When Morpheus gave Neo the option of the red or blue pill, it was a decisive moment in him choosing to live in a shared dream state or wake up and find out what the world was really like. That matrix was bad; however in business analysis, a matrix can be really helpful.
When you have a bunch of people with a bunch of stuff to do, and you want to be able to determine and communicate exactly who has to do what, then the RACI matrix is the perfect tool.
Enter the RACI matrix
More formally known as the responsibility assignment matrix, the RACI matrix describes the level of participation by various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a project or business process.
RACI (pronounced ray-see) is an acronym derived from initials of the four levels of participation most typically seen: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (more below).
To develop the RACI matrix, there are three simple questions to answer:
1. What is being done?
Building a RACI matrix is intended to clarify responsibilities and levels of participation for a process or project, and normally focuses on either a breakdown of the work to be done or the products to be delivered.
Whether its work- or product-based will depend on the management style in an organisation. Those focused on planning individual workload will want to understand participation on tasks, whereas those focused on delivery will focus on who does what to achieve that.
Agile development shops and PRINCE project managers (for example) will typically favour the deliverables/product approach, and traditional control-focused teams will favour the task approach.
The tasks or deliverables are added to the left-hand column of the matrix (see diagram below).
2. Who is involved?
Once you know what is being done, you need to identify who is involved.
The RACI matrix uses generic roles rather than individually identified people, because a role describes a collection of associated responsibilities and may be performed by many people; and one person can perform many roles.
For example, an organisation may have ten people who can perform the role of project manager, while a project only has one project manager at any one time; similarly a person who is able to perform the role of project manager may also perform the role of business analyst and tester.
The roles are added to the top row of the matrix (see diagram below).
3. What are the levels of participation?
Once you have completed both lists and added them to the matrix, you then determine for each task/deliverable which role is responsible, accountable, consulted, or just kept informed — plotting in an R, A, C, or I as appropriate.
Responsible: those who do the work to complete the task or deliverable.
Accountable: the one answerable for the completion of the deliverable or task achieving its goals and who should sign off (approve) that the deliverable or task is done.
Consulted: those whose opinions are sought, typically business or technical subject matter / domain experts; and with whom there is active and ongoing two-way communication.
Informed: those who are kept up-to-date on progress, often only on completion of the task or deliverable; and with whom there is just one-way communication.
The rules of the matrix
As you work through developing your RACI matrix, it’s useful to keep the following rules in mind:
- Every role should have at least some participation in at least one task/deliverable, otherwise it should be removed from the matrix altogether.
- Not all roles will be involved in all tasks/deliverables (i.e. there will be some blank cells).
- There must be one and only one role specified as accountable for each task or deliverable.
- There is typically just one role responsible for a task or deliverable, although others can be delegated to assist in the work required. When you end up with many roles shown as responsible, it’s probable that the task or deliverable should be further decomposed or responsibilities reviewed and some of those roles shown as consulted instead.
- A role may show no more than one level of participation for each task or deliverable. If more than one participation level is shown, this could imply that participation has not yet been fully resolved and more work is required. To help with this, there is an implied hierarchy in the participation levels:
- all roles with a participation for a task or deliverable will be kept informed (i.e. R, A, and C include I)
- the active roles (responsible or accountable) are considered consulted (i.e. R and A include C)
- occasionally you will find that the accountable role is also responsible, this is implied when no role is shown as responsible (i.e. there’s an A but no R)
Also, you should check out the alternative participation models (e.g. RASCI) on the Wikipedia article for responsibility assignment matrix (for which I contributed significant content).