May 2014

Social media texting merges with RACI to enhance project management

Every oilfield project has formal and informal communication structures that impact its success.

Robert W. Troy / Ener-Net Paula S. deWitte / Ener-Net


Fig. 1. RACI matrix.


Traditional project managers are mid-to-late career, aged mid-40s and older, and rose to their roles through years of experience as project participants. They tend to expect a formal communication (and response) style using traditional technology—email, written reports and scheduled in-person meetings.

What differentiates the types of project participants are not traditional factors of sex or culture as much as their ages. With that age continuum come differences in project management philosophy, communication style and expectations. Project participants range in age from the so-called Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), to Generation X (1965–1976), Millennials (1977–1995) and the Z generation right after.

Expectations and the need for communication have become even more apparent in large-scale, complex projects, where communication is vital to a project’s success, and where the age groups with their different set of communication skills become varied and dispersed. Millennials prefer to text, and Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face, email and mobile-phone-voice communication.

Timely communication. With the increasingly widespread use of texting by Baby Boomer senior managers, it has become more and more apparent that if project management uses controlled texting to supplement email and voicemail, a new dynamic occurs. There can be an improved communication structure for management, along with the individuals required to carry out assigned tasks.

How many times a day are people using social media, either on the job or not, for “fear of missing out” (for which the word “FOMO” was coined)? With this strong influence of texting as a form of communication, the idea of combining texting/social media in a structured manner as one of the primary means of project communication was created. This concept ensures that timely communication is passed from one person to another, or to a group within the project. In other words, the RACI concept, integrated with proven texting tools, brings another level of communication to the project team.

RACI/texting concept. Specifically, the RACI/texting concept for project management is a method, system and software for social media texting communication among multiple parties for managing a project, with each party assigned a role in the project by the RACI matrix, Fig. 2. In particular, this concept relates to the control, management and archiving of electronic communication and associated data among multiple parties, where the role of each party in the communication is based on roles according to a RACI matrix that 1) assigns a role for a project and/or specific tasks within the project; 2) assigns a preferred social media mode of communication for each party (e.g., text, email, blog) to receive and send information; 3) assigns an interface that controls, monitors and manages the communication stream, both one-way and two-way (bring your own device, or BYOD); and 4) electronically stores the relevant data.


Fig. 2. RACI management matrix.


This RACI/texting concept is generally applicable to a myriad of situations requiring communication about tasks or activities between parties. The workflow can be envisioned as a project, even if a project is not formally established, completed with a schedule for completion of tasks (or activities), milestones and deliverables or products. In turn, the efficiency and effectiveness of communication between project parties enhances the effectiveness of the overall project management.

The process consists of merging RACI and texting in a texting communication process/method, which includes software for managing project management teams though the use of social media tools. RACI’s organizational chart is created for project management with the intent of assigning specific roles and responsibility for each project team member. The RACI social media system for project management layers on top of the established RACI system, to provide the communication framework using texting with email ability to communicate directly with project team members. Groups can be established with send/receive capability or just send-only texting, i.e., not just limited to the RACI Matrix for user-specific communication.

Texting communications may include, but are not limited to, requests for information on the accomplishment of tasks or their status, request for information to a specific team member or specific action instructions given to team members, or notifications to the entire team. The texting communication process allows for responses to requested information or instructions, as defined by the message sender or originator

Understanding RACI/texting requires an understanding of the project management process. Projects may be structured formally with a written plan, schedule and milestones for completion of a task, product or budget. For example, a project may be structured informally without specific documentation of project management elements. Regardless, project/program management involves communicating between individuals and various groups of people for a common goal of completing tasks that ultimately lead to completing a project. On a conceptual level, a project is based on management-structured data that comprise a work breakdown structure (WBS) of tasks and subtasks, each with its own definition and team members (which may overlap or be distinct groups of individuals).

RACI/texting has four key elements:

1. Communication mechanisms: Communication modes utilizing social media mechanisms designed for complex service business to securely collaborate through smart devices. These devices include, but are not limited to, computers, handheld devices, cell phones, laptops and tablet computers. Communication is targeted to specific individuals or groups of individuals, with no one receiving
unnecessary communication.

2. RACI model framework: Social media communication protocol is based on a defined RACI IT Portal/SMS texting server that connects members, their expertise and roles to projects in a secure environment, preserving the integrity and confidentiality of the communication. Rules within the server define how the social media network communicates text-based social media messaging for BYOD devices through the portal/server.

3. Knowledge management: The system tracks and stores all messages for delivery and receipt, as well as data and information contained within the messages and meta data associated with message delivery, receipt and response. This allows the data to be mined for key performance indicators (KPI) and business metrics. RACI/texting enables communication transparency by capturing the who, what, when and where of communication. It also allows managers to see which team members have communicated, and to measure communication effectiveness by comparing communication metrics of teams and project performance.

Use of these data will identify a number of services to support business efficiency, including but not limited to:

  • Best practices for project and asset management beyond the current project, allowing greater productivity with key metrics based on: 1) decisions or informed exchanges; 2) invisible lost time; 3) non-productive time; and 4) trouble time or safety incidents
  • Learning and operational improvements
  • Communicating with vendors and subcontractors outside the company
  • Proactively driving the current unsecure SMS texting challenge into useful and strategic communication applications
  • Data mining texts for KPI snapshots of a business or organization, based on specific pre-defined measures.

4. Event communication and notification: Notification for events, including automatic notification for emergency events, results in further efficiency in areas such as training, or enhancing safety or equipment and personnel.

