When is a good time to create a RACI Matrix for it to be most useful

By ITIL® from Experience©

A RACI Matrix1, an Authority Matrix2 or Responsibility Assignment Matrix3 as it is sometimes referred to, is a tool to clarify roles and responsibilities in a process, a project or an organization.

A good time to prepare a RACI Matrix is at the onset when high-level discussions are taking place to determine who will be involved and their level of involvement. This matrix is also useful to clarify the scope and to agree on the authority of each role before the detailed design. It is a good analysis tool to ensure that accountability is not duplicated and that no functions or stakeholders are forgotten.

When designing a process, project or organization, the RACI Matrix can be used to ensure that the workload is balanced. It can also be used to ensure that there is “separation of concern” or in other words that adequate “check and balances” are in place. To this end the RACI-VS Matrix can be useful. The “V” stands for Verify and the “S” for Sign-off.

It can also be used to prepare job descriptions. It ensures that every role is accounted for and formalized. Thus, confusion can be avoided later whereby it is not discovered that a role was not being performed as it was not formally assigned to someone.

However, for a process the RACI Matrix loses its usefulness once a process flow-chart is drafted. This is especially true when the process flowchart is drawn in a Cross-Functional4 format. The cross-functional bands often referred to as swim-lanes, make it obvious who does what.

Sometimes people claim that a RACI Matrix is required to train people. In reality, it is of limited value as a training and communication tool. People will not understand what they need to do simply by looking at a RACI Matrix since it does not convey what needs to be done. For this reason, a process flowchart and work instructions (i.e. procedures) are still required. In the case of a project a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is required or job description in an organization.

Nonetheless, once work has been going on for a while, the RACI Matrix can be used again to clarify roles and expectations as issues arise to ensure a common understanding. In complex processes with several dozen tasks it is a good idea to review the matrix when making changes to ensure that it does not introduce authority issues. The same goes when changing functions in a re-organization.

When the complexity and magnitude of the task at hand warrants the use of a RACI Matrix, it is a good idea to create it early when the launching the initiative.

"A RACI Matrix is a good analysis tool and a poor communication vehicle."

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1. RACI: (ITIL Service Design) A model used to help define roles and responsibilities. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations. English, 2011 http://www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx
2. A synonym for RACI is Authority Matrix. Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations. English, 2011 http://www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx
3. A responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 5th Edition, Project Management Institute, 2013, p. 261
4. The cross-functional flow chart is based on the Deployment Flowchart developed by Edward M. Deming


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