Understanding Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI Matrix)

A key to successful project management starts with understanding roles and responsibilities. Laying out roles and responsibilities specifically and clearly sets the project up for success. This can be the project manager’s first project win or first project mistake.

Defining job roles and responsibilities ensures everyone knows the degree of involvement that is required from them and sets the stage for ensuring project awareness. Additionally, laying out job roles and responsibilities assists in driving the communication plan, governance, and more.

Some of the biggest project challenges are found in statements such as, “I didn’t know you needed to be involved in this topic,” “I didn’t realize you should have been a part of the decision-making,” or “I didn’t know I was responsible for creating this.”

When the lines blur on responsibility, the line blurs on whether or not the given task is completed and completed properly. This is role confusion.

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Table of Contents

What is a RACI Chart?

A RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) chart is a tool that can support ensuring clarity on job roles and responsibilities. It is also referred to as a RACI matrix, RACI model, RACI diagram, or simply just RACI.

A RACI is a type of responsibility matrix or responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) that assists in alleviating role confusion. A RACI matrix is a standard document and best practice used to map out and document the key activities and deliverables for the project and the individuals or groups that have responsibility for their completion, signoff, and awareness.

A RACI is created by the project manager at the start of the project as a key part in establishing the initial human resources planning for the project. RACI charts are typically created for complex projects; however, role confusion can happen even on simple projects, and thus, implementing a RACI chart even for small projects can be beneficial.

raci illustration

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RACI Definitions

The acronym RACI stands for the different responsibility types: responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. In a RACI matrix, the initials R, A, C, and I are assigned next to the person or job title with each level of responsibility for each task or deliverable. Within a RACI, individuals will play different roles depending on the task or deliverable but not multiple roles.

A challenge of the RACI approach is to ensure the definitions of the roles are clear. If you are not using a template that provides a brief definition, consider including one in the margin or a link to the definitions to maintain clarity and minimize confusion.

Responsible

The individual(s) with responsibility for the task or deliverable is typically responsible for developing the deliverable or completing the activity. The persons responsible are typically working-level project team members, such as the project manager, business analyst, developers, or those who create marketing material and technical documentation, for example. These are the doers.

Drawback: A RACI doesn’t distinguish the primary “doer” versus another team member participating in completing the task.

Accountable

The accountable party is typically the person or group responsible for ensuring the work is complete and suitable. This is usually someone with signature authority or the decision-maker. The accountable parties are typically the business owner, business sponsor, steering committee, key stakeholders, information security or governance bodies, or the manager of the key responsible party.

Drawback: While there should only be one person accountable, that is not always the case. Having more than one person listed as accountable can cause confusion. Try to have just one when possible. Also accountable doesn’t mean that the person is signing off on the work or reviewing for quality.

Consulted

Consulted individuals are those from whom feedback and input should be solicited. Consulted parties could be legal, information security, compliance, and subject matter experts (SMEs) from other departments in the organization that could be impacted. If you are working on new product development, this could essentially be the entire organization.

Consulted individuals or groups should be consulted prior to starting a task or deliverable to understand the requirements, constraints, and risks as well as after completion to ensure every angle has been considered in the results.

Informed

Informed persons are those you simply want to keep in the loop. These individuals do not have to be consulted or be a part of the decision making. Keep this group on your cc list for awareness of topics, decisions, and progress. Also, invite this group as optional attendees for kickoff meetings and project demos.

Drawback: Knowing the difference of who needs to be consulted versus informed could be a challenge due to organizational ambiguity and sometimes organizational maturity and reorganizations.

Suggested Books

Even the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) has a section for RACI under matrix-based charts. The PMBOK uses RACI as an example of RAM. A RAM serves the purpose of showing which activities belong to project members. For more information about the PMBOK Guide, we wrote an article for you.

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Creating a RACI Model

Creating a RACI for each project is a best practice. The below four-step process is an approach that can be followed by the project manager to implement this useful strategy. The biggest challenge with creating a RACI is to avoid ambiguity and ensure optimal clarity.

1. Determine the list of key activities and deliverables

Working with the business owner, sponsor, and other stakeholders, as well as reviewing historical information on past similar projects, start a list of the key activities and deliverables. This will essentially be the basis for your work breakdown structure, so this list should align closely with your project schedule. After multiple reviews, finalize the list, and use that as the basis for a RACI.

2. Determine who is needed to be a part of the project or initiative

This is not limited to the project team. This includes the project team (project manager, business owner, product manager, developers, testers, etc.), the leadership team or steering committee members, impacted departments within the enterprise or at least representation from those bodies, the change management lead, and any other organizational stakeholders with a vested interest in the initiative.

Initially, you may only have names of departments or roles, but if possible, attempt to obtain the actual representatives that will support from each group. If you have already created the organizational chart, you will be able to pull this information from the org chart.

Tip: Determining the group needed for consulting will require a bit of organizational investigation. Try mapping the new product, initiative, or system to determine which functions or groups it touches. Then, determine the key leader for each of those groups—perhaps director’s level—and request that individual to define a consultative point of contact (POC) for their area of the business. Do this in writing to ensure you have documentation of the request and the response.

