August 19, 2017


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Three important project management tools and techniques

By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM

Whether you’re an experienced project manager, or a project manager preparing to take the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam, here are three tools and techniques you will be using on all your projects.

They are the following:

  1. Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)
  2. Roles and Responsibilities
  3. Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

Roles and ResponsibilitiesEach of these tools and techniques are discussed within A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013, the globally recognized standard and guide for the project management profession. Let’s look at each of these tools and techniques individually, but also how they interact with each other.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

RAM is a tool used as part of the Plan Human Resource Management process that relates the organizational breakdown structure (OBS) to the work breakdown structure (WBS) and is used to ensure each project activity is assigned a specific resource. A RAM can be used at a high level, a low level, or a combination of both depending on the size and complexity of the project.

One of the most widely known and used type of RAM is the RACI chart. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. A RACI chart is simply a table with project activities listed along the left and specific individuals or groups identified across the top. This creates a grid where each activity and individual or group intersect. An R, A, C, or I can be placed in each of the intersecting boxes and at least one accountable individual or group is assigned to each project activity. For large activities there may need to be more than one individual responsible for completing the work. There can be multiple individuals or groups who need to be consulted or informed, but be careful to make sure that each is identified correctly so that not too many unnecessary individuals or groups are being consulted when they may just want to be informed.

Roles and Responsibilities

They are used to define the project role, authority, responsibilities, and competencies required for the role. Clearly defining and documenting the specific Roles and Responsibilities necessary for each project resource are essential ingredients of an effective Human Resource Management Plan. The best way to determine the specific responsibilities required of each role on a project is to document these roles in the form of specific job descriptions that must be matched with specific project team members in order to properly execute the role’s responsibilities.

The four key items to be addressed when developing Roles and Responsibilities are role, authority, responsibility, and competency. Role is the function an assigned person would take on such as designer, engineer, or tester. As part of a role it is also important to define the authority, responsibilities, and boundaries of the role.

Authority is the right to make decisions, sign approvals, apply resources, accept deliverables, and influence others to complete project activities.

Responsibility is the assigned tasks and work the individual is expected to complete. When developing roles and responsibilities it is important that the authority and responsibility match. For example, if an engineer is responsible for making technical decisions it is important they have the authority to implement those decisions.

Competency is the skill set and experience required to complete assigned project activities. If the wrong competency is assigned to a role project progress can be hindered by some activities not being performed.

Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

The RBS is a graphical representation of the hierarchical structure of resources by category and resource type where each level is broken down until it is small enough to be used in conjunction with the work breakdown structure (WBS). The goal is to have all resources on a project, not only human resources, linked to specific activities in the WBS in order to plan, monitor, and control the project work. Being able to link resources back to the WBS is essential in ensuring that each activity will be successfully performed.

One thing to remember when taking the PMP Exam is that the acronym RBS has two meanings in the world of project management; Resource Breakdown Structure and Risk Breakdown Structure. If you read the questions carefully and understand the context of the question context (i.e., are they asking about resources or risks?) you should not encounter any problems.

Three R’s on projects

How do the Responsibility Assignment Matrix, Roles and Responsibilities, and Resource Breakdown Structure interact?

The RBS will provide the project manager with information concerning the resources required to complete the project work. Once the RBS is decomposed to the same level as the WBS then identified resources can be linked to specific activities.

A RACI chart can then be developed based on the identified resources in the RBS and the activities that need to be completed in the WBS.

The documented Roles and Responsibilities provides the project manager with specific information such as the responsibility, authority, and competency level of the role that each human resource is assigned to. This also helps the Project Manager complete the RACI chart because it provides them with important information such as making someone responsible or accountable for an activity fitting within the role they fill.

In conclusion, a popular RAM, the RACI chart, is an extremely useful tool used to identify who is accountable or responsible for or needs to be consulted or informed with regard to specific project activities.

Roles and Responsibilities can be thought of as job descriptions that define the role itself along with the authority needed to perform the role, the responsibilities of the role, and the competencies required by the role.

The RBS graphically displays what resources are necessary for successful completion of the project, broken down by both resource category and resource type. For the exam, it is important that you understand not only how and when to use each of these tools and techniques, but also how they interact with each other.

Please visit The PM Prepcast for a very mobile video workshop that will help you prepare for your PMP exam.

Clash Between the Titans: PRINCE2 vs Project Management Professionals

This post was sourced from an article that was published in “The Project Manager” magazine, authored by Dr Christopher Worsley.

The clash referred to here is between the institutions or training companies providing PRINCE2™ courses and who are promoting method accreditation versus training organisations offering courses that promote professional project management.

It has taken time and much research, some funded by the national and international project management associations, to develop a consistent view about what makes a good project manager.

There remains work to be done, but consensus is growing about their attributes, and for a professional curriculum and valid assessment criteria to be created.

Where is the problem?

The problem is the difference between education and training.

Not sure what the difference is? Simply check your reaction to your child coming home and saying he/she had sex training rather than sex education at school today!

Institutions who offer PRINCE2™ would claim that some 50 000 individuals sit the PRINCE2™ tests every year, while the institutions who offer PMP certification educations would be hard-pressed to find 5 000 taking advanced project management qualifications worldwide.

We need to worry that the personal development budget for future project managers is being consumed by training programmes, when this money could be better spent in educating them in project management.

Senior executives want people skilled at running projects. People skilled at running projects are distinguished by their attitudes, their skills, the responsibilities they intuitively accept, and the tasks and procedures they follow.

It is a well-researched finding that the best predictor of project performance is level of previous project experience. None of these are the outcomes from the typical five-day accreditation training course, including two days of tests.

What project management education does, is develop judgement and attitudes. It focuses on disciplines, not procedures, and forces focus on the factors that lead to success in projects.

There is a place for procedures. They are the distilled wisdom from hundreds of man years of others’ experience, but they are not rules, they are guidance; something that someone – whose only exposure to project management is a method course and anecdotal experiences, shaped by that method – rarely grasps.

How to resolve the clash?

The first and most important thing is to make the case for developing project management expertise, rather than project method expertise.

The major project management organisations, such as the APM, the International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) and the Project Management Institute (PMI), must make their cases much clearer and deliver to the marketplace clear guidelines about what good project management education should look like.

Both the APM and the PMI have long-standing entry-level knowledge programmes that are preferable starting points for project management education, but they suffer from many of the same faults as the method accreditation courses, with a public image that attaining these underwrites some sort of professional status in project management when they patently do not.

And project managers who value their contribution to their organisation and to their country should demand loud and clear that they are professionals and expect professional status with all that comes with it: recognition, responsibility and qualifications.

Dr Christopher and Louise Worsley are Managing Directors of PiCubed, Delivering Change through Projects, Portfolios and Programmes, a South African centre for excellence in project management. It is a sister company to CITI – a highly respected project management education and consultancy business in the UK.

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