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raci chart vs handoff agreement which is better for project clarity
3 min read

RACI Chart vs. Handoff Agreement: Which is Better for Project Clarity?

Miscommunication from unclear responsibilities results in costly project delays. Defining roles and formalizing handoffs between teams is key.

In this post, we’ll compare two popular frameworks - the RACI chart and the handoff agreement.

You’ll learn: 

  • How RACI charts and handoff docs improve clarity

  • When to use each tool based on needs and context

  • Tips for using RACI and handoff agreements together

  • With the right framework, you can optimize workflows for maximum productivity. Let’s dive in.

What is a RACI Chart?

A RACI chart is a matrix that maps team members to project activities based on their level of participation. RACI stands for:

R - Responsible

A - Accountable

C - Consulted

I - Informed

This simple model brings clarity to complex cross-functional projects. At a glance, everyone understands their role and ownership for each task.

RACI charts are flexible and scalable across projects of all sizes. Start by listing key activities or work packages. Then designate RACI roles for each team member.

For example, for a website redesign project:

RACI Chart


  • Improves clarity on the delivery of tasks

  • Promotes accountability

  • Easy to track progress and status


  • It can get complex with too many tasks

  • Needs updating with changes

  • RACI matrices work best for ongoing team projects with multiple moving parts.

What is a Handoff Agreement?

A handoff agreement outlines the details when transitioning a project from one owner to another. It captures the current status, pending actions, requirements, and other specifics to prevent drops as ownership changes hands.

Handoff agreements help establish:

  • Scope of work being transferred

  • Budget, schedule, requirements

  • Risks, dependencies, issues

  • Status of deliverables

  • Communication plans


  • Clear documentation of critical details

  • Prevents transition gaps

  • Allows new owner to hit the ground running


  • Time-consuming to create, initially

  • Can become outdated if not updated

Handoff agreements are ideal for phased initiatives involving multiple vendors or internal teams.


Key Differences Between RACI and Handoff Agreements

While both improve clarity, there are some key differences:


  • RACI = Matrix chart

  • Handoff = Detailed document

Ongoing use:

  • RACI reviewed regularly

  • Handoff created at transition points

Level of detail:

  • RACI high-level roles

  • Handoff granular task list


  • RACI easily adjust to change

  • Handoffs may require a full overhaul

When to Use RACI or Handoff Agreements

With different strengths, when should you use RACI versus handoff agreements (and Vice Versa)?

Use RACI for:

  • Cross-functional agile teams - RACI matrices provide overarching clarity across changing requirements. Adaptable for dynamic teams.

  • Multiple stakeholders - High-level RACI alignment is helpful when multiple parties are involved. Prevents miscoordination.

  • Ongoing projects with evolving scope - As needs change, a RACI chart can be easily updated for new roles/tasks.

Use Handoff when:

  • Transitioning large waterfall initiatives - Detailed handoff critical for complex projects with many milestones.

  • Handing off to external vendors/partners - Handoff doc contractually defines expectations and scope.

  • Handoffs between internal departments - Provides structured knowledge transfer between teams like marketing to sales.

  • Handoff to internal platforms/technologies - Outlines integration points and requirements when building on existing systems.

  • Strict compliance requirements - Formal handoff provides an audit trail of accountability.

  • End of large phases - Major transitions between development, testing, delivery, etc., benefit from structured handoff.

RACI handles ambiguity better for agile teams. Handoff agreements overlay structure for multi-party waterfall projects.

Using RACI and Handoff Agreements Together

RACI and handoff agreements can also be used together for optimal clarity.

RACI provides ongoing alignment of responsibility while handoff documents the status at critical transition checkpoints.

For example, the marketing team completes the RACI chart during the project kickoff. The design lead uses a handoff agreement when transitioning wireframes to the dev team.

This integrated approach keeps teams nimble while also formally documenting key milestones. Use RACI for day-to-day alignment and handoffs at major intervals to get the best of both.

The Bottom Line: Achieving Project Clarity

At the end of the day, the RACI and handoff tools enable transparency around responsibilities and status. Analyze your team’s needs before implementing either framework.

Larger and more fluid teams generally benefit from lightweight RACI matrices that can be easily updated as needs evolve. Handoff agreements help add formal structure around critical delivery points for complex transition-heavy projects.

Whichever model you choose, establishing clear ownership upfront is the key to preventing miscommunication bottlenecks. Project clarity empowers teams to deliver efficiently at maximum productivity.