What Is a RACI Chart? How to Use RACI to Assign Project Roles
It’s a fact: Complex projects make it easy for teams to lose track of tasks.
You might have an air-tight project plan and a stellar team to back it up. But if you’re not crystal clear about assignments—or even involvement—on a task level, confusion, crankiness, and even demotivation will creep into your project team.
Lucky for you, avoiding those issues is as simple as creating a RACI chart.
In this article, we’ll explain what a RACI matrix is and how it’s used in project management. You’ll also learn how to make a RACI chart using our free Excel template or, even better, build RACI roles directly into your project plan using TeamGantt.
- What is a RACI chart?
- RACI definitions explained
- RACI chart example
- Benefits of the RACI model in project management
- When to use or skip a RACI chart for your project
- RACI matrix rules and best practices
- Common RACI pitfalls and how to avoid them
- RACI model alternatives
- How to create a RACI matrix in Excel with free template
- How to build a RACI chart online in TeamGantt
What is a RACI chart?
A RACI chart—also known as a responsibility assignment matrix—is a diagram used in project management to define team roles across 4 categories: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. It helps clarify who does the work, who calls the shots, whose opinion matters, and who needs to stay in the loop for each task, milestone, or decision.
A RACI chart enables you to visualize roles and responsibilities at a more granular level than simple resource assignments. That way team members and stakeholders know what’s expected of them so confusion doesn’t get in the way of project success.
RACI definitions explained
RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Each letter in the acronym represents the level of ownership each person involved in a project will have on an individual deliverable.
R = Responsible
This team member does the work to complete the task. Every task needs at least one Responsible party, but it’s okay to assign more.
A = Accountable
This person delegates work and is the last one to review the task or deliverable before it’s deemed complete. On some tasks, the Responsible party may also serve as the Accountable one. Just be sure you only have one Accountable person assigned to each task or deliverable. (Note: It might not be your project manager!)
C = Consulted
Every deliverable is strengthened by review and consultation from more than one team member. Consulted parties are typically the people who provide input based on either how it will impact their future project work or their domain of expertise on the deliverable itself.
I = Informed
Informed stakeholders simply need to be kept in the loop on project progress, rather than roped into the details of every deliverable.
This simple chart gives you an at-a-glance view of RACI meanings and how many people to assign to each role in your RACI matrix.
Responsible vs Accountable meanings in RACI
The same person can be both Responsible and Accountable for a task in a RACI matrix—including a project manager. But they’re not one and the same. So what’s the difference?
- Responsible is a task-oriented designation that applies to the person (or people) actually completing the work. A whole team can be responsible for the execution of one task.
- Accountable is an outcome-oriented designation that applies to a single person who reports on the work, whether in status updates or upon delivery. Being Accountable means you must answer for and/or sign off on the deliverable and deal with the consequences if it falls short of goals.
RACI chart example: Practical application for the real world
Let’s take a closer look at how you might put the RACI model to work on a real-life project. Here’s a sample RACI chart for a project that involves delivering a slide deck for an upcoming presentation the marketing manager is giving.
Basic tasks for this project include:
- Write project brief
- Create content
- Design slides
- Review deck
- Approve final deck
In this project example, we’ve assigned RACI roles to 7 key team members:
- Project manager
- Marketing manager
- Editorial director
- Content writer
- Creative director
Let’s zoom in on the RACI roles we mapped out for the Create content task example so you understand the why behind these assignments.
Sample RACI assignment: Create content task
- Responsible: The content writer is listed as Responsible for this task, so that’s who will actively work on content creation.
- Accountable: The editorial director is listed as Accountable for this task because that’s who is ultimately on the line for content quality and accuracy. Once the content is written, she’s the one who will review it to ensure it meets their company’s editorial standards.
- Consulted: The marketing manager is listed as Consulted. Since the marketing manager is the subject matter expert for the presentation, the writer can go to them for input or help filling in content gaps along the way.
- Informed: Several people have been assigned to the Informed role, though for different reasons. Since the Design slides task depends on this one, we want to make sure the writer keeps the creative director and designer informed on the status of content creation. The project manager and CMO are listed as Informed simply because they want to be kept in the loop about how work is progressing.
