The RACI Management Model
When setting up a new PMO, you start by understanding the needs of the business. Then, you meet the stakeholders and whiteboard your way through several reams of sticky notes. Finally, you get to an understanding of WHY the PMO is needed and WHAT problems it will solve.
But what happens next can be tricky. Even with a shared vision, there can be confusion about who will do the work, who will be accountable for the work, and who we need to talk to to get things moving. Fortunately, we have a management model for that, and it’s called a RACI chart or sometimes a RACI matrix.
What is a RACI Matrix?
The RACI matrix is a chart that maps out the activities and decisions involved in a project. The chart helps everyone understand roles and responsibilities. The RACI lays out clearly which positions or people are Responsible for each item, which are Accountable, and who, if anyone, needs to be Consulted or Informed. As you probably already guessed, the acronym RACI comprises the four roles that can be assigned in the matrix.
The RACI matrix is sometimes referred to as a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (usually by PMI in their PMBoK guide) and even less frequently as a Linear Responsibility Chart.
What are the four RACI roles?
RACI defined four roles that those involved in a process or task can undertake:
- Responsible: In the RACI definition, this is the role or individual who will do the work required to complete the task or decide. Several positions or people can be jointly responsible.
- Accountable: Best practice dictates that only one stakeholder is deemed Accountable for a piece of work. This is usually the ‘owner’ of the work and will typically be the individual that signs off on the completion of the work. Someone can be both Responsible and Accountable.
- Consulted: Working on a solution with blinkers on is never a good idea. Our Consulted stakeholders need to provide input into the process before the work can be signed off or before a decision is made.
- Informed: Our informed stakeholders also need to know what is going on. However, they are provided with updates and outcomes rather than being active participants in the process.
Why are RACI models used?
A RACI chart has several benefits. The most obvious is the clarity it brings. During project planning, it is common to pull together a list of activities that need to be completed and decisions that need to be made. Often we will put the name of an individual or team against each one. But often, even this assignment is insufficient. Frequently when PMOs fail or projects go into the red, it is because there has been confusion around the roles that people are playing. Successful projects use RACI to help identify roles and reduce the risk of role confusion. Confusion around RACI can result in:
- No one actually doing the work.
- People completing work that has no apparent business owner.
- Individuals making decisions without having the correct authority to make them
- Teams wasting time consulting with people who don’t need to be consulted
- Confusion over who is doing what
- Duplication of effort as different functions overlap
As well as being a good tool for project planning and decision-making, they are also helpful for project turnarounds and for defining the responsibilities of different types of PMO in a project organization. For projects hitting the buffers, drawing up a RACI chart can have an immediate positive impact by clarifying who should be doing what. And nothing inspires progress more than seeing your name in big letters as the person who is Accountable for success and Responsible for delivery! Assigning clear roles and responsibilities is an essential part of project management, and the RACI model is a simple, industry-standard way of presenting the data.
RACI charts can be used on all projects and are just as valuable for agile project management as in traditional project frameworks.
How to create a RACI Matrix
The excellent news about RACI models is that they are simple to produce! There is no need for fancy RACI project management software. All you need is Excel or your favorite spreadsheet tool. You can use the built-in tables feature to create your own template.
There are five steps to creating a RACI matrix:
- Identify the tasks that need to be completed and the decisions that need to be made. Each project task should be listed in the first column in your chart in order of completion.
- Identify the key stakeholder groups or individuals and add them as a header row at the top of your chart.
- Populate the grid by identifying who has responsibility and accountability for a specific task or decision and then considering which stakeholders need to be consulted or informed.
- Ensure each row has at least one person responsible for completing the task and only one accountable person for each particular task.
- Communicate your RACI to the team and stakeholders. There is no point in having a well-crafted RACI if it festers on your laptop or in the draw of your pedestal!
Where Portfolio Project Manager software is used within the organization, this project management software will almost certainly have some functionality for including RACI information and making this visible to your key stakeholders.
Here are a couple of examples to bring the RACI model to life.
Imagine going on a family holiday. Mum, Dad, and two kids. Because Mum is a project manager, she has decided to create a RACI. The family needs to complete five tasks before leaving the house. These are added to the table, and the three ‘roles’ are added as column headings. With the RACI model communicated to all family members, there can be no doubt about who is accountable for each task. However, we can see that for several jobs, the parents have decided to separate responsibility from accountability, with one parent completing the activity and the other checking and ‘signing off.’
We can infer from the chart that the children are young. The parents do not consult the children on the accommodation – they are ‘informed’ of the choice of accommodation. Passports are not a young child’s concern, so the box for this task is blank.
The children have been given some responsibility, though – they get to select their toys and load them into the car for the journey. It is clear, though, that Mum has to be consulted while they make their choices. Finally, we see that Dad is ultimately responsible for the loading of the toys because, in this scenario, he will be driving the car and will be the person who suffers the most if the wrong toys are selected (too noisy!) or if the toys are not loaded at all (restless, bored children).
PMO roll-up reporting
This example shows a PMO operating within a portfolio management environment. The PMO offers a Rollup Reporting service where project reports are collated and checked, ready for circulation. We see clearly that the PMO is accountable and responsible for collating the reports, combining data, and providing feedback on the report content. The good news for the program and portfolio managers is that, as Informed parties, they do not play an active part in the process. However, the project managers remain engaged and are consulted by the PMO during collation and the combining data phases. This is important to ensure the meaning is not lost and the result conveys the messaging that was initially intended.
