Leveraging a RACI Matrix for Information Governance

A retail example for information governance

Founder and Managing Partner, Information Asset, LLC

Organizations often grapple with roles and responsibilities around information. We often hear questions such as “who owns the data?”, “where should data stewards reside within the organization?” and “who should participate in the information governance council?” A RACI matrix is an excellent tool to address these issues in a fact-based manner. The term “RACI” stands for the following:

  • Responsible – The person who has delegated responsibility to manage an attribute. There may be multiple responsible parties for one attribute.
  • Accountable – The person who has ultimate accountability for the data attribute. The accountable person may delegate the responsibility to manage an attribute to a responsible party. There should only be one accountable party.
  • Consulted – The person or persons who are consulted via bi-directional communications.
  • Informed – The person or persons who are kept informed via uni-directional communications.

To bring RACI to life, let’s take a look at the retail industry. Merchandising is responsible for managing assortments, and is typically the overall owner of product information at a retailer. However, there are different attributes for product information that must be governed by different parts of the organization. Here is a sample RACI matrix for governance of product information at a retailer: Merchandising has overall accountability for product hierarchies. Product catalogs, in particular, require highly flexible hierarchies. For example, merchandising may want to create a new spring print catalog comprised of a limited subset of products. This catalog will require the information to be tailored for print format and a hierarchy that is specific to the print organization of the products. Finance is also a responsible party because product hierarchies affect product reporting. Marketing needs to be consulted because product hierarchies affect catalogs and marketing campaigns. This is only the beginning. At the product level alone there are a myriad of factors that need to be addressed by sound information governance. Examples include:

  • Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) refers to a set of identifiers developed by GS1 to refer to products or services. These identifiers consist of 8, 12, 13, or 14 digits and are a way for manufacturers and retailers to speak the same language regarding products. Most consumers will recognize GTINs as the barcodes on products that they buy at their local retailer. The manufacturer (vendor) is responsible for obtaining a new GTIN from GS1 when it introduces a new product. Because every GTIN includes a manufacturer-specific prefix that is assigned by GS1, merchandising can run a simple validation to cross-reference the manufacturer’s name with an approved list of prefixes. This will avoid unnecessary downstream errors in the new product introduction workflow.
  • Product description. The vendor has responsibility for the correct product descriptions in conjunction with marketing.
  • Product type. Merchandising has accountability for the product type that drives the attributes that need to be applied to a product. For example, attributes such as material and handling codes might be required for hazardous products.
  • Vendor name and identifier. The buyers or merchants within the merchandising department are accountable for vendor negotiations. The merchants need to ensure that vendor information is entered accurately in the product systems so that this information is appropriately rolled up for vendor performance and profitability reporting.
  • Vendor certifications. The assurance or compliance department is responsible for ensuring that vendors adhere to all local regulations.
  • Hazardous materials/recycling content. The vendor is responsible for populating these attributes during the new product introduction process. The supply chain and assurance departments need to be consulted on these attributes.
  • Weight and dimensions. The supply chain department needs to be consulted on the weight and dimensions of products. Merchandising should run basic validations on weight and dimensions information that is received from vendors. In a worst-case scenario, the logistics department might have sub-optimal truckloads if product dimensions are represented in feet instead of inches.
  • Packaging. Retailers will often order a large quantity of a product and then break it down into smaller quantities for sale within the store. The merchandising department is responsible for the packaging attributes. Supply chain need to be consulted due to the impact on logistics and the distribution centers. Quality assurance also needs to be consulted because some retailers may need to check certain packaging before it is ready for sale.
  • Product images. Merchandising is accountable to drive product sales into multiple channels including catalogs and the web. Both these channels need high quality digital images. The marketing and e-commerce teams might be responsible for these product images within catalogs and the web site respectively. Store operations and customer service need to be consulted because their associates need to refer to product images. Quality assurance may also need to be consulted because some retailers check images and product labels in the lab before the product is ready for sale.
  • Costing and pricing. Because merchandising and finance have joint responsibility for product financial performance, they need to collaborate on costing and pricing information. Because low-cost products are a competitive advantage, retailers do not want this product to fall into the wrong hands. The same goes for pricing of products that might be subject to marketing promotions. As a result, information security needs to be informed of any efforts to secure this information.
  • Product relationships. Merchandising is accountable, and marketing is responsible, for product relationships such as cross-sell, up-sell, and substitutes.
  • Product status. Merchandising is accountable for the status of the product as it moves through the lifecycle including the active and discontinued phases. Marketing and finance also need to be consulted.
  • Promotions. Merchandising is accountable for attributes relating to promotions such as seasonality, bundling, and pricing. Marketing and finance also need to be consulted.

The issue of information ownership is fraught with friction and turf battles. The RACI matrix is an excellent tool to remove the emotion from these discussions and to have a more fine-grained conversation about the actual information at an attribute level.

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