Benefits of the RACI model in project management
At its core, a RACI chart helps you set clear expectations about project roles and responsibilities. That way you don’t have multiple people working on the same task or against one another because tasks weren’t clearly defined on the front end.
A RACI matrix also encourages team members to take responsibility for their work—or defer to someone else when needed. Essentially, you’ll remove personal judgment and politics from your process and focus on your team’s ability to act responsibly within a framework you’ve created. Sounds pretty sweet, huh?
When to use or skip a RACI chart for your project
A RACI chart serves just about every project well. But it’s especially helpful when tasks require multiple resources, run concurrently, or depend on other tasks.
Here are a few scenarios when the RACI model is useful:
- The decision-making or approval process could hold up the project.
- There’s conflict about task ownership or decision-making.
- The project workload feels like it’s not distributed evenly.
- You experience turnover on a team and need to onboard someone quickly to a new role.
Of course, not all teams and projects are created equally. You might work with a team who just happens to communicate really well and stays on top of their own work. (Lucky you!) Or maybe your project is small enough that it would be silly to take the time to go through this exercise.
In cases like these, don’t worry about taking the extra step of creating a RACI matrix. Just be sure you have a clear plan in place to guide your team and project.
RACI matrix rules and best practices
Using a RACI chart is a whole lot easier when you follow a few simple rules. Once your RACI chart is complete, review it to be sure it meets these criteria:
- Every task has at least one Responsible person.
- There’s one (and only one!) Accountable party assigned to each task to allow for clear decision-making.
- No team members are overloaded with too many Responsible tasks.
- Every team member has a role on each task. (It’s not uncommon for some folks to be Informed on most tasks.)
These best practices can help you get the most out of your RACI chart:
- Focus on project tasks, milestones, and decisions in the RACI matrix. Avoid generic or administrative to-dos like team meetings or status reports.
- Align the tasks in your RACI chart with your project plan so there’s no confusion about details and due dates. (TeamGantt does this work for you by tying your RACI chart directly to your plan!)
- Keep RACI definitions close by because they can be tough to remember sometimes!
- Assign the Responsible team members to tasks in TeamGantt.
Common RACI pitfalls and how to avoid them
Now let’s walk through a few common mistakes that could hinder your RACI chart’s effectiveness.
Failing to get buy-in from your team and stakeholders
Creating a RACI matrix in a vacuum won’t serve any project well. In a best-case scenario, you’d sit down with your team and stakeholders to walk through the role assignments on each task. But let’s be real: That’s not always possible.
Just be sure everyone represented on your RACI chart has acknowledged and agreed to the roles and responsibilities you’ve laid out. More importantly, you want to check that your matrix eliminates any further project confusion.
Setting it and forgetting it
It’s easy to build a RACI matrix at the start of a project, then let it collect dust once the real work begins. But remember: This chart will defend you against mishaps that arise when you have too many cooks in the kitchen or a team member who thinks someone else is handling the work.
That’s why it’s important to keep these roles top of mind throughout a project’s life cycle. You can do this by reviewing RACI assignments for upcoming tasks in weekly status update meetings and making sure everyone involved in a project has easy access to the RACI chart.
In TeamGantt, you can assign RACI roles directly in your project plan so they’re clearly visible as team members work their way to the finish line.
Overcomplicating stakeholder communication
If you have a lot of Consulted and Informed roles on your matrix, make sure you have an easy and lightweight way to keep them informed. It could be as simple as making sure department heads and senior leaders have access to your project plan so they can follow progress along the way.
Managing a project with external clients or stakeholders? Sharing a view-only link to your project in TeamGantt is a great option for looping in folks outside your organization.
RACI model alternatives
RACI isn’t the only responsibility assignment matrix out there. These RACI model alternatives provide a small sample of other approaches you might come across in project management.
Also sometimes called a RASIC chart, this RACI alternative adds one extra role into the responsibility assignment mix. In the RASCI model, the S stands for Supportive. While this role covers anyone who will lend the Responsible person a hand with the work, a Supportive team member isn’t responsible for the outcome.
DACI stands for Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed and is used to outline decision-making roles and responsibilities for projects. In this framework, the project manager or leader typically serves as the Driver guiding the team to a decision.
