1.2 Responsibility assignment matrix
The work of a project needs to be divided and allocated to people, and there needs to be a comprehensive and unambiguous understanding by everyone concerned of their own roles and responsibilities and of the roles and responsibilities of the others. One tool that can be used to first arrive at and then document roles and responsibilities is a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), of which there are different types. The RAM is a grid, where the work that has to be done is listed in the left-hand column, with participant roles (performed by team members or groups) listed in the first row.
The cells of the grid that are intersections of the first column and first row are used, at different levels of detail, to show a connection between the work and the team member or team group. This connection is a type of participation by the person or organisational unit for an element of work in the project. In this way, all the people connected to each element of work and all the work connected to each person are displayed in one place.
For larger projects, the elements of work can be considered at different levels of detail, in different matrices for the same project. These different matrices would show the responsibilities at different levels of decomposition of the project tasks, from deliverables to specific sub-tasks.
One popular type of RAM is a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) chart. Here the participation types are subdivided to show the following for each task:
- Who is responsible (R): the people who carry out the task
- Who is accountable (A): the single person who is answerable for the correct completion of the task
- Who is consulted (C): the people who need to be consulted in the carrying out of the task, who have a say in how it is carried out or who are expert in the subject area
- Who is informed (I): the people who need to be informed about the task and its progress.
|Submit change request||I||A||R||R||C|
|Develop test plan||A||C||I||I||R|
|R = responsible A = accountable C = consult I = inform|
The RACI matrix is useful in different respects, for example:
- It is a tool that can be used in team selection where the participant roles are known but not the specific people who will perform them. It can be used to fit skills to tasks and balance workload.
- It can be used as a basis for gap analysis to highlight project needs that are not met by the skill sets of existing team members and so to identify recruitment or training requirements.
- It encourages and assists the delegation of work.
- It shows all the interested parties the division of labour within tasks and projects as a whole and the unambiguous ownership of tasks.
- It encourages communication between those with the different participant roles by setting up the expectations of the nature of communication and who is to be involved in communications.
- It can be used as a starting point to consider the lines of communication and suitable methods of communication, including reporting.
- It can be used by the project manager as a tool for monitoring project work.
- It can feed into other formats for documenting team members’ roles and responsibilities, such as detailed textual role descriptions.
There are many variants to the RACI matrix that use the same acronym with different participation functions or introduce additional types of participation beyond the four characters of RACI. For example, in a RASCI matrix the participation function ‘Support’ is added. Those designated as ‘S’ assist the ‘R’s in their work. The different participant functions imply different aspects of the person management role of the project manager. As well as identifying which role is required to meet the needs of each element of the WBS, and thereby playing a part in team selection, the project manager needs to ensure that the ‘I’s are informed, the ‘C’s consulted and so on.
Why is it important that all participants know which type of RACI matrix is being used?
The RACI is part of the shared language of communication of the project. If there is not a common understanding of its meaning, responsibilities and divisions of labour will also not be understood and any ambiguity can easily lead to serious problems. For example, if team colleagues are not doing what other team members think they are meant to be doing the atmosphere of trust that is needed in an effective team can be lost.