Keeping track of responsibilities in the project: The advantages and the disadvantages of the RACI matrix

Timo Gerhardt, Tuesday 25 July 2023 | Reading time: 8 min.

The clear assignment of responsibilities within the team is essential for the success of your project. With the help of the RACI matrix, you always maintain a clear overview.

The importance of responsibilities in the project

Every project team brings with it a certain social complexity. Different people with different backgrounds and ideas come together. Without a certain degree of coordination, effective collaboration in this constellation is difficult to implement. To bring social complexity under control, a project organization is defined in advance of the project. Here, the project manager specifies the roles that are required for the respective project. For each role, requirements, tasks and competencies are defined accordingly. The person who later occupies the respective role is ultimately in charge of them. Only through a concrete assignment of the respective person can the project manager assume that there is clarity in the team about the responsibilities and that the people are focused on and complete their tasks. If there is no clear allocation, there is a high probability that duplication of work will occur or that tasks will remain undone.

Without project organization and an assignment of responsibilities, it is therefore more or less left to chance whether a task is completed in the project or not. 

The main features of the RACI matrix

The RACI matrix is a method for assigning responsibilities, but it goes beyond that. In practice, it is often kept as a table. It contains all tasks in the project and the members of the project team, respectively their role. In most cases, the tasks are arranged on the left side as rows and the employees are shown on the above as columns. For each task, an R, A, C or I is assigned to each employee. This indicates responsibilities and generally the relation an employee has to a task. You can read below what the four letters stand for:

  • Responsible: The task has been assigned to the employee in whose column an R is located. This person is responsible for the completion of the task. For each task, there must be at least one such employee, but several are also possible, e.g. as a substitute in case of vacation or illness. These are typically ordinary members of the project team. 
  • Accountable: This person is usually superior to the above group. He or she typically delegates the task and communicates expectations and time horizon. If the task is completed poorly or not by the agreed deadline, this person will be held accountable. They are usually also part of the project team and have a leadership role here.
  • Consulted: Employees who fall into this group have a legitimate interest in the completion of the task. In this sense, they are stakeholders, and their own work is influenced by the outcome of the task. To make this as positive as possible, consulted persons provide input in advance in the form of suggestions or requests and provide feedback after the work is done. In principle, consulted persons are not always mandatory for a task, but can still provide added value. The number of these should also always be capped, as too much input can lead to unnecessary complexity. This group can include other members of the project team working on related tasks, but also people outside the team who are affected by the project outcome.
  • Informed: As the name suggests, people in this group are only informed that a task is being performed. However, exact details are spared to these people. Like the previous group, the completion of a task is of interest, but no influence is exerted on it. Typically, informed individuals are not within the project team. Often, they are part of the management level in the company or supervisors in departments or teams that are affected by the project outcome.

Advantages of the RACI matrix

  • Clarity: A RACI matrix is easy to understand and even employees without project experience can quickly find their way around. The relevant information from the table can always be viewed directly.
  • Transparent responsibilities: Responsibilities are clearly defined and always visible to every member of the project team. Thus, no one can evade his responsibility and every task is conscientiously completed.
  • Quick and easy creation: Due to the simple structure of the matrix, no special application is needed for its creation. A spreadsheet application such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets is quite sufficient. Alternatively, pen and paper can simply be used.
  • Minimized potential for conflict: A clear common understanding of roles and a clear assignment in the matrix enables smooth communication. Conflicts due to unfinished tasks or unclear responsibilities are avoided.

Disadvantages of the RACI matrix

  • Limited project scope: If you have a small project team, the RACI matrix will lead to more clarity. However, if you are short on staff, it will inevitably result in one person having multiple roles, such as being both in charge for the execution (Responsible) and the outcome (Accountable) and may even be the person with the knowledge to provide input (Consulted). Also, if the project goes beyond a certain scope, clarity may be lost. As the number of tasks and people increases, so does the size of the matrix. So, for large projects, always question whether a RACI matrix leads to more clarity or brings potential for confusion.
  • Undetailed representation: The more detailed the representation of the tasks, the more confusing the matrix becomes. So, this often only makes sense if the tasks are not too detailed.
  • Insufficient roles: Often an assignment of one of the four letters is not sufficient to describe the actual role of an employee in the project. The demarcation between the groups is rigid and often the matrix does not do justice to the complexity of projects. Adjustments can be useful here.

The use of a RACI matrix can basically represent added value in your project. Clear responsibilities and a high level of transparency speak in favor of its use. For small projects, however, the effort involved in creating it may exceed the actual benefit. The matrix is also only suitable to a limited extent for very extensive projects, as clarity is typically lost. So, decide from project to project whether using a RACI matrix makes sense for you. Use the matrix as inspiration to adapt project responsibilities to your own needs.

Responsibilities with InLoox

In the project management software InLoox, users have the possibility to map responsibilities easily and effectively. We will show you how it works!

Read more here

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