Friends – Venn Diagram & RACI(S) Matrix

3 minutes read

Originally published at medium.com/reachnow-tech on August 14th, 2019.


Moovel/REACH NOW has grown a lot in the past years and months. In particular there was a significant effort to onboard new engineers and product people into the Product & Tech department. This department owns almost all software development initiatives within Moovel/REACH NOW. Once we grew the software development department new structures, responsibilities and roles emerged.

Those changes had to be defined as well as making them transparent and accessible for everyone in the company. We use Venn diagrams and RACI(S) matrices to achieve this. This post is about why we use Venn diagrams and RACI(S) matrices.

Venn Diagrams

Venn diagrams are part of the set theory. Wikipedia states:

Venn diagram is a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of different sets  (source: wikipedia).

At Moovel/REACH NOW, similar to many other organisations, the members of a department can be considered a finite collection of different teams respectively sets. We use Venn diagrams to create clarity by illustrating relations between roles within the Product & Tech department. This is a simplified view of the structure we are using at the moment.

Product and Tech Department

RACI Matrix

RACI matrices (responsibility assignment matrix) is another tool that creates clarity. RACI is an abbreviation for

  • Responsible
  • Accountable
  • Consulted
  • Informed

It is a technique to analyze, visualize, clarify and define roles and responsibilities in departments, projects and processes (source: wikipedia). While Venn diagrams define shared and unique responsibilities RACI matrix create clarity for other levels.

RACIS

In the Product and Technology department, we use an adapted version of RACI – RACIS:

  • Responsible
  • Accountable
  • Consulted
  • Informed
  • Sign Off required

In case change to the department setup need to be signed off on, a colleague from the leadership team is defined to sign off. There are several other adaptations of RACI matrices available.

Advantages of Venn diagram and RACI(S) matrix

Venn diagrams

Past textual descriptions of roles and responsibilities often focus on what is in scope for a specific role. Describing the scope can be done with additional approaches as well:

  • Describing what is out of scope
  • Describing what are shared scopes of roles

Venn diagrams offer to combine these three approaches:

  1. In scope role A as well as in scope role B
  2. Shared scope A & B
  3. Out of scope for both, role A and B
Scopes

Using figurative representations like venn diagrams allow readers to grasp the main scope of the roles defined. Assuming 2 roles (A and B) are described in a venn diagram, readers can recognise 4 main information units:

  • Role A’s scope
    • that is the sole scope of A and the joined scope of A and B
    • set theory description: A + A & B
  • Role B’s scope 
    • that is the sole scope of B and the joined scope of A and B
    • set theory description: B + A & B
  • Shared scope of role A and B
    • that is the joined scope of A and B
    • set theory description: A & B
  • Out of scope for both, role A and B
    • that is the scope of A and B are not involved
    • set theory description: A XOR B – A & B

In order to depict roles in detail we use textual descriptions detailing the venn diagrams because venn diagrams are well suited to short descriptions of said scopes.

Currently we do not use out of scope. So far the role description with venn diagrams and additional textual descriptions are sufficient for the Product & Tech department.

RACI(S) matrix

RACIS matrix create clarity for questions like

  • Who is responsible.
  • Who is accountable.
  • Who needs to be consulted 
  • Who needs to be informed.
  • Who needs to sign off a change of the role.

We do link the personnel in RACIS, so readers can quickly contact them. Similar to Venn diagrams, additional textual descriptions can be used to provide context if needed. Thus far there has not been a need to use these in the RACIS matrix in the Product & Tech department.

Conclusion

Venn diagrams and RACI(S) matrix are well suited to describe roles and responsibilities within organisations. Readers are able to focus on key information of the organisational setup as well as contacting key personnel if necessary.

Lothar Schulz

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