Who Does What, When?

19 March, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I have never liked being described as a human resource. It makes me feel like a wheelbarrow or a refill pad. Sadly though, when planning what people you need on your project team, you as a Project Manager do tend to look at the people required in the same way as you look at the other resources.

In fact, the first thing you do when you are considering your resource requirements is to create a resource breakdown structure, where your top-level headings are likely to be: equipment, materials and people. Breaking this down further, you do tend to think of each category in the same way. What sort of work do I need done? When do I need it done by? How much can I spend on this? Should I rent or buy?

The work involved really drives the choice of resource. So the work breakdown structure (WBS) is invaluable in guiding your resource requirements. What is needed to get this particular work package completed? Using Bottom-up estimation in the Estimate Activity Resourse Process from the PMBOK® Guide outlines this apporach. Our PMP® preparation courses put extreme emphasis on the WBS and this is one of the reasons why.

However, in project work, it is very rarely the case that a work package only involves one person. Generally speaking, a work package involves the production of some sort of deliverable or artefact. Someone has to commission the artefact. In other words, someone needs to explain what needs to be done to the person who will be responsible for carrying out the work. This person then might draw on other artefacts (either those already produced during this project or ones available outside the project) to develop the new artefact. Once the first draft is complete, it needs to be reviewed. In this way, several views can be canvassed on the content of the artefact. Once these people are satisfied (which might involve the production of several more drafts), the artefact is provided to the people who need to use it.

This artefact cycle means that a variety of roles are needed to get something done. So we need someone to be:

  • Accountable: This person will ensure that the work has been done and will report back to management with status reports.
  • Responsible. This is the person who actually does the work.
  • Consulted: These people can be a source of advice when creating the initial draft of the artefact and also can review the finished product critically.
  • Informed: These are people who need to know that the artefact is available. They might depend on it to begin their downstream tasks or, in the case of project managers, they will need to know the status of the artefact for progress reporting.

The project manager can capture these roles in a very simple construct called a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) chart. This is a form of responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) which clearly shows who does what on the project. For instance:

Every activity needs someone to accept responsibility for it, i.e. be accountable (A). It also needs someone to be responsible for doing the work (R). It is possible for the same person to be responsible and accountable, but it makes sense to separate out the two roles. Having people available to review work is important in that it allows several perspectives. It also helps to incorporate reviewing activities into your work breakdown. Those called upon to assist in the development of an artefact are called consultants (C). Finally, someone, usually the project manager, needs to be informed of how things are progressing on the artefact (I), Ideally the PM wants to know when the activity is complete, but any issues that arise in the process need to be highlighted as well.

Producing a RACI chart is a useful way to identify the sorts of people you need to carry out the project work. Make sure that one and only one person is responsible and one and only one person is accountable.

Please refer to the Plan Human Resource Management process in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) for more details. No doubt if you attend a Project Management course or a PMP® exam prep course you will see this tool again,


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