The Project Notebook

Expectations, RACI, and RACI-VS

Managing the expectations of a Project Team can often be more difficult than managing those of external stakeholders. Teams “form, storm, norm, and perform”, but short projects and critical tasks can be impacted by unwanted behaviors, especially if the team members don’t know what’s expected of them. RACI and RACI-VS are forms of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) which can help focus the team on their roles and responsibilities while aiding the project manager in thinking through the Human Resources plan.

The PMBOK® Guide includes the Responsibility Assignment Matrix in the Human Resources plan. It is designed to show the connections between the work packages of the WBS and the project team. Multiples levels of RAM may be presented. A high level RAM may show connections between high level packages (such as project phases or summary tasks) and sub teams or generic resources. Ultimately the RAM connects each task to specific, named team members.

The illustrated RAM is a part of the Estimating Tool I developed. Planning is by role, effort, and week. This and other RAMs like it are still too general for some project teams. Another level of detail is possible when using the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) model.

The PMBOK® Guide suggests that a RACI model is important to describe the interface between multiple teams (e.g. buyer/seller, internal/external, product management/development/sales and marketing). Tasks on one axis, resources on another, the cells are filled in with one of the letters.

The PMBOK® Guide doesn’t provide any rules about creating RACI charts and there is little literature available, but a few things should pop out as common sense:

– Multiple “A”ccountable and unrelated resources can cause conflicts in differences of opinion. You should be sure the team members are co-chairs, co-leads, or at least in similar roles and will collaborate well together. Multiple A’s should be kept to a minimum.
– The “R”esponsible role defines who does the work.
– Multiple “R”esponsible can cause unnecessary or duplicate work. Make one team member responsible for each task.
– Keeping multiple people “I”nformed helps develop capacity. If a team member is absent or unable to carry out work for any reason, you have developed a successor for that role.
– Multiple “C”onsulted is desirable to collect input from all potential subject matter experts.
– In general, any team member should have only one role.
– If any column is empty, consider if that resource is necessary for the project.

RACI-VS is not in the PMBOK® Guide, however I did come across it in Wikipedia. Having worked with mature companies (SEI Level 3 and above), I can see the importance. Someone needs to quality assure, acceptance test, or otherwise confirm that a task is complete. The final sign off acts as a gate which prevents incomplete work from moving forward. The development environment at GE Information Services was a key example. Once a change was coded, each developer had to seek out a peer with subject matter expertise to review the code change. Feedback might include performance improvement suggestions, adherence to coding standards, unit testing suggestions, and other work that needed to be examined for integration. Once the verification was complete, the change was forwarded to management for sign off. The development manager might inquire about potential issues or the testing conducted prior to sign off.

Once again, some common sense rules should be considered:

– For many projects, the “S”ign off role might also be assigned to the “A”ccountable person to provide them an opportunity to ensure project standards are met and processes are followed.
– Too many “S”ign offs can cause delay as the work product is routed for review.
– “V”erification should be independent (e.g. an architect who created a change shouldn’t verify the change) where possible to insure the highest quality.
– “V”erification often designates the quality assurance or project scope
verification role.
– The verification and sign off roles may be in addition to other roles.

There are multiple ways the concepts of RACI and RACI-VS can be applied:

– They make ideal designations for roles and responsibilities in a process definition or chart.
– If you make R=Recommends and A=Approves, you have the foundation for a decision making process.
– CAIRO or RACI-O adds “O”ut-of-the-Loop as a role – someone who does not need to be involved in a task at all.
– RASCI adds “S”upport.

The PMBOK® Guide defines the Responsibility Assignment Matrix as part of the Human Resource plan for a project. They help the project manager set expectations for roles and responsibilities as well as plan the project resources. RACI and RACI-VS are forms of a RAM and may be multi-level in nature. They define who is responsible, accountable, consulted, informed, verifies, and signs off on project tasks. We looked at some common sense rules such as making sure only one person is responsible for each task to avoid redundant work or wasted effort. There are also multiple ways the concept can be applied and we looked at four different applications.

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP