RACI explained: the pros and cons

RACI

 

 

The RACI model is a tool that is used to define roles and responsibilities for a project, department or set of tasks. In this blog post we explain what a RACI model is, how it can be useful and what it’s downsides are. We also tell you when Easyprojecthub uses RACI.

The intention of RACI is that it helps to reduce ambiguity between

  • what a person, team or function thinks their role is,
  • what others think it is, and
  • what is actually carried out

To understand RACI better let’s look at the definition of each element:

R – Responsible: the person who is responsible for carrying out the task or action

A – Accountable: the person who is ultimately accountable for the task or action

C – Consulted: anyone who needs to be consulted prior to the task or action being taken

I – Informed: the people who need to know when the task or action has been completed

A RACI matrix is laid out in a table format with the tasks down the left hand side and people, job roles or functions (such as Finance, Manufacturing or IT) across the top.

It is then simply a case of entering the RACI elements into the matrix.

RACI matrix

When is RACI a useful tool?

RACI is useful in the following situations:

  • New projects or initiatives where the roles and responsibilities require definition
  • Existing situations where individuals are not delivering the tasks that they are considered responsible for
  • Existing situations where individuals, teams or functions within the business do not have a clear set of accountabilities and responsibilities

It is also possible to use RACI to drive efficiencies and change in a business that is underperforming, or under pressure. Development and analysis of the RACI chart can provide useful information, for example:

  • Are there tasks with no person, team or function responsible (R)? 

This task is less likely to get delivered. Ensure that a person, team or function is made responsible for the task.

  • Are there tasks with no person, team or function accountable?

Every task must have someone who is accountable for it. This provides the responsible (R) party somewhere to go for direction and stakeholders or interested parties somewhere to go for progress reports or queries.

  • Are there tasks with multiple individuals, teams or functions responsible (R)?

This is likely to lead to confusion. Consider breaking the task down into smaller tasks that can each have a single person, team or function responsible.

  • Is there a single person, team or function responsible for the majority of the tasks?

This may indicate that they are overloaded.

  • Have all the people, teams or functions in the matrix been informed that they are part of the matrix?

It can be easy for a consultant or project manager to pull together a RACI chart, but it has absolutely no value if those required to make it happen are not involved. It’s critical to get buy-in from the people, teams or functions in the matrix across all the elements (R, A, C and I)

  • Is your project or activity struggling to get off the ground?

Consider focusing on the consulted (C) element of the RACI matrix. You may not be getting the right input from subject matter experts or those who have requirements of your work. Alternatively you may have too many consulted (C) parties which is slowing down progress. Brainstorm what you need to get each task done and review against the list of consulted parties in the matrix.

  • Is your project or activity operating in a black hole?

Consider focusing on the informed (I) element of the RACI matrix. Strong communication, of both the good and bad, can make the difference between perceived success and failure of a project or activity. To give a simplistic example, you may have built a fantastic new app for end users but if no one knows it exists your product is obsolete. Determine who you need to communicate to and why, and ensure they are included in your RACI matrix.

When can RACI be confusing?

The major downside of a RACI matrix is that it can be interpreted in several different ways, which can be confusing. For example:

  • If the tasks or actions are high level, they may require further breakdown, which can lead to confusion around who is responsible for the sub tasks.
  • Determining who should be consulted (C)  and informed (I) can be difficult and controversial. It may be that the responsible (R) person for each task decides on who should be consulted (C) and informed (I), however wider engagement may be required to determine the appropriate parties.
  • Consulted (C) can mean input from an SME (subject matter expert) or from parties who have requirements of the task or action.
  • There is no concept of stakeholders in RACI. Stakeholders are those parties with an interest in a project or piece of work. Some stakeholders may be consulted (C), and all stakeholders should be informed (I), however this does not provide a simple view of who the work is ultimately being delivered for.
  • Often tasks or projects require approval or sign-off. Again, this is not a concept that is supported in RACI. The accountable (A) parties could be those responsible for sign-off or approval, but this may not always be the case.
  • A RACI matrix cannot replace a project plan, and needs to be used in the right context

So you can see that a RACI matrix does not always produce the desired outcome.

What do we recommend?

Having outlined the good and the bad of using a RACI matrix we wanted to round up by giving you a few best practice rules and then by sharing when we find a RACI matrix useful.

Best practice rules
  • Define exactly what you mean by each of the elements (R, A, C, I), for example, are the consulted roles (C) decided by the responsible (R) person, team or function, or is a wider engagement carried out to determine who should be consulted. 
  • Have a single person, role or function responsible (R) for the delivery of each task, although there may be others supporting for the duration of the task delivery
  • Only ONE person, role or function can be accountable (A) for a task
  • There can be as many consulted (C) people, roles or functions as required
  • The informed (I) people, roles or functions are those who have a vested interested in the outcome. They may be impacted by or need to take action on the result
  • There can be as many informed (I) people, roles or functions as required

At Easyprojechtub we use a RACI matrix in two scenarios: at the start of a project when key players need to be identified or in cross-functional businesses where there is lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities between functions.

We DO NOT use a RACI matrix to replace a detailed project plan once a project is underway or to record detailed tasks, either in a project or business as usual. We tend to carry out business process mapping in swimlanes to drive process streamlining, which sometimes results in a RACI to depict new roles and responsibilities.

Creating a RACI matrix should be a short, sharp and, most importantly, collaborative exercise, which is used to drive value. Don’t do one just for the sake of it and DEFINITELY don’t do it in isolation.

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