RAPID responsibility matrix
RAPID stands for Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input, Decide and is another decision-making framework used to define authority vs accountability. The Recommend role kicks things off by suggesting an action, while the Decide role has the ultimate say in how things move forward.
CARS stands for Communicate, Approver, Responsible, Support. In this framework, Communicate combines RACI’s Consulted and Informed roles into a single assignment. Someone with the Communicate role lends their expertise and needs to be kept up-to-date on progress. The Approver is the main decision-maker who calls the shots.
How to create a RACI matrix in Excel
Lots of people use Excel to make a RACI chart for their projects. To build a RACI matrix in Excel, simply follow these 5 steps, using the examples below as your guide.
1. List project tasks and deliverables in column A
First, make a list of all the work that needs to be done for your project down the left side of your RACI chart. Enter each project task, milestone, or decision in column A of your Excel worksheet.
Feel free to group tasks by project phase like we’ve done in the RACI chart example below. That way, your RACI matrix is easy to scan and read.
2. Add team members or project roles across row 1
Starting with column B, label each column header with the name of a team member and/or project role.
Include the people who will execute and review work for the project, as well as any subject matter experts or stakeholders you may need to consult or keep in the loop along the way.
3. Insert a new worksheet for RACI roles and definitions
Click Insert >Insert Sheet from the Home ribbon at the top of your Excel workbook.
Go to your new worksheet, and list each letter of the RACI acronym in column A. Then enter the corresponding role for each letter in column B and their definitions in column C, like we’ve done in the example below.
This worksheet provides a handy reference in case you or your teammates need a refresher on RACI roles and definitions. We’ll also use it to populate a drop-down list on your main worksheet to make it easier to assign RACI roles quickly.
4. Add a drop-down list of roles to your RACI matrix
Now, go back to your main worksheet, and click into the first open cell in your RACI chart.
On the ribbon, click Data >Data validation to insert a drop-down list with RACI roles.
On the Settings tab, choose List under the Allow menu.
Click into the Source field, then highlight the data range with your RACI options from the RACI Roles & Definitions worksheet you set up in Step 3. We highlighted cells A2-A5 in our example.
Verify your Data validation settings are correct, then hit Enter to add the drop-down list to your selected cell.
Copy and paste that cell to apply the drop-down list to other cells in your RACI matrix worksheet.
5. Assign a RACI value to everyone on every task
You’re finally ready to fill out your RACI chart!
Go down the list of tasks on your RACI matrix, and assign a role to every person who will be involved in that project step or deliverable.
Free Excel RACI template
Want to build an Excel RACI chart of your own, but don't want to start from scratch? Download this blank RACI chart template for free!
How to build a RACI chart online in TeamGantt
TeamGantt makes mapping task roles and responsibilities simple by building a RACI chart right into your project plan. Not only does that save you time and paperwork, but it also ensures everyone always has easy access to your RACI matrix online.
Here’s how to use TeamGantt’s RACI feature for your next project.
Assigning RACI roles and responsibilities to TeamGantt tasks
- Open your project, and toggle to the RACI tab. This will display all your project tasks in a list format (rows). On the right side of the chart, you’ll see a column for each person currently invited to the project with cells for each task in the project.
- Click the cell below each person who needs to be assigned a role on a task, and choose one of the RACI options from the drop-down.
Viewing RACI chart assignments for your project
There are 2 simple ways to view RACI assignments in TeamGantt:
- From the Gantt tab: If someone is assigned to a task and has a RACI role on that task, the RACI value will appear in parentheses next to that person’s name on the gantt chart. Just be aware that you won’t see RACI assignments for people who haven’t been assigned to a specific task in Gantt view.
- From the RACI tab: To access your project’s full RACI chart, simply toggle to the RACI tab for that project. You’ll find RACI assignments for every person playing a role—whether or not they’re the one responsible for doing the work.
Keep your team in sync with TeamGantt
A RACI chart is a simple tool that makes projects easier to manage by creating less confusion and more accountability. But you’ve got more than roles and responsibilities to keep straight.
TeamGantt makes it easy to build a project plan your whole team can contribute to and collaborate on, with RACI assignments built right in. And because everything happens online, you can stay on top of deadlines and keep up with project progress in real time.