaps the business subject matter expert and software engineer can be prudently involved in fewer tasks.)
Too many As Who is the one individual most suited to assume the “accountable” role?
No Rs or As Can this participant be reassigned or eliminated?
Overall pattern Does it fit or conflict with the participant’s style or expectations (i.e., too much or too little involvement)? (The project owner may want to be consulted on tasks 2 through 7 in the RACI matrix, not just informed.)
Horizontal Analysis: Tasks/Deliverables
Observation Potential Reason
Lots of Rs Can the participant (the business analyst in the RACI matrix) manage the workload?
Lots of Cs Does the participant need to be involved in so many tasks? (Looking at the RACI matrix, perhaps the business subject matter expert and software engineer can be prudently involved in fewer tasks.)
Lots of Is Who is the one individual most suited to assume the “accountable” role?
No Rs Can this participant be reassigned or eliminated?
No As No accountability — there should be a single accountable role per task/deliverable. (Looking at the RACI matrix, one would expect the project manager to be accountable for tasks 2 through 7, with overall project accountability assumed by the project owner.)
No Cs or Is Are participants in silos? Is there a general lack of information exchange?

If issues exist like those above, it is time to re-engage with participants to resolve and rebalance roles and tasks as necessary. It is critical that a consensus is reached for both roles/participants and tasks/deliverables. Overall completing and gaining consensus on a RACI matrix for a project contributes to:

  • Ensuring all or key tasks/deliverables are identified and prioritized,
  • Confirming that all tasks are sufficiently staffed,
  • Ensuring all participants are aware of their roles and responsibilities for the project,
  • Preventing overuse of any participant,
  • Ensuring roles and responsibilities are well defined should a participant need to be replaced in the middle of a project.

There is no need to “force fit” a project to a strict RACI model. There are quite a few closely related variations that may be more appropriate for specific projects. These include roles for support, control, suggesting, quality review and out-of-the-loop (or omitted), among others. There is a wealth of information available to guide an airline in deciding which version is best suited for its requirements.

Bottom line, the most successful projects are those that implement a RACI matrix. In addition to providing a solid form of organization, it helps ensure efficiency throughout a project and imparts a successfully completed project.