ITIL / ISO 20000 RACI matrix – How to use it to clarify responsibilities

Let’s be honest – many people have a problem with taking over responsibility. But, on the other side, almost all of us like to know who is doing what and who is responsible for something. Let me give you a non-IT example. You and a couple of your friends are preparing a party. So, what you need is: a place, friends to attend, food, drink, music… that should be basically enough. Imagine that you are the one who is organizing the party. Since that includes a lot of activities, you’ll split tasks among several of your friends.

Now, let’s switch to the “IT world.” In order to efficiently manage IT services, every organization needs skilled employees in various roles: Incident ManagerChange Manager, or Service Desk Manager – these are just some of many possible roles in your ITIL based IT Service Management (ITSM) team. If you are responsible for the ITSM organization and need to lead your team and make sound decisions, the logical question is how to keep control of who is doing what.

What is RACI?

A clear definition of the processes (or activities within the scope of the process), related roles, and their responsibilities are prerequisites for the efficiency of your IT organization and management of IT services. That’s logical, but what does that mean? It simply means that for the process or activities you have to know exactly who is doing what, or who is responsible for what.

A RACI matrix (a matrix is a presentation form) is an authority model where you will clearly see what are the processes/activities and who is responsible for doing what. My experience is that organizations usually don’t have a clear definition of processes and activities, nor the related roles and responsibilities. That’s usually in the heads of the line management. And that works for some time. But, with increased complexity of the organization’s services and processes – well, things get complicated. RACI is a manager’s tool to keep visibility and provide employees with clear definition of their tasks and responsibilities. And that enables faster response and efficiency of the process, as well as easier decision making.

Who is who in the matrix?

RACI is actually an acronym that defines four main roles:

  • Responsible – that’s the person who is responsible for execution, i.e., getting the job done (e.g., who will buy the food for the party).
  • Accountable – that’s the person who has accountability for the task/process, i.e., one who owns the responsibility for the quality of the result (e.g., who makes sure that drinks are cold).
  • Consulted – these are people who will input information, i.e., knowledge needed to complete a particular activity (e.g., whom we can ask how to create a music list so no one has to change the music every few minutes).
  • Informed – there are the people who are informed about the result or progress of a particular activity (e.g., we need to inform the neighbors that a party will take place tonight).

RACI acronymFigure 1: RACI acronym

How to use it

RACI, particularly if you see it for the first time, sounds complex. But just like many other things in life, the solution is quite simple. The RACI matrix requires that you know your process well, meaning all related activities and roles involved in the process. All you have to do is to bind them together in a clear and easily understandable way (e.g., a matrix).

You have to know two basic elements of the matrix:

  1. Task – i.e., activities that needs to be done. For example, reviewing a Request for Change (RfC) or diagnosing an incident.
  2. Responsibility – that includes roles that are important for a particular task and their responsibility, i.e., who is R(esponsible), A(ccountable), C(onsulted) and I(nformed).

To start, why not involve your most important people and do the brainstorming session with them. That will result in a list of activities and responsibilities. Once you are done, make a matrix, as presented in Figure 2. Review the matrix and communicate the results to all included roles. Of course, an open discussion is always welcome, even when that requires some changes in the matrix (remember, a clear responsibility matrix is your ultimate goal).

Sample of a RACI matrixFigure 2: Sample of a RACI matrix (note that roles and their responsibilities can vary depending on the service, organization, etc.)

But, there are many pitfalls to using a RACI matrix. Let me point out (and refer to the example from the beginning of the article) some of them:

  • No As – that’s like asking: “Who is accountable for this activity? No one?” As you might guess, that’s a highly undesirable situation (like “No one took care of food and drink for the party”).
  • More than one A per activity – well, if something goes wrong and you ask who is accountable for this, you will get fingers pointing at that other “A” (“It’s not me, I thought he/she would take care of the food”).
  • Too many Is – remember being Cc’ed (“Carbon Copied” in e-mail service) for every e-mail in your group or on the project? What happens is that the important e-mails (addressed to you) get lost.
  • Too many Cs – do we really have that little knowledge about the activity that we need to ask many different people? Do we need some training in that area?
  • Too many Rs – do we really need to split activities among so many roles? Be careful with that – splitting an activity among many roles (persons) means many interfaces between them, as well as delays while every one of them takes over the activity, performs his job, and hands it over to the next person.

Maintain oversight

The complexity of the RACI matrix depends on the level, as well. For example, a Board of Management (in my experience) has only one Accountable and Responsible for the IT – a CIO or head of IT. As you go deeper into the structure, the matrix gets complex. And that’s the point. If you want to have an overview of the complex (process and/or organizational) structure you have to help yourself (as well as your employees). Being simple and clear, RACI is your tool to ensure that no one can say: “I didn’t know it was my responsibility!”

Use our free  ITIL Gap Analysis Tool to check how your activities comply with ITIL recommendations.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.