3. Determine the project roles and responsible job titles and persons for each activity and deliverable

Once you have determined the what (tasks) and the who (responsible persons), it is now time to assign the groups to the activity. This will be an iterative task. As the project manager, take a first cut based on input from your business owner and documentation from similar and organizational artifacts.

Similar to step one, a review of historical documents from similar projects can also help to determine who is needed. older project charters, kickoff decks, organizational charts, project schedules, and milestone plans. Also, try interviewing business owners or project managers from past similar projects to get insight on the roles that participated as well as lessons learned.

Tip: Best practice is to list names of people along with their project role. While people may change, having names listed helps to avoid ambiguity, while having the title listed will support future updates as roles change.

When assigning the responsible role, try to limit this to one person, or make a clarifying note if more than one person is listed to avoid ambiguity. Additionally, have a separate person listed for accountability from the person responsible for creation. This ensures clear sign offs and approvals.

4. Hold review sessions with key members of the team for alignment

Once the initial RACI draft is completed, hold a review session with the team to review the key activities and deliverables and the human resources responsible for each. Share the draft via email, and then, schedule time to review.

Tip: Document the outcomes of the review session, and distribute meeting notes. Let the team know before the meeting that the notes will follow the meeting. This will also help to ensure the key members are paying full attention and are being thoughtful and focused during the review.

What if the project has already started?

It is never too late to step back and ensure clarity. If a project has started, the project manager can use the existing project schedule to create a draft RACI, use the activities defined in Steps 2 and 3 to ensure the right groups are engaged and assigned, and then hold a review session (or sessions) and achieve acknowledgement from the team.

The creation of a RACI and getting the roles as accurate as possible will be key in determining the usefulness in supporting the success of the project.

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Implementing a RACI

Email alone will not lead to effective implementation of a RACI. This key document should be reviewed during a meeting with all members and stakeholders present — ideally during your project kickoff meeting. Make this a standard part of your project kickoff meeting.

Additionally, send the document over to the meeting distribution as read-ahead material, requesting feedback if there are any major concerns. Obtaining early feedback will allow for the majority of modifications and discussions to be held in advance of the meeting, leading to a smooth communication of the final RACI.

During the meeting, conduct a review of the tasks and responsible parties. Do not rush through this review, but rather ensure enough time in your project kickoff for this important aspect. Skimming the surface of this review could be dangerous later. Also be certain to clarify the definitions of RACI to avoid ambiguity. This way, all parties are clear on what they are agreeing to.

After the meeting, send out the notes documenting acceptance or updates to the RACI. In addition to sending out the notes, request any changes within a reasonable yet defined timeframe, stating that if no changes are requested, each person is acknowledging their responsibility and committing to the project tasks as outlined.

Consider a quick review each quarter or every six months for longer projects to ensure it remains up-to-date and not simply another document in the repository but a relied-upon artifact.

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The Benefits of a RACI

A completed and aligned RACI will be the foundation for other key documents and project planning tasks. It will help support development of the following subsequent documents.

Detailed project plan and Gantt chart

A RACI will be a good foundation to build your project schedule and Gantt chart on in terms of tasks and responsible roles. It will also be the foundation for your project timeline and/or milestone plan. With a RACI pre-aligned during the kickoff, the project plan finalization should be more focused on time frames and dependencies.

Governance body structure

Now that you have determined the key impacted departments and the key accountable persons, this is a great start to develop a list of candidates for the governing body or steering committee of key stakeholders. Of course, this is not the final determinant, but it provides you a great starting place from which to make suggestions to your business owner and/or business sponsor.

Documentation and activity signature authority (sign-offs)

For each key task and deliverable, including documentation, there should be someone responsible for the project that is responsible for reading, reviewing, and signing off on key tasks and deliverables.

Oftentimes during projects, the project manager is placed in the uncomfortable place of being the project manager and also drafting documentation and reviewing to give feedback that should be given by the signature authority. Having this type of documentation and keeping it up to date will also lessen communications from other teams about who needs to review and sign off on things like requirements, user stories, validations, and documentation.

Communications and meeting planning

A RACI matrix should be used to develop the communications plan. It can tell you what level of participation is needed from which persons or groups on each topic. RACI matrices can help to drive meeting effectiveness by helping to determine who should be in which meetings based upon topic.

It will also help to drive the distinction of who is critical for meetings versus which attendees should be invited as optional. Additionally, RACI matrices also help to determine which parties simply receive a copy of the notes from the meetings.

Being able to distinguish who is really needed in communications will support having the needed participation, as the team will understand that if they were invited in the “To” line of a meeting invite, then they are needed as opposed to being there as a passive listener.

RACI matrices assist in email management. Everyone gets too many emails only adding to team capacity and bandwidth issues. Knowing who needs to be key on which pieces of information versus who belongs on the cc line of emails is important; it helps teams manage their emails and their time by knowing where to focus their attention and work prioritization.

