How reframing RAM and RAID changes their use in managing projects

by Sylvie Edwards

Looking to find out more about project RAM and RAID? Humans have this uncanny way of putting on a new coat of paint or moving a few pieces around, and “voilà,” we have a new thing. The same seems to apply to reports that have been long established in the project management library. I have recently seen some resurrected to a new faith without as much as a word as to why it had fallen out of favor in the first place. In the following article, I will explore two in particular: the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) chart and the Risk, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies (RAID) log or report. So, if you also think you were hallucinating, you were not.

For our first document, I always remember a student asking me the question: “I cannot find an example of a RAM chart anywhere. To me, they all look like the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) Matrix, and they actually say so too. Am I doing something wrong? What’s the difference anyway?” That was almost ten years ago. I had given students in my PM Fundamentals class the assignment to search online or in their office records for a template for a RAM chart and to use that template to document the final decision for the resources needed on their assigned team projects.

Almost immediately, the entire class came back with a number of different options, but this one student truly was baffled by what he had discovered. RAM charts were not easy to find, and when you found one, it looked and spelled RACI in most cases. I remember that it is at that point that I realized that PMI® had somehow amalgamated several resources charts and documents under the umbrella of “organization charts and position descriptions.” This appears as such in the third edition and keeps on going from there. Where I figure it got really blurred was in the fourth edition, where the RAM using a RACI format as depicted on page 221. Now that would get confusing if you expected these two things to be different.

For the “old guard” reading this article, you would have been trained to use a RACI chart early in the project, sometimes even in the project charter when you have not yet identified specific resources (i.e., down to the name) for tasks or work on the project. At that point, the RACI is more about understanding what skills you require and when. Over time, when the schedule is defined and a person is assigned to the work, a RAM is then developed, which would show exactly who is doing what work, supported by whom and under whose authority and responsibility. The RAM was what I swore by when assigning work to individuals on my projects.

Willingly or not, PMI® has, with the use of a graphic and a few twists on words, modified the entire use of these documents during the life cycle of a project. Forward several years later, and you now have a large proliferation of alphabet soup used for the RACI and RAM ranging from RASCI, PARIS, ARCI, CAIRO, and so on to, the tune of over 21 when I last counted. I, in fact, read an article recently (sorry, but I cannot recall by whom) calling the RACI the chameleon of project management charts.

I am all for change, but when it puts your mind, sanity, or mad skills in doubt, we should take the time to revisit and place it back into its rightful context.

The second document I came across and I want to present to you as another maddening example is what is known as the RAID log or report.

Here is another transformation that I discovered through a clever student assignment. When asked to find a good risk register template, one student came up with a RAID log. To this day, I do not think he understands why he might have been poorly graded for that one.

Being a staunch observer of the need for a proper risk register on every project, I was a bit less than pleased with this discovery. Nonetheless, I went on the search for the meaning of this new log/report, which is yet another amalgamation of work that would have been done separately before.

For those of you not familiar with a RAID log/report, it is the combination of a risk register/log (another use of the word log that I don’t appreciate), action, issues, and decision logs. As far as my research could trace from this modification over time, it seems that the RAID log came about at the same time as an Agile methodology in the hopes of condensing logs into one document. If someone reading this article knows more, feel free to contact me as my search was less than successful at a definite point when it appeared in the project management literature.

In the case of the RAID log/report, the jury is still out. It is still fairly unknown, and I will not willingly change my faithful risk register to it anytime soon.

The lesson here, as the project management environment and work continually evolve, so will the tools, documents, and techniques we use to make it work for us. The key for any PM is to know what to use to suit their particular project and the needs of its stakeholders. We don’t always need to use the newest, shiniest “toy,” but knowing that we could and chose not to for the sake of the project is in itself a victory. It has nothing to do with being stubborn or old-fashioned.


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