The success or failure of any project hinges on the ability of the project team to communicate and collaborate effectively. Clear roles help set clear expectations and contribute to a shared understanding of how things will get done. Given this, it’s no surprise that the RACI matrix pops up so frequently in project planning.
What is surprising, though, is how often RACI is constructed and/or stored in a way that fails to leverage and inform the entire team.
What is a RACI Matrix?
Before discussing the opportunities of this tool, let’s cover the basics. RACI is a role-responsibility mapping tool constructed in order to identify and communicate roles and how they relate to specific project tasks, stages or activity-types. By clearly identifying who has what level of involvement for the different parameters, an understanding of the expectations of each member and the rest of their team should be developed and maintained. When everyone understands what is expected of each member of the team, and how they contribute to the project success, members can focus on the timely completion of the appropriate, high-quality work. While it’s helpful for all teams, it can be especially effective in cross-functional projects where multiple departments are involved and users may not have worked together or even fully understand each others roles.
There are a number of variations on RACI (ex: RASCI, RACI-VS, RASIC, CAIRO), but the traditional RACI breaks roles down into:
- Responsible: The person who does the work to complete the task or activity.
- Accountable: The person who is accountable for the task or activity being completed correctly.
- Consulted: The people (usually more than one) who provide useful information that helps the project. This is a two-way communication flow.
- Informed: The people who are kept up to speed on the project. This is one-way communication
Example simple RACI matrix
The Process is the thing…
Like all tools, the RACI matrix has its strengths and weaknesses (and the number of RACI variations demonstrates both). The principal drawback, however, is the way in which it is implemented in many projects. Often a Project Manager, Project Sponsor, Business Analyst or a related role gains an understanding of the scope and approach of the project and creates a RACI matrix as part of the project documentation (Project Charter, Business Requirements Doc, etc). The RACI matrix is constructed, documented, and reviewed by a few team members and, frankly, may or may not be seen by all of the team members reflected on it. It may be referred to later, or it may collect dust in a document repository.
This is an approach that treats the RACI as a deliverable piece of documentation. Instead, constructing a RACI matrix is a tremendous opportunity for the team to collaborate and create a shared-understanding of their own roles and responsibilities.
In other words, the process is the thing! The project team RACI creation should produce an actual RACI-matrix, but it should be the output of the exercise. The matrix should be the representation of the agreement and understanding achieved through the process of creating the RACI matrix. The document is only important because it came out of the collaborative group discussion.
Don’t think of RACI as a destination. Think of it as an exercise.
The process of creating the RACI matrix should necessitate collaboration. It should include disagreement, clarification and maybe even negotiation. In short, it should be the discussion in which your team learns how it will collaborate and what the expectations are of each member.
As a tool that demonstrates how project teammates will work together, the RACI matrix is the perfect place to start re-thinking how you can create a truly collaborative team environment. Because if there are no “Ohhh” or “Aha!” moments as your project team constructs its own RACI matrix, then why bother creating a RACI matrix at all?
Jaeger Consulting Group specializes in end-to-end needs assessments and implementation plans for IT systems – starting with analysis and design through to the deployment and training – in order to meet and exceed client goals.