What is a RACI Chart? Responsibility Assignment Matrix Guide

Last Updated: March 24th, 2021
Researched and Written by: Lexi Wood

Project managers across every industry know assigning the right person to a task is one of the most critical factors behind a successful job. Then there’s the need to communicate with team members, clients, and consultants about project expectations. Fortunately, RACI charts make it easy for project managers to streamline their workflows by organizing project roles into one condensed, easy to access location.

What is a RACI Chart?

A responsible, accountable, consulted, informed (RACI) chart, sometimes referred to as a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) or linear responsibility chart (LRC), visually defines all the available roles associated with completing specific project tasks. The matrix acts as a starting point for determining every step necessary for a project and who should be in the team.

A valuable tool of project management since the 1950s, modern RACI charts are usually formatted the same way, like this template:

RACI Chart Template
A RACI chart template shows one possible way to organize your project.

Yet what does this shown information actually mean? Here is a brief explanation for how (and why!) RACI charts work.

RACI: Defined

Once known as the decision right matrix, the acronym “RACI” refers to the following attributes:.

  • Responsible: Whoever will do the work to complete the task
  • Accountable: Whoever ensures the task is completed by the responsible
  • Consulted: Subject-matter experts who provide insight into the task
  • Informed: Anyone who is given updates on task progress

The idea is for project managers to use the following criteria to streamline important decision-making when assigning work and hold everyone accountable for their deliverables. There are many alternatives to the RACI model, though most involve the above four aspects in some way. They include:

  • Recommender
  • Approver or final approving authority
  • Consultant or counsel
  • Informee

Whatever terminology is used, the roles primarily remain the same. These alternate terms are sometimes used to avoid internal confusion among the team, such as when the accountable person has to assign tasks related to accounting or a freelance consultant is brought in as a responsible person. Regardless of terms, the project manager is usually the one who serves as the accountable, approver, or final approving authority since they are the one with the most control over a project and must sign-off on all tasks.

In some instances, the above terms may not refer to a single person but specific people within a department or as part of a smaller team. These individuals can be differentiated through additional numbers and letters on the RACI chart. For instance, the project plan may indicate someone from human resources is the responsible person for a task. Anyone can complete the work, it is simply a matter of who is available to help. In these cases, it is up to the decision maker to ensure those tasks are completed. In fact, larger projects may even include additional RACI charts to break down tasks at smaller levels.

Visualizing Work with RACI Charts

The RACI chart itself is a fairly simple design: a matrix of intersecting rows and columns to represent all tasks and workers. For example, imagine a construction company building a new house. This might be the RACI chart they use:

Construction RACI Chart
A RACI chart for a construction company.

A project manager acts as the primary accountable (A) by assigning work or coordinating with other team members. A contractor is responsible ( R) for pouring concrete into the home’s foundation. Similarly, a supervisor may act as the accountable (A) by checking in on the laborer throughout the day. An architect may be brought in as a consultant (C ) to ensure the foundation matches the blueprints. Finally, the client is informed (I) of when tasks are completed and any changes to the construction timeline.

RACI charts can even provide more information. As mentioned above, it’s possible to create multiple matrices for a project in order to break down tasks amongst different departments.

The Benefits of RACI Charts

The benefit to using a RACI chart is better organizing and managing all your projects from start to finish. Developed during the initial planning phases, a finished RACI chart should provide a clear roadmap for every task and team member.

From there, RACI charts provide a visual representation of everything a job needs to get done. Every member of the team can reference the chart to determine what steps are next. This alone can drastically cut down on miscommunication regarding task assignments and expectations. With everyone able to focus on their own given tasks, the project can commence.

What RACI Charts Include

A lot of information needs to be communicated on each RACI chart. First, the tasks need to be determined by the project manager. The planning stage should reveal the full scope of the project, including both minor and major milestones along the way. These markers can then be used to determine which tasks need to be completed at each stage of the project in order to move forward.

Next, all team members need to be accounted for on the matrix. To expedite the selection process, an organization chart can show all employees, relevant skills, and schedule. These various factors can be used to determine the best talent to assign to each task. Additionally, significant stakeholders like clients or customers can be included as well.

Other factors frequently included on RACI charts range from project timelines to detailed notes about each task. All of these elements keep tasks moving forward and all relevant parties informed.

The Importance of RACI Chart Software

Charting methodology varies from industry to industry. Even different companies within the same field may use different RACI templates to meet their needs. RACI charts can be built and manually manipulated with Excel spreadsheets, though this can cause problems if there is not clear communication between the entire project team. Project management software streamlines the process by allowing for instantaneous communication by making all RACI charts accessible online. Every team member can log on to review changes and record updates to the project tasks.

Additionally, this software often includes tools for creating RACI matrices which can be easily modified. This is very important, as any mistakes to an initial chart can lead to confusion down the line. By utilizing software, there are safeguards against common human error.

Further, RACI charts can be greatly customized when generated by software. Specific features can be adjusted and changed out based on the needs of each individual project. Add in a completion timeline, write custom notes for certain tasks, or send out automated alerts to keep everyone informed of progress.

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