When to use a RACI Matrix

By ITIL® from Experience©

A RACI Matrix1 , an Authority Matrix2 , RASCI3 , or Responsibility Assignment Matrix4 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:

  1. At the onset when high-level discussions are taking place to determine which group 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 starts. Moreover, it is a good analysis tool to ensure that accountability is not duplicated and that no functions or stakeholders are forgotten.
  2. 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 “checks 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.
  3. When preparing job descriptions. It ensures that every role is accounted for and formalized. Thus, confusion can be prevented by avoiding the discovery that a role is not being performed.

However, for a process, the RACI Matrix loses its usefulness once a process flow-chart is implemented. This is especially true when the process flowchart is drawn in a Cross-Functional5 format. The cross-functional bands often referred to as swim-lanes, make it obvious who does what * (See Why every process flow-chart should have a swim-lane for the Service Desk).

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 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 whereby a job description is needed in organizations.

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. The RACI matrix can be used again to ensure a common understanding and to address gaps in assignments. When making changes to complex processes like one comprised of several dozen tasks, it is a good idea to review the RACI matrix to ensure that the change 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 warrant the use of a RACI Matrix, it is a good idea to create it early when launching the initiative. The ITIL® Service Design publication provides guidance regarding the use of RACI models for processes in sections: Designing roles — the RACI model (2011 Edition, p.64) and, Processes and RACI (2011 Edition, p. 67).

Lastly, the RACI matrix can be used to clear your day from unnecessary meetings!

Last updated on: 2021-01-19
Published on: 2014-09-19

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

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