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Responsibility Assignment Matrices

An important aspect of Instructional Design is Project Management. It is so vital, in fact, that it is one of the areas that practitioners must display competency in for earning the APTD certification. Years ago, during my time as a graduate student at Boston University, I was introduced to formal project management and it is a necessary evil that has followed me ever since.

One of the key tools in Project Management is the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM). This tool does exactly what it says; it lays out all of the tasks within a given project and assigns roles for each task. The roles depend on which “flavor” of RAM you choose to use. My RAM of choice is the RACI matrix. There are many other types, though (RASCI, PARIS, PASCI, DACI, etc.). Each acronym denotes the roles to be assigned in the matrix. RACI is for:

  • Responsible: Individuals who will be completing the work of the task.
  • Accountable: Those who have to answer to the task being completed successfully.
  • Consulted: Individuals who may hold knowledge required to complete the task successfully.
  • Informed: Anyone who is informed at any stage during task completion.

Easy enough, right? It should be! Not, let’s build our matrix.

Along the first row, you want to list all of the stakeholders involved in the project. Anyone who plays any role — from doing work to being informed — should be listed. If you have developed a project plan, these individuals will be from the list of stakeholders there. In my particular RACI, I added roles/titles, but feel free to add individual’s names.

Product OwnerInstructional DesignerSoftware EngineerQuality EngineerMarketing

The chore of listing out all tasks comes next. You want to be very thorough and comprehensive with this. The goal of the RAM is to catch all moving parts, and the best way to do this is list out all tasks, no matter how seemingly insignificant. This goes in the first column.

1. Add the story to JIRA with estimation
2. Develop the feature
3. Push to staging
4. Test the feature
5. Develop training videos
6. Send out notification to clients
7. Release to Production
An abbreviated task list. In true RACIs, you’ll want to be more comprehensive.

I make it a habit of beginning each task with a verb to signify action.

Next, put it all together, and assign the R, A, C, or I roles to each task for each stakeholder. In some cases, a stakeholder will have more than one role. Usually, this is an R/A combo or a C/I combo. You should never see a R/I combo, for example because the party responsible for completing the task is inherently informed when it is done. You may be able to get rid of combos by further decomposing your stakeholders. For example, let’s say the Software engineer is responsible for developing the feature, but ultimately, the Release Engineer (who is also an SE in this case) must make sure it is released, you can separate those two roles.

Product OwnerInstructional DesignerSoftware EngineerQuality EngineerMarketing
1. Add the story to JIRA with estimationR/AII
2. Develop the featureCR/AI
3. Push to stagingR/AI
4. Test the featureIIC/IR/A
5. Develop training videosCR/AI
6. Send out notification to clientsIR/A
7. Release to ProductionC/IR/AI

It’s OK if you don’t fill in every cell. Not every stakeholder will play a role in each task. Here are some good rules of thumb for developing intuitive and comprehensive RAMs.

  • Each task should have at least one R role.
  • Each task should have only one A role.
  • Each task should also have an I role. Remember, the Informed role means visibility. Not having one usually means the task was developed in a silo.
  • The RACI is not meant to be developed by a single stakeholder. It is an artifact that is meant to be collaborative in nature so all stakeholders know what the expectations of their involvement are.
  • The RACI helps you see distribution of tasks. You may want to re-examine the roles, if one person has too many Rs.

One of the best articles on a successful RACI I’ve read.

Happy project managing!

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