One-way vs. Two-way communication
When creating a RACI chart, there can often be lots of debate about the Accountable and Responsible roles. So much so that the other roles are sometimes filled in rapidly as an afterthought. But failing to give these two roles the right level of attention can create serious problems.
The big difference between the Informed and Consulted classifications is whether we need one-way or two-way communication. Time is a valuable commodity, and getting this classification wrong can rapidly burn away time. Have you ever been in one of those meetings where everyone has an opinion, but no one actually makes a decision? Chances are, some people with views did not need to be consulted and could have been informed of the outcome. Not only would this have made the meeting smaller, but it would also have probably resulted in a faster outcome. Identifying the right people to consult saves the project and the organization time and money.
In some environments, regulation plays a part. For example, legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley or GDPR may require that project teams consult with assurance and legal teams. RACI charts can help project teams understand when to engage lawyers to ensure correct guidance is followed. Governance teams can help reduce such risks by providing RACI charts for common scenarios to project managers at the start of their projects, allowing them to project plan accordingly. However, everyone must understand the difference between consulting (requiring two-way communication with a legal team with time allocated to discuss and agree) and informing (where one-way communication is provided – often after an outcome has been reached).
RACI matrices are a helpful tool for project management. But some organizations use other variants to meet their needs. The RASCI is a common alternative. RASCI adds an additional category: Supporting. Stakeholders defined as ‘supporting’ are those who deliver input that can help the responsible body drive the milestone to completion.
Here are some other variants that we have seen used:
- RAPID: Recommend; Agree; Perform; Input; Decide
- DACI: Driver; Approver; Contributor; Informed
- RACIQ: A standard RACI, with an additional category identifying the responsible parties for quality assurance
- The RASCI Model: Responsible; Accountable; Supporting; Consulted; Informed. The extra role focuses on roles that support the responsible person.
- RACI + F: (See Applying RACI in Agile environments below)
Applying RACI in Agile environments
The use of RACI in Agile environments is surprisingly contentious. Arguments against using RACI focus mainly on the idea that teams are jointly responsible and accountable in agile, therefore the responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). However, this argument does not hold, as most agile approaches, including Scrum and XP, have defined roles, and accountability varies between the roles. Furthermore, having clear responsibilities linked to specific functions is not usually an impediment to teams – the opposite often holds. The other argument is that using a RACI template is too rigid and can impose a forced structure on a team, which hampers creativity.
In our experience introducing a RAM in agile environments can be helpful when there is confusion over who the accountable party is for an activity. A lack of clarity around roles and responsibility is just as likely in an agile environment as any other. Where problems exist, producing and getting buy-in for a clear responsibility assignment matrix can help subject matter experts see clearly where responsibilities lie and who is accountable for each activity.
Christophe Le Coent proposed the RACI + F model in an article published at scrumalliance.org in 2012. Sadly the paper no longer seems to be available. Coent argued that adding the role of Facilitator to the model recognized the importance of facilitation and coaching in agile. This approach has merit as it allows the role of the coach and scrum master to be better articulated and understood. Coent also advocated a collaborative approach to building the RACI + F matrix, pointing out that such a collaborative approach was in line with the Agile Manifesto value of “individuals and interactions over process and tools.” While the matrix is a tool, its value becomes apparent when individuals collaborate to shape the model and agree on how they will interact to achieve outcomes.
A common pitfall is for a project manager to define a raci diagram and set it in stone. This approach is not appropriate in an agile context, where a high level of involvement from the team is expected. Indeed, such an approach would be destined to fail in most settings, even outside of agile software development settings.
Top Tips for a successful RACI
We all know that a well-crafted RACI can be a thing of beauty. But that is not enough. Like the majority of project artifacts, they need to be communicated widely and reviewed regularly. So here are our top tips for ensuring your RACI leads you on a project and PMO success journey.
Are the right people accountable?
Check your matrix carefully and review it with others around the organization. Nothing is more frustrating than getting a deliverable sign-off from the team member you thought was accountable, only to find another approver lurking in the shadows!
Is work well balanced?
Have you finished your matrix? Great. Now turn it on its side and look at it from the perspective of the individuals. For example, where do most of the ‘Responsible’s sit? If all of the work is dependent on a small number of people, then you run the risk of finding them overloaded.
Does everyone agree?
A RACI is not something you can pop on a SharePoint site or Confluence page and expect everyone to align with magically. It requires communication and buy-in from everyone listed on the chart. Please make time to speak with them individually and ensure they understand the tasks and the RACI definitions.
Are all the boxes populated?
It is tempting to keep people in ‘Informed’ when they don’t need to be. But this over-communication can overload teams and can confuse them. So instead, only assign RACI to people or roles who genuinely need to be accountable, responsible, consulted, or informed.
Too many consultations?
When you are working on something new, it is common for everyone to want their opinion heard. As a result, you can often end up with too many ‘C’s, which should probably only be ‘I’s. This is where your sponsor and steering group can help. Engage them in the conversation and seek their advice on which consultations are valid and which can be moved to one-way communication.
Is your RACI available to the project team and easily accessible? Be sure to share it where it is as widely available. The more people understand and adhere to it, the greater your chances of success!