The act of putting together the detailed project plan that will eventually drive the overall management of the engagement can be an arduous process. Unless your projects are always straightforward and always the same, you can't really just apply a cookie cutter template to it.You have to re-invent the wheel for each project most of the time.

Time is always a critical factor because upfront planning on the project is something that the sales guy who priced the project for the customer rarely takes into consideration. So, as the project manager, you're often already behind the eight balls just as you get the project handed to you.

You have some time/effort built into the original estimate for planning, but not as much as you probably need. But as we all know, good up front planning can go a long way in determining the success of your project.

If you have the time, putting together a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) can be very beneficial in ensuring that all aspects of the project and associated tasks and responsibilities are well covered before you actually start work on the engagement.

The RAM is a tool that identifies how project participants interact with the activities of the project. The most common type of interaction is being responsible for completing an activity. But consider other situations, such as these: a technical expert who must be consulted on several activities, management approvals that are required before initiating an activity, or a client representative who must be notified when certain activities have been completed.

The RAM provides an opportunity for documenting these types of people-project interactions. The figure below illustrates an example of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix.

Project Responsibility Matrix

Along the left of the RAM are the project activities - these are a direct output of the WBS. These should be elements of work, not functional responsibility.Across the top are the major project participants. These should be specific individuals. You may indicate just the departments before individuals are assigned.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix Roles

In each cell is a letter that denotes the type of people-project interaction. There are no standards for the codes; use whatever works for your particular situation and include a key. Here are some possible interactions:

  • Responsible
  • Document reviewer
  • Accountable
  • Input requested
  • Must be notified
  • Approval required
  • May be notified
  • Support
  • Participant
  • Gate reviewer

The RAM can be a valuable communication device, as it displays the project participants and their implied relationship to one another as well as to the project.