A DACI matrix is your best tool for making quick and effective decisions during any project. We’ll explain why and give you 5 tips for creating one.
Project managers tend to be the “measure twice, cut once” type. But what happens when the project gets stressful, confusing, and there’s high pressure to move quickly? There’s no time to measure out a solution twice because decisions (or the “cut” so to say) must be made as soon as possible. Is a PM going to be effective at managing this?
If they prepared a DACI matrix before the project got kicked off, then you bet.
Now, if you’re not sure what DACI means, then this article’s for you. (But if you’re already a big fan of the tool and use them regularly, then have you mind mapped?)
This article will explain the DACI decision-making framework used in project management and we’ll give you five tips for creating a successful matrix.
What is a DACI decision-making framework?
A DACI matrix, also known as a DACI chart or DACI framework, is a diagram that identifies the key roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and project team members for each major task within a project. The DACI matrix serves as a visual representation of the functional role played by each person on a project team. Creating this responsibility assignment matrix is also an excellent exercise to gain support for an agreed upon decision-making process for the project.
To be clear: A DACI matrix isn’t the project plan
The DACI matrix doesn’t assign work or determine timelines and should not serve as the project plan. Your project plan will define the scope (i.e., a high-level list of expected deliverables), the project timeline, and how the project is to be managed. The DACI chart, on the other hand, is only a chart showing the participation type and roles in making decisions along each major project task.
What does DACI stand for?
DACI is an acronym for driver, accountable, consulted, and informed. Each letter represents the role and level of participation for an individual or group for the corresponding task/milestone. Let’s dive into the definition of each of the DACI roles.
The person who is driving that specific task and performing the actual work for the project task.*
Note: In a RACI framework, the R stands for “responsible” and is synonymous with the D in DACI.
The person who is accountable for the success of the task and is the final decision-maker and the approver. Typically the product manager.*
The people who need to be consulted for additional information and details on requirements. Typically the person (or team) to be consulted will be a SME (subject matter expert).
The people who need to be kept informed of major updates, typically senior leadership. Main communication form is often emails.
Here is an example of a DACI matrix:
5 tips for creating a strong DACI matrix
Let’s get into some tips for how a project manager can make an effective DACI model matrix.
1. Don’t get too granular
Again, the matrix isn’t the project plan. The identified tasks and roles shouldn’t be daily or even weekly tasks. Instead, focus on major milestones where a decision or approval will need to be made.
2. Don’t use the same matrix for every project
The DACI framework and template can be reused to encourage standardization across multiple projects, but each project needs its own matrix. Each project varies in complexity, and the matrix and specific milestones need to represent this.
3. Be consistent
Since the whole purpose of a DACI matrix is to set clear participation levels for making project decisions, it’s important to stick to the framework. For example, the person assigned as “accountable” for a task/milestone/activity should be the final decision-maker and approver of that task. They should not be bypassed or usurped for any reason, other than they are unexpectedly unavailable of course.
A deviation from the defined project roles, especially in times of confusion, will lead to distrust and confusion as well as weaken the power of the DACI framework. Once a project starts, you essentially need to stay the course with the agreed upon DACI.
4. Stick to only major milestones on the matrix
Each task/column in the DACI matrix should be one that requires a potential decision to be made. Don’t add administrative tasks such as team meetings. Once again, tasks such as those should be in the project plan instead.
5. Don’t mix up the driver for who is accountable
The person assigned “driver” (or “responsible” in a RACI matrix) shouldn’t also be “accountable” for the same task. It’ll be rare that the person performing a specific task (driver or responsible) is also authorized to approve the work or make decisions (accountable). When this confusion does happen, it’s often indicative that the milestone is too granular.
DACI or RACI. Matrix or chart. Either way, you need one
When stakeholders know their level of authority, expected participation type, and who to go to for needed info or a decision, the project will run smoother and quicker.
One last tip: Make the matrix readily available to all project team members and stakeholders by keeping it in a shared document location, such as your Sharepoint, Google Drive, or other document management system.
If you’d like to try this matrix out yourself, download this template here to see an example of a project in a DACI chart, or fill out the blank section with your own project.
To continue to learn more about the project management world and the tools available to you, take a look at these articles, which map out the basics of this vital part of the business world.
- 6 Simple Steps to Develop Good Decision-Making Skills: When you think about it, a typical day at work is basically one decision after another, especially for project managers. Make sure you’re making smart ones with our six steps.
- Cross-Functional Communication Best Practices to Boost Collaboration: Making communication and collaboration efficient and easy for your cross-functional teams requires strategic changes within your organization. Learn some of the best practices to get there.
- 10 Best Free Project Management Software Tools: In this article, we highlight the 10 top-rated free project management (PM) software options on Capterra and explain each product offering and the cost to upgrade.
- Project Management Software Buyers Guide: In this guide, we’ll answer the question of “what is project management software,” how it benefits you, the typical functionality offered, a pricing overview, and a few things to consider when you decide to invest in a PM tool.
Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.