The basic form of texting is one that most individuals may have used already: one-direction communication through texting, Fig. 3. The A-party (accountable) sends general information to some or all project team members, but does not require or expect a response. The choice of sending information to some or all members of the project team is based upon a communication’s subject content. Any response (i.e., “information received”) is deemed insignificant and not allowed by the system. General notification to some members or the entire team is included in this type of communication (i.e., “Interesting technology webinar at 4 p.m. today” or “company meeting at 3 p.m. today”). This information is specific to the project or its status, and does not require a response from the receiving parties.


Fig. 3. One-direction communication through texting.


Figure 4 illustrates two-way communication through text and email. The A-party sends general information to selected members, or members of the project team, who are the R-, C- or I-parties for the project task and, as such, require and expect a response from team members, depending on the content’s nature and the receiving party’s role. Users can designate an automatic follow-up email, if a response has not been sent within the specific timeframe. An automatic reminder is sent, if a response is not received within a specific amount of time, as user-defined.


Fig. 4. Two-way communication through text and email.


An example of this type of communication is a general request to check task status or, more specifically, to request if a task has been accomplished (i.e., finished) by the R-party. The A-party expects a response from the R-party on task status, or if the task has been completed. The C-party and the I-party are sent the request for information from the A-party because of their roles. The A-party normally copies the C-party and I-party on the response, but may alter the response if sensitive in nature. The choice of sending information to some or all members of the project team is based upon the communication’s subject content and, in this example, specifically what task status is being requested.

Figure 5 illustrates two-way communication through text or email to multiple parties in a layered or hierarchical project management framework. Management of projects usually entails having an R-party further delegate work to others, to create a hierarchical team structure. The A-party sends general information to a selected member or members of the project team, who are the R-party (responsible) for the project task and, as such, require and expect a response from team members, depending on the content’s nature and the receiving party’s role, with an optional automatic reminder.


Fig. 5. Two-way communication through text or email to multiple parties in a layered or hierarchical project management framework.


An example of this type of communication is a request to check the general status of a task (i.e., with an expected response of “on schedule” or “working problems with hardware”) or more specifically to request if a task has been accomplished (i.e., finished) by the R-party (i.e., with an expected response of “finished on time” or “not finished”). In the Fig. 5 scenario, the A-party definitely expects a response from the A-party on task status, or if the task has been completed. The C-party (consulted) and the I-party (informed) are sent the request for information from the A-party, due to their RACI roles. The choice of sending information to some or all members of the project team is based specifically upon what task status is being requested, and the set-up of the communications groups within the RACI server.

FPSO case study. The concept for formalizing the use of social media texting was created during the delivery of a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO) off the west coast of Africa. This project involved:

  • Five major international companies supplying engineering and material to the project
  • Work locations spanning four continents
  • A complicated chain of contractors, and myriad subcontractors
  • Intense engineering interface requirements for equipment, ranging from the ocean floor to oil offloading to a tanker from the FPSO
  • Requirements changing dynamically throughout the project, requiring close coordination between the geographically dispersed project team.

International project timelines are always very demanding, when coordinating all the engineering between dispersed contractors to help ensure that all the equipment meets project specification. Logistics of ensuring the right equipment arrives at the right place in the right configuration was an additional burden placed on the project team. Communications normally consisted mainly of email and telephone to include mobile phone and video conference calls.

One of the critical elements of the project was to ensure that the engineering interface requirements for the equipment from the FPSO, to the subsea equipment on the ocean floor, were properly coordinated and executed according to the project plan. Timely and accurate communications were essential to this project’s dynamic elements.

Early in the project, however, it was observed that not all project participants responded in a timely manner to email or voicemail requests. Even with the sophisticated project management software tools, which sent out email reminders and due dates, the younger members’ responses were not timely.

Therefore, to ensure that critical project items were being completed on time, the project team began using texting periodically. This was intended to focus people’s attention on critical tasks that needed to be accomplished, with texting done one-on-one or in groups, still requiring some time to ensure that all people were notified.

The interest pattern that emerged, which led to the RACI concept, occurred when texting was used on a frequent basis. At that point, there was no excuse, as in “I did not get the message,” by project participants.

Summary. Each project, whether explicitly stated or not, has a RACI matrix structure—assigning and holding individuals responsible, accountable, consulted or informed. The RACI/texting layers on top of the project management process for communicating and for storing metadata for historical purposes. The examples presented are downward in direction into the project team, but groups can be created for upward communications, as well. RACI server rules can allow for up-channel texting, as well as horizontal texting to project personnel. It is solely dependent on how, for example, the project manager, the A-party, desires to communicate with the project team, and how the project team communicates through texting back to the project manager.

This RACI/texting can be expanded to include extensions to the RACI paradigm that are not limited to: RASCI (adding a support function in the matrix), RACI-VS (adding verifier and signatory functions in the matrix) or different definitions for the RACI matrix than those included herein.

The RACI/texting concept is scalable to meet the project team member’s needs. It is not “one size fits all,” as each project eventually develops its own communications style. Using texting only enhances the overall communication for the entire project team. wo-box_blue.gif

About the Authors
Robert W. Troy
Robert W. Troy has more than 35 years of management and operational experience in the upstream oil and gas industry. His experience includes a deep understanding of the digital oil field and he is a principal at Ener-Net, a digital oil field consultancy.
Paula S. deWitte
Paula S. deWitte has extensive experience in both software development and legal applications. She has a Ph.D. in computer science, a law degree and is a registered Professional Engineer in Texas.
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