Software Development

Use a responsibility matrix to show who does what in your projects

If many people have a hand in the creation of a project, you should use a Responsibility Matrix to keep track of them.

In a large project, there may be many people who have some role in the completion of project deliverables. Sometimes this is pretty straightforward, such as one person writing a document and one person approving it. In other cases, there may be many people who have a hand in the creation and others that need to have varying levels of approval.

For complicated scenarios involving many people, it can be helpful to have a Responsibility Matrix. This helps set expectations and ensures people know what is expected from them. For instance, you need to know whether the members of the Steering Committee need to approve the Business Requirements document. The matrix can lay it all out.

On the matrix, the different roles appear as columns, with the deliverables listed as rows. If you know who the people are that are filling each role, you can place the actual names on the matrix. Then, use the intersecting points to describe each role's (or person's) responsibility for each deliverable. A simple matrix follows.

Project Sponsor

Project Director

Project Manager

Project Team

Steering Committee

Project Definition

A

A

C

R

A

Communication Plan

A

R

C

R

A

Business Requirements

A

R

R

C

A

Status Reports

R

R

C

R

R

The letters are interpreted as follows:

  • A means that the person (or role) approves the deliverable.
  • R means that the person (or role) reviews the deliverable.
  • C means that the person (or role) creates the deliverable. (Usually there is only one person who is responsible for creating a deliverable, although many people may provide input.)
  • (Other codes could be I -- Provides input and N -- Is notified when a deliverable is complete. You can create other codes for your project.)

In the table above, the Project Definition document is created by the project manager; reviewed by the project team and approved by the project sponsor, project director and the steering committee. The Business Requirements are created by the project team; reviewed by the project manager and the project director; and approved by the project sponsor and steering committee.

The purpose of the matrix is to gain clarity and agreement on who does what, so you can define the columns with as much detail as makes sense. For instance, in the above example, Project Team could have been broken into the specific people that make up the project team, with each person given their own column. You could then specify the actual individual responsible for the creation of the Business Requirements.

After the matrix is completed, it should be circulated for approval so that everyone understands and agrees to their roles and responsibility. If this is done early enough, it can be included in your Project Definition (charter). If it is done a little later it can be created as a standalone project management deliverable.

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