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Limitations of RACIs

While a RACI matrix can help to solve challenges associated with project role ambiguity, it has its limitations; however, even many of these can be solved by adding your own variation to the chart.

Role limitations

There are different types of responsibility matrices similar to a RACI which focus on different or enhanced responsibility types. These alternative matrices seek to close some of the earlier identified gaps. For instance, the RASCI, includes the S for supporting members. This version distinguishes the key responsible doer from supporting team members. Supporting members are different from consulting members, as they provide input in the form of work into the doing, yet they are not the primary doer. Their input is not merely consultative feedback but action.

Another gap in a RACI is the determination of who is responsible for verifier and signatory. In this case, you should consider a RACI-VS responsibilities matrix,as the verifier and signer may not be the same party as the individual accountable. Additionally, a RACIQ considers a responsible party for quality, and a RACIO also includes an O for out of the loop, as not everyone has a responsible role for each task. Those designated out of the loop can help manage where there is no role needed, which supports the team’s ability to manage their capacity. When everyone is involved in everything, it can overwhelm the team and distract them from their actual work and support tasks.

In addition to a RACI, RACIO, RACIQ, RASCI and RACI-VS, there are countless others. You can even create your own. There is no limit to which roles you include in your RACI version, find the balance of those that support your team and the work.

Task detail

Additionally, while a RACI matrix can provide an overview of who is responsible for different tasks, it will not state what needs to be done. 

Organizational information, reach back, and past documentation can assist in supporting this limitation. Try to make your task detail clear—focusing on not just the activity but the output. If your organization has a deliverable list by project type or gating items, include them. Add a comment field if helpful.

Not aligned to the agile mindset

While a RACI matrix has been a well-adopted tool for waterfall project managers, project managers using an agile methodology like scrum may find it redundant since the accountability, ownership, and ongoing communication is built into the scrum framework (i.e., product owner, scrum master, and daily standups with the team).

Additionally, agile focuses on team-based delivery and accountability, while the RACI framework and alternatives focus on individual responsibility and autonomous accountability. For agile engagements, consider using teams instead of just roles or a name for certain tasks and roles.

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RACI Matrix Project Management Tools

Using project management software is one of the best methods to help the RACI Matrix succeed. A PM tool will allow teams to track each step of the project and see exactly what responsibilities fall to each team member, when they are supposed to be completed, and when they were actually completed.

Project management software has collaboration tools in which team members can quickly consult and update each other regarding project steps. Teams can effectively act and communicate throughout each installment of the project. Just five of the best PM tools are listed below. They clearly assign and define tasks to eliminate confusion and promote successful projects.

1 ClickUp

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ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.

Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.

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2 monday.com

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monday.com Work OS is the project management software that helps you and your team plan, execute, and track projects and workflows in one collaborative space. Manage everything from simple to complex projects more efficiently with the help of visual boards, 200+ ready-made templates, clever no-code automations, and easy integrations. In addition, custom dashboards simplify reporting, so you can evaluate your progress and make data-driven decisions.

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3 Wrike

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Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.

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4 Smartsheet

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Smartsheet is an online work execution platform empowering organizations of all sizes to plan, manage, automate, and report on work. Over 80,000 brands rely on Smartsheet for project and work management.

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5 Rocketlane

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Rocketlane is purpose-built to run customer facing projects. It uniquely ties project management, document collaboration, and communication to help teams hit their project goals, accelerate time-to-value, and elevate the customer experience.

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Sample RACI Charts

Below are a few sample RACI charts you can emulate to ensure clear roles and responsibilities on your next project. Consider making one or two of them a part of your standard project documentation as an easy-to-follow template. 

Good templates and samples can also be found on the Project Management Institute’s website.

Sample 1: Color-coded RACI using titles only.
Sample 1: Color-coded RACI using titles only.
Sample 2: RACI using Names and Comments for Additional Detail.
Sample 2: RACI using Names and Comments for Additional Detail
Sample 3: Complex RACI for Agile or Hybrid (Teams-Focused) with Comments and Definition Links.
Sample 3: Complex RACI for Agile or Hybrid (Teams-Focused) with Comments and Definition Links

3 RACI Videos You Need to Watch

These first two videos provide you a short snippet of how RACI can work for you. Looking for a longer explanation? Watch video three.

Video 1: The Basics of RACI

This a five-minute video regarding the basics of RACI and how the program can benefit your organization.

Video 2: How to Make Your Own RACI Chart

Make a RACI chart in just 11 minutes:

Video 3: How RACI Will Help You Manage

Take it even further with this video. This 20-minute video will walk you through how RACI will help you manage matters related to efficiency, accountability and role clarification. After you answer questions relating to your organization, this RACI video takes you through a hypothetical situation about what it would look like if no one completed a task, and how RACI can manage it.

RACI Matrix Recap

The goal of using a framework like RACI is to ensure clarity. As you go about implementing projects and programs, you may determine a preference for one of the RACI variations, or you may even come up with a new variation that solves another challenge. Project management is an evolutionary science and art. Select the version that best suits your project, team, and the needs of your organization.

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Latoya Morris, PMP, CSM, ITILv3 Avatar

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